Whether you are newly qualified coach, or one with 20 years experience, most coaches find a time when they are working with beginner kids.
How do you make the sessions great and encourage the group to come back next week?
Here’s some basics
Keep taking to a minimum and get some activity going right away. For younger kids it barely matters what you do as long as there is plenty of running, hitting, catching and throwing.
Of course, the coach in you will want to instruct. You’ll see awful techniques and bizarre efforts to break the game rules just to be awkward (teenagers are especially adept at this). Power on and focus on the fun activity.
If you’re clever, you can sneak some learning in too. Adjust a grip quickly here, ask a question about how you can do things better there. Yet, it’s important not to be dogmatic. Kids work things out if you let them play. So set up the game and get going.
And certainly no long lectures!
One little thing I like to do is make sure kids are facing overarm bowling as soon as possible. This is a key skill and is easy to set up, even for the youngest cricketers. I almost always play games where the feed is “real” bowling. It doesn't need to be the best technique, just some kind of run up and overarm feed to start.
Give kids plenty of chances to both succeed and learn from mistakes. The coaching looks after itself for a while.
Your energy as coach is vital too. Massive enthusiasm is the minimum requirement: Be a ridiculous over the top version of yourself. Run around, get stuck in. Laugh, act shocked, tell jokes, be the hub of energy in the game.
Enthusiasm is inspiring.
Even if your character is quiet, thoughtful and under the radar, be the biggest most enthusiastic version of that you can be. Inspiration does need to be loud but it does need to be there. Imagine you’re going “on stage” every time you coach and you give yourself permission to be a little more over-the-top version of yourself.
The hardest of these three tips is adaptation.
Knowing when to help with skill development and knowing when to hang back is a hard trick to learn. Go in too much and you risk boredom, rebellion and unhelpful behaviour. Leave things alone and it becomes mindless activity.
The good news is that you get an instant response so you can adjust your coaching to player needs and wants instantly too.
I coached a group of older kids recently who were experienced with school cricket but didn’t enjoy playing much. A net session was an abject failure with no attention span, unhelpful behaviour and disrespectful actions.
I told them this and asked them to adapt but the changes we made (together) didn’t change the actions of these lads.
You might argue at this point for disciplinary action or even giving up on them and sending them home. I considered it. Then I had a brainwave and told them to go onto the outfield with soft balls and plastic bats and make their own game. The only rule was it had to be 20 minutes long.
On their own they made up a game that lasted 20 minutes with focus and attention. There were no arguement and no unhelpful actions. There may have even been a little bit of learning about leadership, focus and striking a ball!
It’s amazing what you can do if you find a way and stay positive.