Most players think coaching is easy: You rock up, set out some cones, do some drills and go home. While that's part of the story, there are certain skills the coach needs to practice to be effective.
But as coach you don't want to waste practice time by working on your own skills. Besides, you have enough pride to want to make it look easy and effortless.
It's time to get to the ground early, or on a non-training day, and work on your secret yet effortless practice skills. Your player won't thank you directly, but they will notice how much better their catching and batting has got as a result.
The "dog ball thrower" or "claw" for cricket. It's an essential tool for a coach these days. It saves your arm for throwdowns and can ramp up your pace (up to 15mph faster with the Sidearm than without).
But it takes some getting used to.
The first time you try it you will throw it into the floor at your feet.
When you readjust it goes into the side netting. I have sent more than one flying over a net without a roof.
After a few goes you start to learn the differences between a throw and a throwdown. You get more accurate, but it still took me several 20 minute sessions before nets to get anywhere near accurate. For example, when I was getting better I set myself a target of hitting a reasonable line and length (quite a large area) 20% of the time. It took me 2 sessions to get past that goal.
Nowadays I am good enough to bowl with it with good pace and accuracy, but it took effort.
In my view it's worth the learning curve. It's more useful for batters than throws or a bowling machine, but is almost as accurate when you are good at it. As you can see from this graphic, it helps with shot selection and decision making as well as technique for batters.
Plus, there is a range of drills you can do for your keeper.
Speaking of the keeper (and slips), the next skill is the most realistic way to practice close catching for them: nicking.
You have seen the top coaches do it and make it look easy. But it's another embarrassing one if you just give it a go. Most people end up missing the ball far more than they hit it. Practice is wasted and you decide never to try again.
But it's so good, it's worth you spending time with a accurate thrower while you work on sliding the ball off the face. So find a thrower you can trust, get down on one knee and get working on it.
You'll probably already know that the Skyer is a bit easier than the last two. With it's rubber face you can ping balls up for miles. It beats the older method of using a bat to do catching.
One method that's worked for many is to hit the ball up while also driving your hip through to use your whole body for power and accuracy. The more you work on this, the higher you can hit, but also the better you can pick out players.
It also opens up more options, options that you can practice a bit before putting a player in front of a hard ball.
- flat catches "in the ring"
- half volley bounce and hit for more realistic keeping practice or ground fielding
- feeding onto a Katchet for keeper and infield deflection work
Secret coaching practice
These are all very practical skills that will make you a better coach. It's very easy to just ignore them, especially with younger players who you feel might not need such tool. But the more you have in your toolbox, the better a coach you will become.
Try arriving to practice half an hour earlier with a trusted secret colleague and hone your skills. It doesn't have to take long and it will take your team to the next level.