This article is part 5 of the “How to use fitness training to make better young cricketers” series.
The late teens for a player can go one of two ways, and as a coach it’s up to you to know how to respond.
It’s either a race for the first-class game, or something a little more recreational.
At around the age of 16-18 (15-17 for girls) the best players will be getting more serious about making it as a cricketer. They will have ambitions to play at the highest level and will be looking to break into an Academy (or make a success of the Academy they are in).
Other players may or may not have the same desire, but for one reason or another they are not serious contenders for professional cricket in their late teens.
This distinction is important, because there is a difference in the way these types use fitness training.
Let’s look at each in turn.
The Academy player
Different countries have different structures for talented teenage players, but to make life easy, let’s assume a couple of things:
- The local first-class team has an Academy that takes on the best 15-19 year old players for development.
- The player is still playing adult club cricket, probably at the highest standard.
Players within this made-up Academy get access to the strength coach and so the local club coach won’t need to do much fitness.
But as many youngsters won’t have a fitness coach until they hit the Academy, it’s up to you as coach to make sure they are fit and injury-free when it comes to the trials and testing session.
The basics of this are:
- First, do no harm. Make sure you understand that fitness work is more about preventing injury than beasting someone for the sake of it. Learn to use the warm up effectively to develop mobility and stability. Stretch after every session.
- Be specific. Strength and conditioning training now needs to get personalised and position specific as the player has found his or her best position. Although there is much crossover, bowlers have different needs from batters and training can now start to reflect this. Training also needs to be split into off-, pre- and in season.
- Play more than you train. At this age, players need to work hard on tactical awareness, getting ‘game fit’ and playing under pressure. This is best learned through playing matches, not being in the gym. Have a playing to training ratio of 60:40.
As a guideline, players on the cusp of an Academy place should be looking to train up to 12 times a week (3-6 cricket training sessions, 4- 6 fitness sessions) in the off season. In-season is more difficult but 2-3 fitness sessions per week fit in around playing days would be ideal if not always possible.
As the workload is very high, recovery becomes a crucial aspect in your coaching too. Sore and tired players won’t do well. You can help players learn how to recover better through advising on:
None of this is complicated, but it is often out of your control as a coach. You have to rely on the drive of the player to understand the importance of these elements. But as long as you are talking to the best players about these things you are doing all you can.
The club player
If the above is the ideal - the player with the time, talent and ambition - what we are going to talk about now is the more normal.
This player is not in an Academy, or close to getting into one. The reasons why are many and varied, although talent and ambition are the main ones.
As coach maybe you see this player 2-3 a week in the summer (including matches) and once a week in the winter.
So while the same principles apply (as, physically speaking, both players are ready for well-coached strength training) the practicalities mean you need to compromise:
- Keep the principle of injury prevention highest in your mind and use the warm up as you would with younger players: to improve stability and mobility.
- Encourage players to do resistance training 2-3 times a week under the supervision of a strength coach who understands the needs of teenage trainers. The focus is not on sports performance specifically, but more in general health and lifelong fitness.
- Try to balance playing to training ratio at 60:40. Think about game fitness as much as gym fitness (but don’t ignore either).
Of course, if the club player is able to do the full Academy player preparation, your job as coach is to support them all the way, but the reality is most will prefer to play and train for the fun of it more than the chance to reach the top.
That said; don’t make the mistake of writing off the club player. Many cricketers develop late, or don’t want to join the Academy rat-race. Talent and ambition come together at different times for different players.
If you can keep an 18 year old interested enough to keep playing by keeping training a fun experience then you have done a good job that keeps the door open for late developers as well.
Click the links below to see the other parts of this series: