Thursday 4 September 2014

COACHING : How to Find Out What Works for You

You want to become a better cricket player, and there is no shortage of advice. The problem is, how do you work out what tips, tactics and techniques work best for you?

It's quite possible to argue that the answer is simple. That there is one size that fits all players. All you have to do is strive to achieve the perfect bowling action or front foot drive. Success is a matter of drilling, grooving and analysing until all flaws are gone.

It's an attractive idea by it's simplicity. It also ignores two huge parts of being a cricketer: genetics and environment. These things together mean that "one way" can never exist.

For a start you are a completely genetically unique person. There are so many gene combinations, no two people can be the same. Height, handedness, body structure, strength, speed, hand-eye coordination and much more are set long before you are born. Sure, you can (and should) influence many of these elements later in life but you can only do so much. Add to this your different upbringing as a person and as a player and you can see that trying to make a unique person into a "cookie cutter" cricketer is impossible.

So let's think more like an individual and start getting better at cricket.

Listen to advice with ears and mind

However, just as there is no perfect single way, there are best practices. There are methods that have been tried by many thousands of cricketers through the years. To ignore that deep information would be foolish.

So, listen to as much advice as you can.

Information is always the first step to development. The trick is to think of yourself as the filter. You let in things that work for you, while respectfully rejecting everything else. That's a process we have discussed before.

As a coach, I have spent a lot of time gathering knowledge that helps players become better cricketers, but I'm a human with biases towards my own experiences and I can't do more than tell you what I have seen work before (or others have reported). For that reason I love it when a player does not accept what I say.

You should do the same with your coach and advisors.

Take time to look online for the advice you are given. Is it backed by a lot of websites? Are there studies that have looked at the effectiveness? Do other people agree? Does it instinctively make sense to you?

Learning to process the fire hose of cricket information mindfully is the start.

But you need to do a lot more.

Be your own experiment

No amount of research and thinking is enough. To find out if any piece of advice fits your shape, you need to do an experiment with one subject: You.

This is hard because the temptation to listen to the "secrets" is strong. You can be seduced by the idea that if it worked for Bradman/Shoaib/Sachin/Warne it must work for you. It might, but you need to find that out for yourself.

How do you do that?

It's simple, but not easy. Take your time to try things and see if they "feel" right. In the meantime, other knock on effects might happen. You have to be patient and know that failing a lot is the key to success.

Here is an awesome way to structure your nets as a batsman to experiment. But this is not just for batsmen. It crosses both the technical skill sets (batting, bowling, fielding) and the wider methods of the game (tactics, mental game and fitness). Wherever there is an element you can improve there are a number of methods to try.

You can support your research further with data. How something feels is all important, but sometimes you need to take a longer view.

For example if you want more muscular power to develop your speed as a bowler, you need to track your gym performance over a number of weeks before changing methods. If you are getting more powerful - in this example more weight lifted is a good guide - then keep doing the same thing. If your progress has stalled, make a change.

In more cricket specific environments you can use PitchVision and other tracking tools to track key performance indicators (KPI) over time. By the way, "KPI" is just a fancy way of pointing out specific elements you want to improve.

Good players are good reviewers

Sounds like a lot of work?

That's because it is.

Working out your method can only ever be established by slow, painful trial and error. There is a lot of error before you get through it. As long as you are constantly reviewing what works and - perhaps more importantly - what doesn't work you are on the right road.

For me, that is what distinguishes a good player from an average player: He or she is prepared to review everything all the time and keep coming back even in the face of failure.

If that describes you, I'll be delighted when you make it as a cricketer.



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