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Keeping Coaching Simple

It was some 30 years ago I had my first epiphany about fast bowling.

On my MLB pro tryout with Philadelphia Phillies, the pitching coach asked me why I had slowed down my speed when throwing. I answered something akin to “slowing down to bowl a line & length” in cricket terms, which he proceeded to destroy in biomechanics terms, as being completely incorrect. It seems in rotational, ballistic sports, you SPEED UP to become more accurate. My first lesson was taught, learned and the rest is, well… history.

Today, the world’s leading coaches strive to hugely simplify what they say. This includes the overlooked and widely misunderstood technical terminology of fast bowling, so it can be taught – and is the real way to educate a generation. I was never a person that would make this complex, complicated or ambiguous. I would never be a person to ‘stand corrected’ because I had rushed into something that wasn’t true or appropriate, only to tweak my view when challenged or blow with the wind because others have opposing views. After all, gravity is gravity whatever you choose to call it.

So my methodology had to stand the test of time. And more than that, it would have to take what IS a complex and inherently hard to understand series of movements and make them into a coherent coaching system for Fast Bowlers.  I never bought in to ‘generalist’ view of coaching requiring knowledge of multi-layered subjects before you could be effective.  In fact, much like medicine and GP’s vs Specialists, I learned very early on that you have to be specialised in what you do and make it exceptional. Coaching for far too long has been generic and not specific. (See article: What is a Qualified Coach? )

I am simple man. I have a simple brief: to improve the speed & control of everyone I work alongside and with – if that is what they want. Far too many coaches make things immensely challenging to understand. And this can only be because they are unsure how things really work – that or they are deliberately trying to appear ‘clever’ or ‘smart’. But no coach needs to do that.  Instead, we need to be clear, concise and above all be communicating correctly with students, parents and other coaches. No coach needs to try and impress if they are already good enough. There’s no need to seek others’ approval to verify what you do, if the results you get are already superior and working. No coaching should be too hard to understand that it appears as if it’s written from a scientific paper. It should never be so overbearing & onerous that it cannot be written in just a few sentences.

If a 9 year-old doesn’t understand it, it’s probably too full of jargon and gobbledegook. If it can’t be worked out, it has little purpose other than to make people turn away confused. And that is the greatest mistake in coaching.

It’s why when I started, I advertised “Bowl faster or your money back” fast bowling courses. Armed with a speed gun to ‘prove’ the increases, and an orange target on off stump to ‘prove’ the accuracy, it became all about working hands on with bowling actions. School boy & club cricketers got it straight away. Improvements for all the bowlers were instantaneous. The seeds of UPF were born.

My introduction to biomechanics, kinetics and isometrics came from Dr Ken West, a professor of human movement working across 46 different sports (who as a leading optometrist in his own right, helped Anul Kumble disregard his glasses for specialised contact lenses). Ken questioned everything I did as a coach. He educated me in the hugely complicated & technical world of human movement as it applied to fast bowling with practical advice & support. But I followed Ken’s success methodology: Keep It Simple. This is why he worked in so many sports, across all the levels to World-Class standard. He UNDERSTOOD how to adapt & adopt different ideas so they became relevant to the sport he was working in at the time. There would be some human movement non-negotiable issues in that, too. For example, humans can only move in certain way and in that, we are ALL THE SAME. But the style we perform the movement in is individual. Hence, for me, the notion you can coach speed into everyone became obvious if you focus exclusively on structure, which is what we know as TECHNIQUE IN FAST BOWLING.

To create a success formula, you need a starting point. Understanding what constitutes a ‘perfect’ technique and what errors fast bowlers make, gives you the base for coaching speed. This is what has held back successive National Boards, coach educators and those wanting to, but not knowing how to work with speed. It has therefore been dismissed as “un-coachable” giving rise to to the “you are born with it” propaganda pumped out (often inadvertently) from ex-players who themselves had no help in this area. Instead of challenging things, there is safety in hordes of people agreeing with one another – even if what they say isn’t true. It has put fast bowling out on its own as the only sport remaining backwards in the knowledge that great technique takes us forwards.

