What game will the players be playing in 10-20 years’ time?
And what should we be coaching now, to prepare players for the future?
This post originally appeared in Grassroot Magazine, December 2013.
The traditional time and “long form” limited over formats will still exist, with typical club games lasting 6-7 hours. There will certainly be more T20, driven by the professional game and the excitement and immediacy of this game.
But as players have less time to commit to recreational play, even the 2.5 hours a T20 game takes to complete might be considered too long. We might see even shorter format games, indoors or outdoors in enclosed spaces (“cage” or MUGA – multi-use games area – games). Formats might develop along the lines of LastManStands, or the very popular indoor cricket (6-aside, 12 overs/innings) or even “street20” (again 6-a-side, but played over just 5 four-ball overs per innings).
Players and coaches will have to adapt to these new formats, and, most importantly, be prepared, technically and mentally, to adapt again and again during their playing careers.
Batters will play more attacking stokes, and employ power hitting techniques more akin to baseball slugging. At the same time, they will need to manipulate deliveries that cannot be hit hard, and work ever harder on running between the wickets.
For bowlers, there might be less obvious change. They will concentrate on control and (especially) variations. A dot-ball is a (very) good ball, but taking wickets will still be important. After all, no batter can score runs once he is back in the pavilion!
Fielders will develop speed to the ball, and a fast release and strong arm…nothing new!
Coaches will have to focus on developing basic techniques and athletic fundamentals, but even more importantly should seek to inculcate adaptability in their players.
The coach’s role remains to avoid and remediate techniques that inhibit the delivery of a skill, or that have the potential to result in injury.
But there is already a move away from “text book” coaching – reinforcing a player’s strengths, rather than correcting (perceived) deviations from orthodoxy.
The challenge for the future coach is now to distinguish between non-negotiable orthodoxy, and permissible idiosyncrasies in their players’ techniques. There might no longer be one “right way” to play the game…but there will still be wrong ways!
Certain fundamentals remain – a level and steady eye-line, transfer of weight and power along straight lines – but beyond that cricket coaches might find that they are working with players to develop and enhance athletic abilities, and the fundamentals of movement – agility, balance, coordination – that currently get forgotten after primary school.
“Athletes first, cricketers second” (or perhaps, “cricketers and athletes”), rather than “fit(ter) cricketers” might become the new ideal.
How to “teach” adaptability
Another trend in coaching circles is the inclusion of games-based learning into practice sessions, alongside traditional drills-based teaching. Expect more of this. By developing games-sense, or tactical awareness, coaches can encourage players to recognise for themselves when to apply a particular skill, and when not to.
The coach provides challenges, as much as he or she might previously have given (technical) solutions. Importantly, players are allowed to develop their own strategies and techniques.
Adopting and encouraging the “growth mindset” will be essential, for coaches and players. Changes in the game are inevitable, and by believing that “better is possible”, players can be more ready to adapt.
Part manifesto, part crystal-ball gazing…some of this might ring true with you, some ideas prove to be well wide of the mark.
Where do you see the game in 10 years time? And how can we prepare players for that future?