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?

Dealing with pressure from “beyond the boundary” – so that’s why we need “connection and extension”

“Slow down, and you will bowl straighter”.  I never appreciated receiving this advice when I was a young (never very) quick bowler, and I certainly don’t like hearing it now, from an experienced player advising a youngster who I have been encouraging to (try to) bowl fast.

Bowling fast and straight is not impossible.  It is challenging, but anything worth doing generally is.  Being told to slow down does not make a fast bowler.  And the role of the coach has to be to encourage the exceptional.

But how to deal with this (well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful) advice from beyond the boundary?

By making sure that everyone connected with the team – players, parents, other coaches, committee members – knows about “the plan”, whatever it might be.  Fast bowlers try to bowl fast; slow bowlers flight the ball and give it a rip; fielders are encouraged to try for run outs (so you had better be ready to back-up the throws).

And that’s where “connection and extension” comes in. Continue reading Dealing with pressure from “beyond the boundary” – so that’s why we need “connection and extension”