In my journey then, I had influences from Dr West from sports such as tennis, swimming, martial arts, American football, basketball and even skiing, alongside my own interaction with baseball & javelin. It got me to look for common ground in sports as well as identify similar patterning for fast bowling. The “13 key indicator points” (common mistakes many of the bowlers made) forming the bedrock of The Fast Bowler’s Bible became refined to The 4 Tent Pegs and RSSSA (Range, Speed, Sequence, Speed & Alignment) now seen in Ultimate Pace Secrets. And all the skill drills that go with those positions – to maximise the speed of ANY bowler – were fully developed into what they are today. No jargon and few if any, external props required. Just the purist form of educating speed into bowlers regardless of their size, shape, build, genetics, background or environment. That education underpinned by exceptionally effective static, progression & isolation drills that alter muscle memory. Relevant, repetitive and ballistic rotational moves to replicate the bowling action by highjacking the bowler’s system.

Realising you cannot just shoehorn movements from other sports was a vital part of this – even on a very basic level of understanding. Baseball pitchers for example, do not have a run up. This means their base ‘pushes’ (dips & drives) in a completely different way to fast bowlers who ‘drop’ because they use a run up momentum, which alters the sequential muscle stretch & contraction. Every baseball pitcher starts sideways on the plate to throw. And to gain power, the pitcher has to generate a very large delivery stride so their top half can get up to speed. None of this is the same in fast bowling. Javelin throwers throw upwards meaning their arm mechanics differ to a fast bowler. Their release point is behind them, not in front of them as in fast bowling, so the trunk flexion creates an extension and not a contraction for a longer period of time. Foot patterning/planting is different, too. And of course both baseball & javelin use the extra hinge mechanics of a bend in the elbow. These are simple enough differences to realise that you cannot just copy across to fast bowling from other sports. You have to make a nod to those biomechanics and learn how they APPLY to a fast bowler through adaption, not mimicking. Even then, you need to understand whether they do actually apply in the first place.

I worked out 30 years ago, this journey wouldn’t be about how much I knew. It would be about how much I could get students to understand. The knowledge held by any coach isn’t relevant if those they work with have little idea how to replicate it. And the cardinal sin, according to the great, world-class tutors who mentored me right at the start of my coaching education, is to make coaching all about me instead of the fast bowler.

I would always want to coach others as I wish to be coached myself. For me, that is a simple, repeatable methodology, which isn’t shrouded in any words you need a dictionary to understand the message or a spellchecker.

It’s what sets UPF coaching apart from anything else currently being offered. It’s also why we are able to turn fast bowlers into the best version of themselves they can be. And it’s why we are making a difference in fast bowling coaching today.

Ian Pont

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What is a Qualified Coach?

Reprint of Ian Pont’s Article From: Thursday, 18 March 2010

What IS a Qualified Coach?

Can anyone else see the point of the Level 1 coaching award?

Widely heralded as necessary to ensure parents (in particular) and enthusiastic volunteers (especially) understand a little about the game, the new Level 1 coaching award falls somewhat wide of the mark.
 
Speaking to assessors and attendees, it’s firstly very difficult to fail (to test this theory my cat went on it, sailed through and now has a position as a regional coach). However more importantly, it doesn’t prepare anyone to actually deliver any coaching because technical aspects of what to coach are not covered. Simply put you may as well interchange the word coach for… organiser.
 
Yet once armed with this new award, hundreds and hundreds of ‘qualified’ coaches are out there ‘teaching’ cricket with not much knowledge of what they are doing. It’s hard to see what the difference is? Except of course we now have more qualified coaches than ever and it does require you to have CRB (Criminal Records Bureau *now DBS) checks and get a first aid certificate. On the down side, many volunteers and parents have been put off by having to take this award in the first place just so they can do some coaching at their club. Like me, who came through a club littered with volunteer coaches, helpers and parents on coaching night, now days others find that many clubs really struggle with the numbers wanting to play the game compared to the coaches ‘qualified’ to coach.
 
