Last week, I sat in on a webinar, organised by Essex Cricket in the Community (ECiC), that featured a talk from Anthony McGrath, Head Coach of the 2019 County Championship and T20 Blast Double Winners.
I was fascinated to hear about the culture that “Mags” is creating in the 1st XI Squad at Chelmsford and, importantly, how that same culture applies across the Academy and Development Pathway.
Maybe this sort of sharing goes on all the time. I have little contact with the development pathway or the pro game.
But as a grassroots children’s coach, I find this sort of information really helpful. If I am to shape a culture in the environment I work in (coach as environmental and cultural engineer), surely it makes sense if it can match that higher up the pathway (assuming that culture is healthy and positive, of course — this most certainly seems to be).
I consider myself to be very fortunate that I get to do some coaching for ECiC. A little bit of Chance to Shine and Team Up, and supporting schools and club tournaments over the summer.
They have been very supportive during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping in regular (email) contact with their casual coaches, and quickly arranging furlough pay to compensate for the cancellation of the schools programmes over the summer.
One initiative (not only for the casual coach workforce) has been to take the annual County Roadshow online in a series of webinars, covering topics as diverse as Club Development & Funding, Women & Girls Cricket, and even advice on running a (virtual) race night.
Most recently, ECiC ran a webinar on Youth Cricket & the Development Pathway, which included the talk from Anthony McGrath.
Creating an environment for success — Anthony McGrath, Essex CCC
What is the ambition at the pro level?
To produce & keep producing Essex players, trophy winners, future internationals.
- Effective & Sustainable.
- Everyone can buy in to the culture.
- It must accommodate individuals, and be flexible enough to accommodate new team members.
- Must still be FUN!
- Learning & challenging.
- Emphasis on improving as a player and a person — not just cricket, more than just a game!
- Use the established players as role models — skills & behaviours.
- Encourage players to make good decisions— the best players consistently make the best decisions, on and off the field.
- Players to find their own style — different ideas, techniques, methods.
- Enjoy each others success; stay behind & celebrate the good days.
- It’s OK not to have all the answers — use other coaches’ expertise.
- Be human — acknowledge that things don’t always go to plan.
- Be prepared to accept challenge from the players — you are all working together, so encourage them to explain why they disagree.
- It can’t be ‘“my way, or the highway”!
- Get to know your players — be consistent, when they are performing well and when they struggle.
- Always, in training, the ambition must be to be the best; be competitive: “Improve as individuals; improve as a team
- It is vital to let the the players know why they are practicing
- e.g. Before the 2019 season, Essex realised that they were not hitting as many 6s in white ball cricket as some of the other leading Counties — practice sessions were designed specifically to develop the skills required to clear the ropes, and the session objectives were clearly communicated.
Taking this to the Club Juniors
If this is what the County pros are doing, how might this apply to the soft-ball u9 group I coach?
I was particularly taken with the thoughts on how coaches can shape an environment.
- Even with the youngest players, it can’t be all “tell” — the players have to find their own way, and will learn just as well (better, probably) by trying, failing, then trying again, than by being told by the coach exactly what to do.
- Model the “growth mindset” — if an activity doesn’t work, admit it, move on, but come back next week with a better plan.
- Let the players know the game is theirs — what do they want to do? Focus on that, and there is so much more chance of them wanting to learn and succeeding for themselves than by defining success as “achieving competency in skill no. 7”. Yes, there will need to be some direction from the coach, but how much better if this takes the form of subtle nudges, not edicts from on high.
So — a lot to take away.
Thanks to Essex Cricket in the Community for arranging the webinar, and to Anthony for sharing his ideas.