Coaching for girls (and boys…and beginners…and everyone…) — half-term review

I have just completed a 6 week block of work visiting schools to deliver cricket-based PE lessons for secondary school-age girls.

With only three lessons with each class, there wasn’t going to be time to coach skills in any depth (even if this was appropriate for a PE lesson), so the emphasis was on introducing an understanding of the game of cricket (what is cricket? what skills are needed? what tactics might be needed?) and on engagement with the game (playing for the sake of playing).

Hence I aimed to play games in every lesson, and we finished with a “games-sense” session.

What follows is a look at the course structure — skills & games — and some of the thinking behind it, and a summary of how the lessons were received.

Course structure

Week 1: Fielding

  • Catching Chaos
    • players arranged in a circle (12-16 around a basketball tip-off circle is ideal), facing a partner on the opposite side of the circle; players throw catches to each other across the circle, taking a step back after taking 3-5 catches;
    • once they have had a chance to play the game for a few rounds (stopping to check for understanding, perhaps to make the odd technical suggestion, as needed), have all balls thrown simultaneously (coach’s signal, or have one of the players to call) to maximise distraction — can the group catch every ball?
      • emphasis on maintaining technique and focus in spite of distractions; also on cooperation & teamwork (if one pair fail, so does the whole class…but no scapegoats!!); SAFETY — soft foam balls are ideal
  • 1-hand intercept & underarm throw — relays
    • technique under pressure (race) but also teamwork (“fielders work together to return the ball”)
  • Fielders vs. Runners (competition — runners complete as many runs as possible whilst fielders complete e.g. 10x intercept & throw)
    • to test skills under (game) pressure, and to reiterate that fielders work together to prevent batters from scoring runs

Week 2: Batting

  • Hand batting (striking (soft) ball with open palm; for more advanced players, challenge them to strike with back of “top” hand) — pairs, or groups of 4-6
    • how do you move to strike the ball?
    • how do you hit the ball straight back to your partner/back over the bowler’s head?
  • With bat — groups of 4-6 (more fielders to retrieve the ball, struck further with a bat)
    • ”swing your hand holding the bat just like your hand alone”
  • Batters vs. Fielders
    • playing along e.g. length of badminton court
    • cooperative feed (team-mate)
    • score 1 for each hit
    • +1 for hitting the wall opposite the batter (define “straight hit” zone e.g. “inside the tramlines”, narrower for those who can hit straight)
    • introduce smaller target e.g. basketball backboard for “super bonus”
    • 6 balls/batter but “out if you’re out” (caught, only)

Week 3: playing the game

  • non-stop cricket
    • continuous hand cricket
      • discuss objectives
        • “what is the batter trying to do?”
        • “how do the fielders “win”?”
    • repeat (or introduce bats)
      • CfU — “what do you need to do to win?”

Adopting elements of the TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding) model:

[game appreciation]—>[tactical awareness]—>
[making appropriate decisions]—>[skill execution]—>

That is:

  1. play a game
  2. work out what the game is really about
  3. understand how to succeed (tactics needed to win)
  4. understand when to deploy specific skills & tactics
  5. identify and/or develop appropriate skills (see wks 1&2, above; perhaps practising them, before playing again)
  6. ”win” the game (or, at least, demonstrate appropriate tactics & skills)
  7. return to the game to develop new game appreciation etc.

Conclusions — did it work?

Over the course of the spring term, I was able to run this course of three lessons with 10 different classes (6 of year 7s (12 year-olds), two each of yrs 8 & 9).

The games in weeks 1 & 2 seemed to engage a lot of the players — as hoped, emphasising why a particular technique might be helpful in a game situation seemed to encourage the players to at least try to utilise (their best approximation of) the relevant techniques when tested in a game.

We had some very enthusiastic continuous cricket sessions (week 3), with some inventive solutions to the batting challenges, including one batter who swapped between left and right hand, and another who made both fore- and back-hand hits. Generally good appreciation of the need for batters to “hit the gaps” and run hard, and for fielders to work together to get the ball back to the bowler.

I think (hope) the girls mostly enjoyed playing cricket. I certainly enjoyed introducing the game to them.

And I think (hope) that all of the girls discovered that cricket isn’t a game only for old men…

This article was originally titled “Coaching for Girls”, as it reviews a block of coaching work with girls. On reflection, the approach should (hopefully) be appropriate for anyone new to playing the game. Hence the new (and considerably less concise) title.

I have linked to several of my own previous posts, but the real sources of inspiration have been @ImSporticus and his Drowning in the Shallows blog, and Shane Pill @pilly66 for championing TGfU; also a hat tip to Ian Renshaw and colleagues, whose work on the constraints-led approach to practice design opened my eyes to the utility of hand continuous cricket.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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