One local club I know has just 3 ECB coaches for more than 150 youth players. The result is those players are not developing as they should and the resulting standard of cricket is low.
 
I personally would like to see the coaching awards made more difficult to pass, have far less paperwork, understand more about how to deliver skill, be less reliant on just getting kids running about to fill their time and perhaps even specialise in disciplines.
 
It’s always been baffling how, just because a coach is a certain level, they can teach a certain discipline. Wouldn’t it have been far better to have batting, fast bowling, spin bowling, wicket-keeping and fielding coaching awards for coaches Levels 1 to 4? In that way, a coach could be a Level 2 batting coach and Level 3 spin bowling coach for example. Parents seeking a coach could therefore know that coach knows what he/she is doing. I know Level 4 coaches who know absolutely nothing about fast bowling coaching. It’s a fact they admit to. But if you were coached by a Level 4 coach you’d assume you are getting the very best you can, wouldn’t you. It’s just not so.
 
So is the problem with the labeling of coaches or is the problem with the teaching of the skills they need to pass on?
 
It’s both. The levels of coach are far too generic, which means the technical skills they have learned are far too basic for that level they have been given. Strip out the disciplines and make them harder, more intense, better informed and full of great content that a coach can take out and start using right away.
 
It’s called relevancy. Let’s make our coaches more relevant for their environment. It will not only make them better equipped to deliver the correct skills but also ensure parents, administrators and more importantly, players know who is best to work with.
 
In this country we seem to be forever altering and tweaking, changing and messing, fiddling and rejigging. Things are renamed, rehashed, renewed even re-invented. But it isn’t rocket-science. The answer is to integrate best practice and make the learning progressive and cohesive. Cut out the unnecessary paper work. Teach coaches to coach skill, how to, why they should and when they should. Explain fault correcting, intervention and the drills to make the changes.
 
In other words, have coaches teach the right things from the start, because even a little knowledge is great. Better to have some idea of what you should do than have none.
 

1 COMMENT:

  1. Really interesting concept with the levels per discipline I think that parents quite often do presume a coach to know what hes doingbased on their ECB level of qualification

     

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UPF Fast Bowling One-Day Workshop, Sedbergh School, May 31st

UPF Fast Bowling Workshop, Sedbergh School, Station Rd, Sedbergh LA10 5HG – May 31st, 10.30am-4pm

Join Ian Pont & Cath Dalton for an incredible fast bowling workshop you cannot afford to miss! IT’S OPEN TO ALL AGES AND ALL ABILITIES. We work with you at your own pace and introduce you to world’s best practice for any developing fast bowler.

These two international coaches will be on hand to take you through:

  • What speed you bowl on the Stalker speed gun
  • How to bowl faster
  • How to bowl straighter
  • Working with the 4 Tent Pegs, RSSSA, Pre-Turn, Drop Step, Front Foot Block, Shoulder-Hip Separation
  • All the skill drills you need to improve your action
  • How to take more wickets
  • The benefits of the correct run-up and approach
  • How to develop your hang time in your jump to the crease
  • Understanding what the world-class fast bowlers do best
  • Understanding your own faults and how to correct them
  • Yorkers, slower balls, variations, bouncers, swing and seam
  • Discovering what fitness you need to maximise your assets
  • How to set up the batsman with tricks
  • The mental strength required to make it to the top
  • The biomechanics and kinetic knowledge so you can coach yourself
  • The right way to practice and what you should avoid

…plus much, much more!

UPF has coached 100s of fast bowling prospects in India and players fly from around the world to join those camps. But this is the very first opportunity to attend a UPF workshop right here in the UK.

Based at the superb Sedbergh School, Cumbria, which has excellent indoor facilities including a new 4 bay net system, 1000 lux lighting, 2 bowling machines, video analysis room and software while outside there is a new 6 bay artificial net system

.

