In that role, I try to help players to develop their playing techniques, and, along the way, to build individual motivation and resilience. Occasionally, I will talk with them about (appropriate) physical development – play other sports to develop all-round physicality; don’t build so much muscle in the gym that you lose flexibility.
But I am also interested in how to become a better coach, which has led me to follow a range of conversations and blogs on coaching pedagogy.
But a series of posts (including this, and this, both from ConnectedCoaches.org) on applying the Constraint-Led Approach (CLA) in coaching has piqued my interest. Coaches are encouraged to modify the drill or game to force the player(s) to develop enhanced responses.
This sounds like a simple enough coaching methodology (simple to describe, not so simple to put into practice!) that can be readily adopted into my coaching kitbag, alongside the (now old-school) ECB bugs and (post-2012) coaching tools..and sledging!
But what constraints to include? Consider the STEP framework:
Modifying any one (or more) of the components will introduce a constraint on the game (on the players), which (if carefully chosen) can help to develop technical and tactical skills.
Change the playing area (larger/smaller/asymmetric) or the modify the task (play strokes only in prescribed directions); make playing implements smaller (or larger); remove (or add) opposing players. 
Some simple examples:
- change the length of the pitch – bowl from 20 yards (or even less for younger players)
- to force bowlers to adapt their bowling length (no more excuses “I can’t bowl shorter/pitch it up), and
- to reduce the time batters have to react to a delivery (simulating facing faster bowlers);
- use the half-bat/practice bat
- a smaller bat forces the batter to concentrate on playing the ball with the middle of the bat (because that is all they have!), developing a more reproducible bat path with the full face of the bat presented to the ball, and
- encourages the bowlers, especially spinners, to “attack both edges of the bat” (to develop variant deliveries that move towards either the inside or outside edge of the bat);
- bowl at a single stump (the oldest practice drill in the book…)
- by significantly reducing the target area, the bowler is compelled to develop even greater accuracy.
All things we have probably been doing for years, but all examples of constraints-led coaching.
And a useful addition to that coaching toolkit!
- The recent conversations around CLA in cricket just might have some connection with the emergence of Matt Renshaw in the Australian Test team – Matt’s father, Ian, is an academic at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, and a leading advocate of CLA. Ian’s blog is a mine of relevant information – A Constraint-Led Approach to Coaching Cricket.
- A definition of CLA: “CLA creates a ‘learner-environment’ centred approach in which practitioners are encouraged to identify and modify interacting constraints to facilitate emergence of perception-action couplings. CLA is a broader approach [than Teaching Games for Understanding] which has been adapted for the design of (re)learning environments in physical education, sport and movement therapy”
Why the Constraints-Led Approach is not Teaching Games for Understanding: a clarification
Ian Renshaw, Duarte Araújo, Chris Button, Jia Yi Chow, Keith Davids & Brendan Moy
Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Volume 21, 2016 – Issue 5 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17408989.2015.1095870
- I am sure that this definition of CLA could offend the purists, as a gross over-simplification or simply plain wrong…but it has to be simple for me to put it into practice…