From a “holistic approach to talent development” to suggestions for grassroots coaching

I was very taken by this infographic from Alex Lascu, and the thinking behind it.

It captures so much of what I believe is good about current coaching practice, but also sets a high standard for “talent pathway” coaches to aspire to.

There was some discussion on Twitter of the applicability of the advice to grassroots coaching.

One senior coach commented that he believed that most clubs ran a “talent” development programme, even if that wasn’t the label it was given. We are all looking to find and develop talented players…although, for some of us, “talent” might be the ability to mix with team mates, to muck in and get things done around the club, rather than bowl at 85 mph and hit 90m bombs, 360°.

I believe strongly in a joined-up development pathway, with best practice and ideology shared across the game, from Test to primary school. It makes sense (to me) if we all (Performance/Talent, Development, Grassroots) followed a similar philosophy.

So what follows is my attempt to re-position Alex’s guidelines very specifically for the grassroots coach.

In some cases, I have offered a “translation” of the original text, but in other places I have chosen to adapt the message more drastically to match (my understanding of) the grassroots/participation context.

Future focus

was Talent Pathway

  • Prioritise ongoing participation and development
    • for grassroots, the aim must be to keep players engaged — if they stop playing, they’ll never get any better!
  • Know what “good” looks like — outcomes & behaviours
    • less on “technical models”, perhaps (see below — ‘Value “getting it done”…’), but initiatives like Essex County Cricket Club sharing their professional culture will be important
  • Share this with the players & their parents
    • communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Value “getting it done” over “looking good”
    • outcomes matter, but don’t allow an “anything goes” attitude — remember, it still has to work!

Every player develops at their own speed

was Nonlinear Development

  • Focus on the process, not the final destination
    • get the process right, and “the score takes care of itself” — Bill Walsh
  • Give players space & time to find a way that works for them
    • coach to provide challenges, not solutions
  • Make the challenge fit the player, and not the other way around
    • it shouldn’t be about being the best, or the fastest, in the group; rather, challenge every player to be the best they can be today…and then maybe they can try to be a little bit better tomorrow
  • Allow players to find their own level
    • which demands that there is…
  • A place for everyone — from Test XI to All Stars Cricket

Session planning

was Task Design

  • Provide repetition without repetition, even in “drills”
    • learning to bat is not like learning to hit a golf ball on a driving range — challenge the batter to hit a front foot drive when the ball isn’t in quite the perfect spot (or play a different stroke, if it’s not there for the drive)
    • have your bowlers bowl to different batters — tall, short, hitters, blockers — so they learn to adapt, not mechanically reproduce a skill
  • Make your practice as game-like as possible
    • more representative of the game
      • bat against bowlers, preferably, then thrown (or Sidearm-ed), then a bowling machine; get beginners away from batting tees ASAP
      • catch a ball hit with a bat rather than thrown
      • rather than bowling in an empty net, get a batter by the stumps
  • More game time, more play
    • to engage players with play, not (only) abstract practice;
    • because nothing is more representative of the game than the game itself!

This is NOT in any way an authorised commentary on the published works of Alex Lascu & colleagues. Alex has very generously contributed to this post, by reviewing and commenting on earlier drafts, and suggesting a couple of items that deserved greater emphasis, but the “translation” to grassroots coaching as presented here is still essentially mine, and should not be taken as representative of the published works.

Importantly, any and all errors and misrepresentations in this blog post are mine.

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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