This is a truly wonderful investment in your cricket for just £59. It’s a fantastic opportunity that you shouldn’t miss out on.

To book, simply click the link below. But please hurry because people are travelling from right across the UK for this one. Bring indoor and outdoor footwear and training clothing appropriate for a fast bowling day. Also bring food and drink for the day as we will be taking regular breaks.

We be limiting the numbers so once the places are gone we cannot add to them.

If you want to be a better bowler, book NOW : BOOK NOW! UPF ONE-DAY WORKSHOP

Next please download and complete this booking form: UPF Booking Form (word) and email it to info@UPFcricket.com. THIS WILL COMPLETE YOUR REGISTRATION. After this you will receive an email confirming your place.

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Back Injuries – It’s All In the Action

As the epidemic of fast bowlers getting stress fractures of the spine appears to surge, the solution it seems is just as far away as ever. Yet the answer has always been within the grasp of coaches. It’s simply that fast bowling has suffered from a backwards thinking when it comes to understanding how the action works correctly.

The latest casualty is one Kagiso Rabada, World Number One ranked Test Bowler, who at the ripe old age of 23 has suffered a back stress fracture. But it was always likely to happen given the WAY his bowls and the counter-rotation in his back before he bowls, a misalignment of his action throughout and a large lateral flexion (fall away) when he actually bowls the cricket ball. Great bowler. But also a great candidate for a stress fracture.

So why are cases like his and the tens of others we see befalling far lesser bowlers, happening with more regularity?

There’s a great saying “you reap what you sow”. And for more than a decade now the emphasis has been far less on technique and far more on ‘strength, fitness and conditioning’. On the surface of it, if a bowler suffered a stress fracture due to him being ‘fragile’ the theory would be he will be protected due to all that new found training right?

This is where we go wrong.

Fast bowling actions that are riddled with inefficiencies, are a recipe for creating stress pockets. The lower back (pars lumbar) is where the bowler has an issue (around L5) so it makes absolute sense to ensure the body is correctly aligned to avoid issues. No amount of extra training it going to correct the misalignments and no amount of lifting weights or gym work will alter a poor bowling action.

This is all about technique, or the body’s ability to deliver a skill repeatedly in the most efficient way possible. The upside of course for working on a bowler’s action is also one of improved outcomes. If you are consistent and effective at the bowling end, you are likely to be the same at the batsman’s end. The benefits of technical advances are obvious therefore for more wickets and less injuries.

But the coaching of fast bowling technique is extraordinarily limited. Much of it is reduced to ‘pulling down a toilet chain” with the front arm or bowlers hopping over a succession of yellow hurdles. trying to avoid ski poles and getting pulled in different directions by bungee ropes. The understanding of what parts of the body need to move in which direction – and in what sequence, are a complete mystery in fast bowling. In virtually all other rotational, ballistic sports, technique is the most important aspect of the athlete’s work.

If you know what to look for you can almost predict with unerring accuracy, which actions are likely to cause problems. And sure enough, given enough overs, the bowler ends up having to rehab, often multiple times, and each time having a negative impact of both mental state and the body’s ecosystem.

The bottom line is simply this: unless and until technical fast bowling coaches are employed to work on the structure of the action and the linking of the movements between the key positions, we will miss out on two things; the ability to help avoid back injuries and the maximising of speed of our fast bowlers.

Fast bowling is an injurious pursuit but not one beyond the wit of man. Neglecting technique is the most retrograde step for fast bowling in this generation of information at our fingertips and data driven sport. If we do not understand the technical aspect of our sport how is it possible for coach educators to pass on knowledge to coaches?  Instead we will produce a generation of coaches afraid to ‘tinker’ with a bowling action but will be at home finding distracting things to do in fast bowling sessions that have nothing to do with improving the technical delivery. The bottom line is, if no one teaches technique then no one is culpable. This leaves other ‘manageable’ areas of cricket training such as outcomes, fitness, scenarios and nets as the only tools available to a fast bowling coach.

