Thinking about thinking about cricket…

I attended my first ECB CA Conference in January. It would be unfair to single out any of the presenters for special mention – every session left me with enough ideas to keep me busy into the summer, and beyond – but I did especially enjoy the opening day, which I spent listening to Matthew Syed, Michael Caulfield of Sporting Edge, and Louise Deeley from Inside Performance, all talking about the “inner game”, and how to think about thinking about cricket. And then, on the second day, the key-note from Peter Moores, simply entitled “Winning”.

One theme emerged in all four sessions – the absolute importance of adopting a “growth mind-set”, the belief that improvement is always possible, and that the role of the coach in developing this mind-set can be as important as any technical and physical improvements they can instil.

Continue reading Thinking about thinking about cricket…

Book learning

I came back from the ECB Coaches Conference with a long reading list.  Tim Gallway, Steve Peters, Ric Charlesworth, Hippolyte and Theraulaz (if I can find anything of theirs); anything from the sports psych speakers.  Fascinating stuff, and enough to keep me occupied well into next year, I’m sure.

Book “learning” does not work for everyone, I know, but I like to read to be challenged by new ideas, not to confirm existing prejudices.  It can take a while for the ideas to crystallise (see below), but that is half the challenge of learning – if it was easy, or obvious, a new idea probably wouldn’t be that new. Continue reading Book learning

Coaching orthodoxy – time to take another look?

There’s a lot to be said for orthodoxy.

It sets a model of perfection (more on this, later) to aspire to. When things go wrong, reverting to orthodoxy provides a model that is known to work…for some players, at least.

But should we equate “orthodoxy” with “the only way” to play?

Adam Kelly, in a recent blog post, highlighted the success of “unorthodox” sportsmen, and the imperative to play to your own strengths. From Alistair Cook and Marcus Trescothick, by way of Usain Bolt and on to Lionel Messi, who only rarely seems to look up to make a pass when he dribbles the ball.

They all do it “wrong”…but look in the record books.

And any one of them might have been put off by a well-meaning coach who insisted that they get their front foot out to the drive, or get out of the blocks quicker (or don’t even run the sprints).

I don’t think anyone would argue that Messi should have been coached out of his unorthodoxy when still young boy, still less that he be left out of the Barca team until he learns to look up when he has the ball.

Why then insist that young cricketers follow the models in the coaching books IF they get results with a “faulty” technique? Yes, when a faulty technique causes poor performances, or exposes the player to physical risk (the mixed action comes to mind…although even this safety orthodoxy is being challenged). But “perfection” has to be measured by the outcome.

To contradict Bananarama – “it ain’t how you do it, it’s what you do that gets results”

The challenge for the coach, then, is to know when to insist on adherence to the models of perfection. We need to better understand what is currently thought of as unorthodox, so we can support and develop it, rather than stifle it.

Continue reading Coaching orthodoxy – time to take another look?