I was booked to run an after-school club this half term — an hour per week, yrs 7&8.

What follows is an outline of the programme and session plans, with an indication of the Objectives I was working towards.

N.B. Most of the “planning” was actually done on-the-fly.

I knew something of the School’s objectives in advance, and the session constraints we would be working to; I also knew what I wanted the players to experience, in terms of “skills” included, physical and psychological. But the actual “plan” came together on the way to the School each afternoon, and had to be flexible enough to be changed to accommodate e.g. fire alarms going off 5 minutes before the scheduled start time…

Programme planning

Pre-programme considerations

Objectives

  • Introduce (coach) some core skills, ideally without too much instruction — the boys get enough of that in lessons, and I wanted after-school club to be different.
  • Where possible, to include elements of CLA (at the request of the Head of PE), but that fitted well with my own preference to have the players find their own best solutions.
  • Challenge the players to think about how to play the game, and the skills needed.
  • Play some cricket — partly to facilitate thinking about how to play the game, partly to give the players the chance to try out new skills, mostly because after-school was voluntary and I wanted the players to keep in mind that cricket is a game to be enjoyed, not another subject to be studied.

Session constraints

  • Flexible start time, with players arriving after their final lesson of the day — some already changed, straight from a PE lesson, others 10-15 minutes later from the classroom.
  • Hard-stop at 4pm to release players. (This turned out not to be such a hard-stop — some had to leave promptly at 3.55pm to get a lift home, others were happy to play on for 10-15 minutes…maybe putting off going home to homework!).

Session structure

Arrival: Given the flexible arrival times, I tried to set out “arrival activities” (as in the All Stars Cricket plans) — the boys generally rushed in and picked up a tennis ball, so I tried to encourage simple throwing & catching, or revision of the previous weeks activity if that was fielding-based.

Skill: Each week we had a skill theme — bowling straight, controlled hitting, run outs — and looked to spend 10-15 minutes simply trying out that skill. 5 min “reflection & coaching” for the players to think about what they had been asked to do, and how well it had been achieved, with support & prompting from the coach as needed. 5-10 minutes of a “gamified drill”.

The short game (or a gamified drill) in the “skills” section of the session was there for a couple of reasons.

  1. To give the players the chance to try out the skill under some form of competition.
  2. To direct the players to reflect on the impact of (perceived) pressure — with some drifting off before the end of the “match” section, some leaving promptly on time; I wasn’t expecting to have the chance to talk to the group at the end of each session.

Game time: 20-30 minutes to play SSGs, structured to reward new skills and ensure that everyone had a bat and a bowl, but otherwise as free-form as possible.

Sample skill activities

Bowling
  1. Bowling at a wall & collecting rebound — emphasis on “straight lines” (“how do you get the ball to come straight back to you after hitting the wall?”), follow through (“try to collect the ball on the first bounce”), and bowling style (where needed).
  2. Knock ‘em down
Controlled batting
  • In groups of 4 or 5, batter, feeder, fielders (10-15m away).
  • Each batter to receive 6 deliveries (“co-operative” feed) and try to hit successive deliveries to a different fielder.
    • emphasis on control: “what do you have to do to hit in different directions?” — ideally, player solutions; “what makes it difficult to hit in a particular direction?” — think about shot selection.
    • emphasis on co-operative feed & teamwork: “you are going to play a game in a minute where controlled hitting will earn bonus runs for your team — make sure your team mates get a chance to practice!”
  • The “game”, such as there is one, is intrinsic in the drill — “can you hit six-in-a-row?”; “can you hit six-in-a-row where the fielder doesn’t have to take even one step to field then all?”
Run out

Nothing more complicated than the old “one-hand pick-up & underarm throw“ relays, building up to relay races (4x teams of 4-5; first to complete 20 throws) and/or “fielder vs. runner” games.

Again, ideally leaving the players to find their own solution, with questions to prompt reflection: “what’s the quickest way to pick-up & throw when you are close to the wickets?”; “what happens when you rush and throw the ball out of the reach of the keeper?”.

I should have set this up with the maximum possible space behind the keeper, to really hammer home what happens when throws are inaccurate. Next time…

Game time

With up to 20 players at each session, I chose to run two parallel SSGs (with the hall conveniently partitioned with a curtain), of 3, 4 or 5 a-side, depending on numbers.

Emphasis on participation and deploying a skill (new or introduced previously) in context

We probably could have run street20, but I wanted to be sure that everyone got a chance to bat every week, so instead went with a modified Super Over format:

  • batters to bat by themselves;
  • each batter to receive one or 2 deliveries from each member of the opposing team;
  • fielders to rotate to a new fielding position after each delivery;
  • batter to run to a mark halfway to the bowler & back (didn’t want to risk collisions with 2 batters running and fielders in enclosed space);
  • initially, no penalties for getting out, but no runs scored (and with only 5 or 6 deliveries per batter, “a dot ball was always a good ball” for the fielding team!).

Each week, a new bonus score was introduced.

After a bowling skills activity, we offered the bowling team a bonus 2 runs every time they bowled a batter out.

After “controlled batting”, bonus runs for hitting a target.

2 run bonus to the fielding team for a run out after the ground fielding skill activity.

Once introduced, a bonus opportunity was retained for future weeks.

Future bonuses could include a big hitting bonus — hit the wall behind the bowler above a defined height for extra runs — or more fielding points (perhaps a direct hit run out to score 4 bonus runs).


Outcomes

Sadly, the engagement was cut short this term when the sports hall (newly built, underfloor heating (!)) was requisitioned for mock exams. Apparently, the yr 11s couldn’t be expected to sit in an unheated gym with the windows open, so the old sports hall (still being refurbished) is not being used for mocks this term.

So it isn’t possible to report on how the full programme succeeded (or failed). Player engagement seemed to be pretty good, skill drills were completed (with varying levels of diligence), games were competitive.

There are some good cricketers in the group (club players, family connections, fundamental athletic ability) and some good learners. We do hope to re-schedule the deferred sessions in the New Year, but the fear has to be that continuity has been lost.

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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