The answer, as the Chinese like to say, is always in front of you. I am just unsure that cricket is really looking.

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Fast Bowling Camps, India – April 2018

Ian Pont & Cath Dalton are coming back to deliver TWO superb fast bowling camps for you, with new drills and updated content at the following venues and dates:

Camp 15:DELHI – April 16th, 17th, 18th & 19th, 2018 – 4 days (Rs10,000) at Ansal University, Sector 55, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon, Haryana 122003

Camp 16: HYDERABAD – April 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th – 5 days (Rs15,000) at NexGen Cricket Academy, Alwal, Secunderabad, Telangana 500015

Here’s what you missed last time:

ANSAL UNIVERSITY 2017

 

NEXGEN CRICKET ACADEMY 2017

We promise you will have great fun on these fast bowling camps. They are a treasure trove of tips, hints, tricks & proven methods that really work. It’s an incredible investment in your fast bowling future. And here’s just a tiny fraction of what you’ll discover when you attend:

  • Bowl faster
  • Increase your accuracy
  • Find out what YOU should be doing to be better
  • Learn new deliveries
  • Video analysis
  • Understand your bowling action
  • Become the best you can be
  • Bowl Yorkers, variations
  • Increase your wicket-taking ability
  • Discover how to train yourself
  • Enjoy the personal attention of the two best technical coaches on bowling actions

…plus much, much more. It’s open to ALL ages, ALL levels and we work at your OWN pace. So whether you are a young developing fast bowler, a medium pacer wanting more speed, or a first-class player keen to add more spice to your cricket – join us now. Choose the camp you prefer above – either Delhi or Hyderabad. Then look below and either call or email the contact at that venue.

Don’t miss these camps, otherwise you will never know how good you could be.

To book DELHI: call Abhishek Seth on +91 9654454461 or +91 7838645676 Email: abhishek@sportacular.in

To book HYDERABAD: call Anirudh Singh on +91 9966201329 0r +91 9177710909 Email: nexgencricketandfitness@gmail.com

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The Confusion Of Coaches

Let me be clear. You don’t need pace to be a great seam or swing bowler.

McGrath, Pollock, Anderson, Southee and 100s of others have shown that through dogged battering of the cricket ball into the same area of the pitch, time after time, that eventually you will have success. Hitting your ‘areas’, bowling in ‘the channel’ and ‘hitting the top of off stump’ are the only key phrases  you probably need as a coach to reinforce the fact that pace isn’t necessary to be successful.

Obviously, you have to move the ball in the air or off the pitch, too, but it is the incessant hammering of the same area of the pitch that will reap rewards. This is at least the message we all seek to portray.

At club level, the game is littered with ‘weekend warriors’ who ply their trade using this method. On slow, often soft, grassy pitches, it is a medium pacers’ whet dream to just land the ball on the seam and watch it dart about. It is hard to get the ball away. Pace here isn’t necessary, nor is it seen in abundance. 

However, this is the reservoir from which our next generation emerge. So the genuine quicks, those who have a passion for pace and a desire to rip through a batting line up, will often quickly realise they are in a minority. Coaches will tell them to slow down, bowl a line and length… and the prospect of producing pace bowlers ebbs away.

What’s wrong though, is that if you COULD hit your areas at 5-8 mph faster, you would definitely take that as a bowler. I have yet to meet a bowler who wouldn’t want an ‘extra yard’ of pace, meaning that speed does play a very big part of bowling development.

The problem stems from not understanding how to work with a bowler’s action to develop that speed, make it more efficient, less injury prone and ultimately a better machine. After all it is the PROCESS of fast bowling that creates the OUTCOME we seek. And the better your processes, the more accurate and faster you become. The confusion of coaches is only looking at the outcome therefore and not how that is achieved. That confusion is furthered by the fact they don’t now how to coach speed. And this comes from not being taught it in the first place as a coaches. So national boards don’t teach speed, the coaches don’t teach speed, and thus fast bowlers don’t maximise their speed. It’s a medium pacers mentality that’s great on ‘bowling friendly’ tracks, but falls apart in places where pitches are known to be batting friendly as can be seen by some of the poor track records of bowlers who go there.

