I have helped out with a round of squad selection trials over the autumn. An interesting exercise, and I hope to work with the squads in the New Year.
As someone who, in a previous working life, was a certified 30 wpm typist, I have been helping to type up the hand-written coaching notes after a round of trials.
As much (more) for those not selected as those invited to join the “performance” or “development” squads, so they have feedback to take away from the extended trial process (up to four two-hour sessions), to think about and work on with their coaches.
Oh, but the written feedback is so varied, sometimes cryptic, often unspecific.
Which set me thinking about the words we use to describe players, and how we could do better.
Anyone listening to TV commentary will have noticed this. A player will be described as “right in line, head over the ball” as they lace a ball through the covers off the front foot, only for the on-screen replay to show the batter’s front foot on middle stump and the hands thrown at a delivery full 18” outside off! Supremely effective, quite probably repeatable, but not accurately described.
This perhaps doesn’t matter too much with TV “experts” (except when viewers start to believe what they are being told), but the same can also happen with coaches.
We see an outcome, then describe the model technique that would produce that result. But we don’t always look at what really happened.
And that does matter, when the role of the coach is to observe, provide feedback, perhaps to suggest technical modifications (or in the CLA mode, to design a new practice environment in which the “wrong” technique is ruthlessly exposed, allowing a “better” movement solution to emerge).
So how should we deliver feedback?
Feedback needs to be
- All feedback must make sense to the recipient, player and coach.
- Different coaches will notice and comment on different aspects of a trialist’s performance, but need to avoid (or at least explain) conflicting feedback. In the current set, one batter was described as “strong on off side” by one coach and “staying legside” by another. I think this might have meant that the batter favoured the off-side because he never got in line to hit straight…but maybe not.
- Quite a few of the forms had “good tech” (and a couple “poor tech”) without referencing the template or model for what “good” technique was.
- The words “great” or “poor” can have no place in feedback — what do you do if you are already “great”; and if described as “poor”, what action is required to get better?
- Perhaps one of the hardest comments to interpret in the set I transcribed recently was “something going on with hands just before delivery” (written of a batter)…I happen to know the player, and really can’t picture what the coach had in mind!
A simple “pen picture” of the batter’s stance or bowler’s action might be a starting point — wide stance, weight on balls of feet, 60:40 distribution on front:back foot; slightly open feet & shoulders aligned; low hands, limited pick up.
Then a description of how the player moves. Mostly about balance and how energy is projected — straight lines (or not), presenting the full face of the bat (or not).
fwiw — I quite like the ECB’s Foundation and Core Principles as descriptions of the optimal movement patterns, but I’m not sure how widely these have ever been disseminated. I only really came across them when training as a Coach Developer, and they are very difficult to find on icoachcricket, the ECB’s Coaches’ web resource.