It’s a tough job being a cricket coach. When things go wrong for a player, it is you they turn to – to blame or to rectify the problem. When things go right, you rarely get the credit you deserve. There are those who want to do things their way, without any input, no matter how insightful, and those so desperate for feedback, when all they need to do is let instinct take over.
Finding the right pieces of advice to offer your students and discovering what drills to utilise to make sure advice sticks is a tricky task, especially in a game where techniques can vary so vastly from one player to another.
That’s why events such as the National Conference are so important, and on the evidence of this year’s event at St George’s Park, Staffordshire, there is reason to be optimistic about the quality of coaches in England, at all levels.
The sessions were excellent, informative and diverse. Hotly subscribed to was Graham Thorpe’s workshop on how to coach playing against the short ball and spin bowling. There can be few more qualified to do so. It is clear from how England’s Lead Batting Coach speaks that he thinks a great deal about the game, and the improvement of the assisting Jordan Cook, a Nottinghamshire Second XI player, was noticeable even after an hour.
It wasn’t just skills work that was covered. For example, one session, delivered by Gary Metcalfe, the Somerset and England Disability physio, focused on injuries, and what can be done by a coach to understand when injuries are likely to occur, and what can be done to prevent them and lessen their impact.
A hot topic during the collaborative session was that player-favourite and physio-bugbear, football. Hand hockey was discussed as a less dangerous alternative, which also helps to build some fielding skills with many swapping ideas about different ways it can be played and built up from something not too strenuous into a full-blown runaround. Some sample rules for hand hockey, and many other warm-up games and drills can be found on the icoachcricket app developed by the ECB.
But most impressive, and perhaps most valuable, was ECB spin consultant Chris Brown’s workshop on how to coach spin bowling. How spinners are nurtured and encouraged has become something approaching a national concern, and it is through no fault of any one coach that it is something many do not know how to do to the level they – and the national selectors – might like. The amount of ideas on offer about how to coach so many particular aspects – shoulder strength, bowling stride, approach to the crease, flight and accuracy to name a few – will surely have given every coach in attendance something to take away.
Perhaps most encouraging, from an observer’s standpoint, wasn’t any single session but the buzz and atmosphere throughout the event, of coaches over coffee discussing what they had learnt and their ideas. There were hundreds of people already excellent at what they do, but still willing to learn and improve, and there can be few surer signs that the game is in good hands than that.
Wisden attended ‘Change the Game’, the 2017 ECB Coaches Association National Conference. For more information on ECB Coach Education and ECB Coaches Association, please visit the ECB website.