Speed however, remains relevant in ALL situations and at all times. Particularly when the pitch offers the batsman an easy ride from seam. 95 mph deliveries unsettle the world’s best. Striving for pace is clearly highly desirable.

Bowlers can have actions riddled with inefficiencies yet they have learned to bowl with them, rather than improve them. Does this make physics and biomechanics irrelevant? No, of course not. It simply means they have worked out over time, to be different from the Saturday club bowlers who also have such inefficient actions. In spite of the action, not because of it, is usually how bowlers are successful.

I often ask attendees at my speed workshops “why don’t you see club cricketers with an action like Brett Lee?” To which most reply “because if you had that action, you wouldn’t be playing club cricket”. You gotta love an open mind that has been asked the right question.

So this is the nub of it. Bowlers have to focus on swing, seam, line, length etc because they do not spend much time working on their actions in the first place – actions, that if having a solid, repeatable and efficient machine are anything to go by, give you the consistency in the first place.

The brutal truth is, you HAVE to be accurate anyway as a bowler regardless of your speed. The slower you bowl, the less margin for error there is. You can get away with things at higher speeds that you cannot a lower speeds – fact. So I would like to see an encouragement for people to step up their speed rather than continually slow it down, which seems to be the populist view.

There is a coach education issue, a coaches’ mentality issue, and a bowler issue that simply gets perpetuated over and over. Comfort is often sought in statistics that ‘prove’ people are right, and things which are not understood are dismissed as crackpot, irrelevant or simply left field. But if you seek world class best practice, you look at all the possibilities and instead of thinking “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” you instead think “what can we do better to improve on what we have”.  Most mindsets are sadly stuck in the comfort of the first thought – until they HAVE to change.

Speed, for speed’s sake, is not what I advocate. It has to be accompanied with Accuracy. That’s what ABSAT coaching means and is all about and why UPF exists. 

But what I do believe is that you don’t slow anything down to be better. You speed it up to be more effective. It isn’t a ‘lack’ of anything – speed or control – we seek, but rather an increase in all our parts, that will make for far better cricketers.

Averageness starts by being complacent, and you only get progress when you challenge. With Dale Steyn at world number one for more than a decade, and no real fast bowling contender to his throne for that time other than Shoaib, Johnson & Lee… you have to question what in the world coaches are striving for. 

With the retirement of Shoaib Akthar, Mitchell Johnson and  Brett Lee, the world has far less to be excited about in pace terms. Steyn remained out on front, almost in a league of his own, able to uproot the batsman, but he is now coming to his own end of career. Rabada has recently burst through but here we are not talking about a 150 kph bowler. And the pacers going around do not have the blistering speed of the recent retirees.Ultimately, a lack of pace doesn’t make you a bad man, but the point is you don’t have to sacrifice speed for anything. Not even for your outcomes. So next time you watch the current crop of bowlers, just add 8 kph to their TV speeds and imagine how much more effective they would be.

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What IS Natural Talent?

It’s always a curious thing when coaches, players and commentators talk about “natural talent”. 

When someone does well they appear to have natural talent, according to experts and when they break records, do something exceptional or remain highly consistent, it is revered as natural ability.

But the truth is, if we do things over and over again this is what becomes natural. And that means you can change it.

Coaching (or teaching) can help you alter how you do things. If you are a batsman and continually get LBW for example, the way you bat can be improved. In some cases, a trigger, pre-delivery movement, would dramatically help. But this wouldn’t be natural for you to attempt without grooving it over and over – until it felt natural. At this point, we would say that you had a natural style of batting, even though you had learned it. Because even if you ‘worked out’ the best way for you to bat – you have learned it. It might be self-taught, but that is learning, too.

