Excellent coaching starts with the relentless pursuit of excellence. There is nowhere that this is more important that your own development as a coach.
The world of coaching changes all the time. Theories come and go, some stick because they work. New drills are developed. Old methods are re-examined: the discussion is never ending.
That’s why "Coaching to Win" exists. It’s a place for you to learn about ideas and methods that I have tried and know to work.
It's also a place for you to contribute and discuss your own experiences with coaches around the world.
We are still putting the finishing touches on the place so I recommend you put your name down for updates because we will be regularly adding new content.
Here’s to striving for excellence!
2015 was a very odd Ashes. When the ball swung significantly England won. When the ball didn't swing for long periods Australia compiled heavy first innings scores and won as a result of scoreboard pressure.
Only 6 batters (Root, Rogers, Warner, Smith, Cook and Ali) averaged over 30 in the series. Cook and Rogers are Test match specialists, Warner adapted his method during the series, Smith and Root swapped over as World number one batters and there is a good chance that England's number 8 in this series will open the batting in the next one!
Other than these players, there were a lot of "walking wickets" on show in the series. Especially when either side got the ball to move laterally. As coaches, we have a huge role to play in the development of cricketers who have the skills to cope with balls that swerve in and out and also deck off of the pitch.
This comes in the technical wisdom that we impart on the players and also in the way that we expose the batters to tough conditions and to swinging balls.
Technically, when the ball swings, the feet have a tendency not to move.
Jos Buttler showed this in the last couple of test matches. His only method was to try and save himself with his excellent hand to eye coordination. But even that wasn't enough in tough batting conditions.
So what could Jos do to prepare himself for lateral moving conditions in the future?
Here's a brilliant batting drill based on a TV show.
First the back story: I ran a session this week with four cricketers from school who haven't played a great deal over the summer holidays. One of the players in the session has made huge progress this year.
A few weeks ago I predicted a comfortable Australia victory in the 2015 Ashes. Most of the cricketing world, including England Captain Alastair Cook didn't think that his inexperienced side could beat mighty Australia.
How have England beaten the odds? And what can we learn from it?
I spent the weekend heading up the Cricket Zone at SportFest15 in the grounds of the glorious Wormsley Estate. 1000's of children were coached by Sporting legends over the two day festival.
The Cricket zone had 6 areas including the PitchVision net manned by Andrew Strauss and Simon Jones.
Another section is called "bowl at Hoggy's Stump". In 2014, England legend, Matthew Hoggard batted for 2 days in a net armed only with a stump. The children loved it, so did Hoggy!
This year we upgraded the stump to a middling bat.
Nomaan sent in a great question to the Pitchvision Cricket Show last week. It revolved around his lack of confidence, increased anxiety levels and being unable to transfer his considerable practice skills into a match context.
Ultimately he had lost "that loving feeling" for the game.
England's disarray against fast bowling at Lord's was not a surprise to those who have watched them closely over the years.
Despite Lords being a very good batting track, England seemed clueless against the fast bowling onslaught in the 4th innings.
Australia shifted their length of attack to push the batters back and then pitched the ball fuller to bring the stumps in or get the edge. The classic combination of short, short, full. The same combination that undid them in Australia 18 months ago.
So what can be done in this situation?
Here are some drills.
In last week's spin orientated article, I mentioned a comment that Glenn McGrath made about singing a song inside his head as he was running up to bowl. It was inspiring and reassuring to hear a great of the game talk about this as we use music a lot when working with players at Millfield School.
One of the features of this Ashes series will be the battle between spinner and batters as the rough patches develop rapidly through each Test match. The weather in the UK has been (relatively) dry for months. The pitches are drier than usual for this time of year.
The Australian left arm seamers will help the rough patches to degrade at an accelerated rate outside the right handed batters off stump. This shall bring Moeen Ali and Nathan Lyon into the game earlier as attacking forces. It is likely that the Stokes, Anderson, Broad and Wood will bowl some overs around the wicket at David Warner, if he stays in long enough. This will also add wear and tear to that rough area.
The developing rough isn't just a problem for the batter. It also creates challenges for the keeper and the bowler as well. I know what you're saying; "Test match spinners shouldn't be challenged by the rough? It should be all their dreams come true!"
For bowlers such as Murali or Warne the rough represented opportunity. For most spinners, the developing footholds can represent a threat.
This threat is the pressure of expectation.
If you can identify the most important cog and mess up the way it moves and operates, you will force the other team to adapt their plans and their performance.
One example of this is the Australians. The men from down-under always target the opposition captain on the other team. They single him out, and disrupt his influence on the team. As the 2015 Ashes approach, the obvious next question is this,
Should England be targeting Michael Clarke?
The aim will be to get the ball into Clarke's armpit early on with a short leg and leg slip or leg gully. If he feels threatened upstairs his foot movement to fuller balls is compromised. He is vulnerable to an edge to slip or to a ball coming back through the gate.
It's a great example of a specific tactic. Clarke is a big cog in the Aussie machine. He's also not the most important cog. There is another name on the 2015 team sheet that needs closer attention.
Picture the scene: We had a brilliant centre wicket practice the other day ahead of a Regional T20 finals day. I was keen to take full advantage of the time that we had available to us ahead of the big day.
That morning, I had a number of emails about various school events in what is always an incredibly busy last week of term. The upshot? Where we once had 15 players; we now had 10.
And it got worse. Both keepers were at school play rehearsal. The forecast said that rain was due at 1700; our practice was due to start at 1545. My best laid plans for a middle practice were in tatters.
What can we do to make this session as good as could be?