Just watching some cricket…with a coaching twist, of course

With a tentative return to 1-to-1 practice in the nets, announced last week, cricket in England is at last beginning the slow march back, post-lockdown.

But no amount of nets, or online video drills or S&C, nor even SSGs and conditioned games as the lockdown loosens further, will make up for not playing much (any) actual cricket in 2020.

For the younger players (for all players, probably), the greatest loss will be game time, experience gained by simply playing the game.

Is there anything coaches can do to make up this deficit, whilst coaching remotely?

How about asking the players to just watch some cricket?

I don’t mean bingeing on robelinda, or watching the DVDs of the 2005 Ashes series, again (I’ve done both; will do both, again).

But really watching a session, or just an over or two, and trying to work out what is actually going on.

It’s the sort of activity I imagine a performance coach does regularly with his squad — in-depth video analysis of their own performances, looking for weaknesses to be eliminated and strengths to be developed and exploited.

But here I am thinking of the more humble player, currently missing out on the best learning experience of all — playing the game.

If you can’t play, watch someone else.

I have tried to apply some of the learnings from my own coaching reflections on how we learn, and the implications for how coaches can coach more effectively.

Watching some cricket, with added coaching

Following a “flipped classroom” model — have the students (players) study the set text in advance of a lesson, then convene with the teacher (coach) to discuss and analyse the learning.

In this case, the “set text” will be video of a session of play:

  • ideally not a highlights reel
    • so that each delivery is seen in context of the over and of the game
    • to emphasise the rhythm of play
    • to allow a little time to think between deliveries
  • most probably with the commentary turned off
    • the intention is for the players to make up their own minds about what is happening, not to take the word of the commentators

A little old school, but there is something to be said for simply learning by watchingacquisition of knowledge — if the viewer knows how to watch.

If the action is a little old, no worry — the game’s not changed that much, in spite of what you might hear. In fact, if the players on-screen are from a previous generation, it might even help to keep the analysis more objective.

Set the challenge of analysing an over or two — what did the batters do? What strokes? What outcomes?

Ditto for the bowlers — line & length; responses to bad balls/good strokes?

A little bit of investigation — go and find some answers.

Emphasise that you aren’t asking for a critique of the players’ style or technique. We’re not looking to train commentators, striving to impress viewers with what we think — the intention is to develop a basic understanding of actions and outcomes.

If you are working with a squad, maybe have them watch a longer session of play — 4-6 overs, maybe — and split your players into smaller sub-groups. Have two sub-groups analyse one batter each (if a wicket falls, have them continue with the next man in); two further sub-groups can each look at one of the bowlers. Ask them to produce a consensus report to present to the wider group.

Looking, here, to develop communication skills and teamwork — discussion & collaboration. Why not build in some wider lifeskills?

Convene a (virtual) squad meeting to discuss what your players have seen. It might work best if the players make their initial presentations without too much interruption and prompting, but this is where the coach can start to add extra learning, around, for example, intent (what were the batters trying to do?), selection of tactics (why were the bowlers bowling the lines they used?), psychology, fitness…anything, in fact, that helps the players to understand the game better, but might be very difficult to impart in a 1-to-1 net session.

As the players develop, they can be challenged to deliver more of the analysis for themselves, maybe having them suggest alternative tactics for the next passage of play — production.

The attached files include a couple of sample scripts. The questions are mine, and might well be inappropriate for your players. Change them, make them challenge the young players you work with.

Exercise 1 — watching the batters

Exercise 2 — watching the bowlers

I have also produced an outline lesson plan, using the UCL Learning Designer tool. It goes into more detail about how the discussions might be structured. N.B. The 2.5 hours is total time, perhaps spread over a week or two, and the coach does not need to be involved for all of it.

Acknowledgements: too many too mention, but the germ of this idea probably dates back to the ECB’s post-level 2 CPD workshop Coaching Teams, back in 2014.

More recently, lockdown WhatsApp conversations with some of my colleagues, currently on furlough, from the Lord’s Indoor Cricket Centre.

And quite a lot of reflection.

I encountered Diana Laurillard’s learning types on a FutureLearn online course on How to Teach Online — this “go and watch a video” approach attempts to introduce more collaboration and discussion through a remote, online delivery, but it could, perhaps, still be applicable once we finally escape lockdown.

This exercise includes all of the learning types except practice, but even that might come with repetition — after a few guided runs, perhaps set the players to create their own analyses?

ProductionCreating and presenting an output and developing conceptsMatch play; games.
Deriving alternative tactics.
PracticeGenerating actions and responding to feedbackDrills; gamified drills
DiscussionAsking questions and sharing ideasChecking for Understanding; Open team talk; Review.
Players to share & present their findings.
CollaborationWorking together and negotiating to create a shared outputTeamwork e.g. bowlers creating a plan & field setting; opening batters preparing to face a scenario.
Working together to prepare a report.
InvestigationExploring and evaluating informationUnstructured play; game-sense/TGfU; Constraints-Led approaches.
Critical review of match play.
AcquisitionReading, watching, and listening to textsDemo, Instruction.
Watching cricket videos.
Laurillard’s Learning Types — annotated for “Watching 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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