Every Friday, I head down to Millfield Prep School and work as an assistant coach for a good friend of mine, Head of Cricket Dave Beal. Dave played 1st Class cricket for Somerset and since then has helped developed countless 1st class cricketers in his time at Millfield.
It’s great being an assistant coach working with these 12 and 13 years olds because I can react off Dave’s excellent coaching plans, I can get back to being a proper coach, have a bit of giggle with the players and, for me, it’s an excuse to become a bit of a kid again!
Dave planned and ran a batting against spin specific session last Friday which contained 4 elements split into 4 nets. It was a bit like the “constraints drills” that I do with the older players at the senior school, but it fitted the bill perfectly:
- Net 1: coming down the wicket to hit the ball hard along the ground
- Net 2: springing back and pulling the ball through the leg side
- Net 3: springing back and punching or cutting the ball through the offside
- Net 4: Sweep shots
Dave ran through the drills showing fantastic technique and skill in each of the demonstrations. The kids had a really good idea of the shapes and processes that they needed to copy in order to give them the best chance of success in each of the drills.
We then broke the players up into groups with 15 minutes in each of the drill nets.
It was fantastic to view the children concentrating and practicing deliberately for the whole of the 15 minutes in each section.
Some sweeptastic questions to get the grey-matter going
I ran the sweep section and decided that I would ask a few quick questions to test the level of understanding that each group had around the sweep options.
- Question 1: How many different types of sweep are they?
- Question 2: What type of delivery or match situation would you play a slog sweep?
- Question 3: What type of delivery or match situation would you play a paddle sweep?
- Question 4: Give me 2 key coaching points that are important when you sweep?
After those quick fire questions, I was able to gauge the groups level of understanding (which was incredible for their age) and we then started to hit six consecutive hard sweeps from my feeds before swapping over.
The practical session
Each player had subtle differences in terms of their technical development areas so as they are waiting next to me, watching their mates hit balls I was able to deliver some coaching instructions before they then faced their next 6 hard sweep deliveries.
So as Freddie is hitting his 6 balls, Harrison and I have the following coaching conversation:
“What’s your biggest challenge in that last 6 balls then Harrison?”
“Balance Sir, I keep wobbling just as I’m going to hit the ball”
“OK, have a go at getting your right knee on the ground next time because three points of contact on the floor (two feet, one knee) may help you to become more balanced. Give it a go and see what happens?”
So as Harrison is hitting his six balls, Freddie and I have the following coaching conversation:
“How did you go there Freddie?”
“Not bad but I don’t feel as if I’m able to hit the ball very hard coach!”
“I agree, there is definitely more power in these arms but in order for you to let that power out, you need to have them extended at point of contact with the ball. Can you show me how you would chop a tree down with the least amount of whacks?”
Freddie shows me demonstrating a lower centre of gravity and his arms swinging from bent to extended at perceived contact point. “That’s it bud, now do that to the next six balls and see how you go”
The boys added at least 25% of development in the space of 15 minutes because they hit 24 balls each in a focussed and deliberate manner with a couple of relevant coaching points to work on.
As you can imagine, with the youth of today and the influences around them, a couple of reverse sweeps came out but were played very well.
End of session review
When Dave asked all the other coaches about their experience across their 4 mini sessions and they reported similar experiences to myself. It showed that Dave had set up the session perfectly, the players reacted brilliantly and the coaches had the best hour of the week.
It’s so easy to have a net session in all your groups sessions but Dave changes it up every few weeks so players can learn the fundamental techniques in isolation before applying those heightened skills back into the next net session.
Try mixing up your session content to inject higher standards into your net and middle practice. Just like Dave.