I had a couple of 1-to-1 sessions yesterday. Nothing unusual in that – I do four or five regular 1-to-1s almost every week – but I came away last night feeling that these particular sessions had gone especially well.
Good engagement, high energy, good questions (all of the above two-way); positive outcomes, clear summary of “learning points” (not too many) and players left with a challenge – “now, go out and try it!”
The players left hopefully having learnt a little, tried something new, and with a clear idea of something they could try in their next game. They both told me they had enjoyed the hour; as importantly (more importantly – they might have been very polite), I think I saw a few “light bulb moments”, when they understood what I was trying to tell them and realised that it could work for them.
So what was going on? And, more to the point, what might have been missing from other sessions that were “OK”, but not perhaps as good as last night’s?
Description of 1-to-1 coaching sessions.
- One-offs (not part of a programme).
- Spontaneous – at this venue, we only very rarely know who will be turning up for a session, or what they will want to work on.
- I have coached a player who had represented her State at U19 (more years ago than it would be polite to mention) and was returning to the game after a lengthy break, and a pair of academics from the States who were teaching an ethics course and wanted to understand exactly what cricket was (how else to explain what was “not cricket”?).
- Just an hour – more realistically, perhaps 50 minutes of actual coaching, allowing for set-up, introduction, and a few moments to collect stray balls and catch our breath.
- Very specific themes
- one with a batter coming to terms with new conditions (early season, damp English pitches);
- the other a young player who had “volunteered” to keep for one of his club’s junior teams.
The most obvious difference to some of my “programme” 1-to-1s was the immediacy of the sessions, in terms of delivery (player arrived, introduction, session starts) and delivery of outcomes (player performance next weekend).
The batter was preparing to open for his School, and felt he was mistiming his front foot strokes on slow pitches. Played around with his foot movement and weight transfer, and got him hitting the ball – first slow loopy deliveries he had to “chase” a bit, to get the feet moving, then faster swinging balls only just on the half volley. He ended crunching cover drives I could only dream of playing – he probably will still struggle a little against the moving ball on a slow surface…but he might know enough, now, about his own technique, to adjust his timing appropriately.
A little batting “philosophy” wrapped in a contrived scenario – facing 4 overs from a pair of (challenging) opening bowlers (from the BOLA, but with “sledging” from the coach): first play yourself in but always be looking to take singles (make the bowler bowl to someone else) before moving on to dominate.
Then we finished with the Chanderpaul drill – because I like it (selfish) and because, even if the player doesn’t nail every stroke, it should be fun trying (and I like leaving the player with a bit of fun…before hitting him with “now it’s up to you” as he leaves the net).
The keeper was almost a blank canvas (which is always a challenge for the coach), but blessed with the priceless assets for a keeper, of good hands and a willingness to practice and learn. And he was going to keep in his next game, so he really needed a crash course. He listened, he asked questions, he tried. I shared some of the topics from the keeping masterclass with Paul Nixon.
So – what to take from these sessions?
- Keep it fresh – don’t just do what was planned, but aim to make the session immediately relevant.
- Keep it relevant to the player – no matter that the coach might have something very important to coach, if it isn’t the right message for that particular player, at that precise time, it is not relevant to the session.
- Keep it moving – player (and coach) can catch their breath when reviewing progress or setting the next challenge.
- Keep it fun – always.