So it seems I’ve entered the world of blogging! In recent times, there is plenty of research encouraging practitioners in the teaching/coaching profession to share their experiences and thoughts with a view to developing practice. So here I am, writing my first one in an attempt to reflect upon what has been a whirlwind two terms at Millfield School. Circumstances are they are, the coaching aspect of the job has really kicked off the ground since Christmas. It is therefore no coincidence that my own coach development and understanding has accelerated in tandem. Working alongside two fantastic ECB Level IV coaches (one being a former international coach) might have contributed just a little to this!
It’s hard to put into words everything that I’ve been lucky enough to observe and pick up from both Mark (Garaway) and Steve (Wilson) – I’m sure they both won’t mind being mentioned in the process! There are however some key ideas that have stuck with me in our many lunch times and in-between-session chats that have influenced the way I now view coaching, from both a practical and theoretical perspective.
‘Conventional’ Doesn’t Exist
How many times before have you heard a coach say “this is how we always do it“, or “you need catch the ball like this“? I have certainly been guilty of the second phrase a number of times before! Seeing a young wicket-keeper not giving with the ball for example, or not moving his feet as well as he should. After all, they’re called coaching manuals for a reason aren’t they? My experience this year so far tells me otherwise. Having witnessed some extraordinary sessions with players involving back-packs, tables, netball posts and batting the wrong way to get a coaching point across, I realise that the word ‘convention’ (def: the way something is usually done) does not exist – certainly not in the coaching environment. The fact that these innovations were to expose technical issues that ‘conventionally’ don’t make sense just emphasises the point further!
I suppose the message in there somewhere, is to keep as open a mind as possible when observing a player, not being too quick to make a judgement on whether their technique is correct or not. At the end of the day if the outcome is effective, we as coaches should look to foster ways of enhancing that outcome rather than trying to alter the income or approach.
The Power of Speech
Again, how many times have you heard a coach shouting “well done, great shot” or “get your head closer to the ball next time” during a round of throw downs or on the machine? Yours truly has again been found wanting many times! Possibly the most important lesson of this year so far raises a few thought provoking questions – what value are you as a coach adding to the player by saying ‘good shot’? Have you said why it was a good shot, or are you just keen to let them know you’re happy with their shot? Often the answers to these will be no, after all we don’t head onto the pitch after a boundary to tell the batsman ‘good shot’. Nor do we run on and tell them to get their head over the ball more next delivery. With the nature of cricket as it is, the player is essentially the one who has to figure out why they did or didn’t execute a shot correctly. The power of silence therefore, during a round of throw downs or on the machine is so much more powerful. Not only does it allow you to observe your player technically, but just from their body language and movements the round can tell itself. Suddenly the conversation at the end can be filled with in-depth questions such as, “what did you do after you nicked off?” or “how did that feel when you did this?”
Peter Moores once said – the best coach of a player is himself. Thinking about that statement it couldn’t make more sense. All the coaches a player experiences in his/her career, at the end of the day only you have the best knowledge of you.
This blogging takes longer than I thought! Hope I haven’t bored those who have taken the time to read it!