Brett Lee suffered a stress fracture due to his ‘natural’ bowling action when aged 18. So he changed it into what we saw . To us this looks natural and most commentators said this is a gift for him and ‘how he bowls’ even though he learned it.

There is a confusion over what is natural and the aptitude as humans we have to do something easily. Humans are pre-disposed with different assets that make running, throwing, jumping or hitting a ball, more likely. However, something is only natural if it has been nurtured, developed and learned. 

This is the most important thing to remember – apart from instinct we are all born with, all things in our life are learned experiences. It doesn’t mean that all humans can do the same things equally well. It simply means that we are a product of what we have been taught, shared and absorbed.

Those who do exceptionally well as a cricketer clearly perform the most important tasks better than others. Whether this is physical, mental or tactical, those world class performers all share a similar group of ‘assets’. There is a capacity to perform that others may not be able to show. 

Whether this is natural talent, for me, is highly unlikely. 

All tall people cannot be fast bowlers. All people with great reflexes and concentration cannot be great batsmen. So what is the ‘gift’ that people have that makes them exceptional?

Whatever you do more often than not, becomes natural, feels natural and looks natural. Being taught the right things is the main part of what appears to be natural, gifted talent. 

So is there a difference between what is natural and what is natural talent? It is just predisposition that differs, but the common denominator is always what has been learned. 

And that comes down to coaching in the end, appropriate to the person receiving it. 

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Do Coaches Make A Difference At the Higher Levels?

People say you always remember a great teacher. That’s because the influence they can have on you is immense. You probably remember a very bad one, too.

So just how important IS a coach when it comes to a team being successful?

The general feeling is always that the players are playing and the coach is…well… just a coach. A coach cannot play for you and a coach isn’t out there performing.

So what is a player? Is he/she an autonomous, free-thinking, self-developed and fully-independent cricketer? Can he/she work things out for himself/herself under pressure?

My first penny-dropping moment came at the 2007 World Cup as Assistant Coach to the Netherlands in the West Indies. At a team meeting I asked a simple question “How many of you know your role in the team?” If i recall, out of the 16 players sat around the table, only 2 hands went up.

The players were simply unsure of what they were doing or were clear of thought about how they should play.

In 2011, as Head Coach of the Dhaka Gladiators, I asked opening batsman Imran Nazir, what he thought his role was in the power play. He said “To get as many runs as fast as possible”.

What struck me about those two conversations is just how a player is completely influenced by coaching staff and understanding of role clarity. Something as simple (and important) as “what is my role?” wildly affected how collective individuals would be able to perform.

The ECB identified 5 key areas for making a world-class player: Technical, Tactical, Physical, Mental and Lifestyle. And so to develop that player we have coaches covering skill drills, strength & conditioning, sports psychologists, performance analysts, nutritionists, and a whole plethora of ‘back room’ staff.

We place massive importance of ‘team ethic’, plans, media interaction, communication, dressing room vibe and positive attitudes.

We spend hours in nets throwing balls with Sidearms, having player bowl at targets, hitting against bowling machines, learning power hitting, developing skills for different aspects of the game. Coaches work hours on fielding skills like catching, diving, throwing, positioning. It’s a coach’s job to make the players better.

Hours are spent by analysts developing weaknesses of opposition and own players.
Match day tactics are developed – team by team. Plans are discussed, worked on and fleshed out. Team meetings are designed to make the game as smooth as possible for the players.

Once the players cross that boundary line they are on their own. No coach can do it for them. But be under no illusion. You are watching the tip of the Iceberg with the vast majority of what has gone on up to then – under the surface unseen.

Success goes to players. Blame goes to coaches. That’s how fans see it and those outside of the game. Neither is accurate or true, but perception is reality.

My point is, when you see a successful team, just think about what has gone into making that happen and understand the players are never alone, nor is anything done in isolation.