The more cricket the better right? School, Club, District, County… possibly Regional or even National level too! Oh, and don’t forget mum, dad or another family member who is always willing to throw balls ad offer a bit of advice. It’s fantastic for a young person to play so much cricket with lots of different people at a range of standards. Isn’t it?
We sometimes come across young players who fit this category. Plenty talent, bags of potential, a love of the game, but all of a sudden that enjoyment fades. The fun stops, the runs or wickets dry up and the player starts to go backwards and the brain starts to fry. But they are getting coaching at school. Their club coach is so keen and loves to offer plenty advice at training. The county coach is an ex-first class player and knows his stuff. There has even been an outside chance of an England U15 place, so the enthusiastic father has paid for personal weekly one-to-one coaching with a Level 3 coach to give the best chance of getting in. So why has the player stopped scoring runs? Why has she seemed less fussed about playing and training? Aside from the tiredness from all the travelling to and from different coaching sessions, the messages received from all these coaches often conflicts, and causes such a muddle in the players mind that they completely forget what works for them and what they used to do that allowed them to score runs and take wickets.
If you are a player with potential, you will undoubtedly find the coaches start sniffing around, looking to offer you their advice. So how do you decide which is the best advice to take? Because after all, the chances of every coach you come across telling you the same thing is highly unlikely!
The best advice I was given was, ‘to listen to all advice no mater who from, accept it gracefully and say thank you’. Depending on your ability, you will have either come across that advice in the past or it will be new to you. It will either be complete nonsense, make complete sense or it will trigger a little spark of curiosity in your mind. If you find the spark is ignited and you are interested in investigating the advice, try it out in a net or with a few throw downs. Even better talk to the person who offered you the advice. Ask them questions about it. Think about what you are trying to do and make a decision whether this advice might work for you or not.
A net situation is perfect for trying out small adjustments to your technique, and you don’t really need a coach to experiment! With the ball, it might be gripping a little tighter, or more loosely; moving your fingers together slightly, or moving the ball so there is slightly more pressure exerted on the ball by one finger than the other. Angle the seam a little more or less.
With the bat, you might adjust your grip slightly, up or down the handle, move the top hand round the bat a little bit more and see what it does to the path your bat takes through the ball on playing your shot. Lift the bat higher, start with it on the ground on your foot or in a different position on the ground relative to your feet. Try things out. You never know when you might hit on some tiny change that really works for you.
The problem will come, though, where you have two or three coaches, all who are insisting that you try something different and each piece of advice conflicts with the other. It is in this situation that players get set back, ruined or in the worst case scenario finished. The further through the levels a player moves the coaches need to ensure that they communicate with each other, ensure that all are following the best interests of the individual and are being led by one entity. It is important that if you are the player, you are honest at the first sign of conflict between coaches and let them know there is a difference in the message. The coaches should then communicate and decide on the best way forward for the player that will then become a united effort, ensuring the coaches are all saying the same things to the player.
In terms of the best advice that comes from coaches, and you will find players at the very top saying the same thing, keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things with novelty gimmicks, or coaching tips for coaching’s sake. Batters, stand still and watch the ball. Bowlers, bowl the ball with a strong wrist and fingers behind the ball, and get your body working and moving down a straight line towards the target. If your personal motto becomes ‘keep it simple’, you won’t find yourself far wrong. When it all starts getting complicated with advice from here, there and everywhere and the numerous coaches (who ultimately only want to help you) are scrambling your brain, the good news is that you have an identifiable starting point to go back to where you will be able to recognise yourself and what you were trying to do.