photo credit: Roger Shaddock
"I cannot help thinking that Inzy is not the only exception. Maybe his coaches did not interfere with his skill development by using a lot of the so called modern coaching methods?"
What do you think about this comment?
England's Liam Plunkett is often criticised for having a 'robotic' bowling action. A result, the critics say, of overcoaching ruining his natural rhythm.
So if Inzy and others were not coached as much and produce better results, is coaching a good idea at all?
The art of cricket coaching
My own view is that is depends on both the coach and the player(s) involved.
A coach has a vital role in helping beginners learn the basic skills of cricket. It has been proven many times that someone who is coached a skill will learn it far more quickly than someone who has to pick it up on their own.
The obvious application here is with young players in club group coaching. Most club players here in the UK will experience this kind of coaching sometime between the ages of 6 and 16.
Coaches at this level also have a role to play in shaping players techniques to minimise injury.This is particularly true of 'mixed action' bowlers. Ideally, no player going through a club coaching system should come out with an action that puts excess strain on their back. However, even at this point individual differences will be coming through.
This is where the real art of good coaching begins. A good coach can evaluate players against the perfect model and spot flaws quickly. He or she can also judge whether the flaw is something that needs to be corrected or is part of an individual player's difference.
In short, a good coach knows when to intervene and when to keep quiet.
I think a lot of the criticism that is attached to club coaches at this level is down to coaches who don't get this balance right.
But this overcoaching is not a fault of the system of coaching (modern or traditional), it's a fault of individual coaches who feel the need to tinker when there is no injury prevention or performance improvement need.
Role of the coach
As you move up the ability and age levels the requirement to learn basic skills diminishes rapidly. This is where you find more modern coaching methods. These include:
- Mental preparation
- Strength and conditioning
- Tactical awareness
- Leadership skills
I believe that if introduced at the right age and skill level, all these modern coaching methods do more good than harm.
None of them interfere directly with skill development but all can add extra dimensions to a player.
Even 'instinctive' players like Inzy would have benefited from these methods.
Where there is still controversy is how much coaches at higher levels should correct technical errors, especially with fast bowlers who rely so much on rhythm. It's not for me to comment on how much skill coaching (or overcoaching) exists in the professional game as I have no experience.
At club level there is little coaching and what exists is mainly skill based. Due to the limited time players have with coaches this usually takes the form of simple advice and it would be hard to be overcoached in the way that the commenter above suggested.
So where does that leave us as club cricketers? I would draw several conclusions:
- Young club players can be overcoached by well meaning coaches.
- Senior club players would find it hard to be overcoached due to time constraints.
- Everyone can benefit from higher level coaching as none of it interferes with skill development or retention.
- The answer then is better coaching at the grass roots when players are learning their skills. It also means more coaching for players after they reach the senior game, especially in the non technical parts when the biggest improvements can be seen.
Coaching can do harm, but only when it's done from the book rather than as an art form. What do you think?