What motivates you to play cricket?
It's a question worth considering, because the reason you play will help you - and if you coach or captain, your players - to reduce the frustrations that come about when aims don't meet actions.
For example, consider the classic story of cricket practice time. If you are a good club or academy player there is a good chance that you want to push on. You want well structured, personalised and effective practice sessions. But when you turn up to nets it's just a bunch of guys turning over an arm and having a hit.
You get frustrated and feel you are not making the best of practice time, and so are not performing well in games.
Meanwhile, another guy at the same net is delighted to be there. He is out of the house on a sunny day and getting some exercise. He is appreciated by his team-mates for being there and feels part of a team. He doesn't care about self-development because it's not his motivation.
You can see why these two look at each other like they are crazy. Neither one understands the motivation of the other.
But, with some thought, a better understanding will lead to a détente where you are all happy.
The more serious guy gets his structured sessions, the more fun guy gets his exercise. More runs are scored, more wickets are taken, and more games are won.
So let's look at the most common motivations to find out where you fit, and how you can deal with the problems each experience brings:
Sampling: Playing for fun
When you are first introduced to the game, your motivation is simply to find out if you enjoy it or not.
For most players, this happens between the ages of 10-13. You are old enough to decide if cricket is fun to play or not. However, with games like Last Man Stands, there are also players coming to the game as adults.
So you have a go, you play some games and you get some coaching. If you like it you stick around. You will tend to enjoy more it if you are with friends.
You have to be lead by a coach to get the most from your sessions. If the coach makes it fun, you come again. The sampler is not motivated by hours of technical work and doing things the "proper" way. You want to hit the ball, bowl it straight, run around and get in on the action.
So avoid overly structured net sessions, focus on the fun and social elements and get stuck into to enjoying it.
If you continue for any length of time, you quickly move into more formal motivations, even if fun remains all the way through your career too.
Achieving: Taking on the challenge
When you realise that you have some ability, no matter how small, and you want to play cricket you become an achiever.
Fun is still part of what you do, but you have also had some formal success. You realise it feels good to do well as a player and to be in a winning team. You want more recognition from your team-mates that you are a good player and an important part of the team.
The passion for playing has been fired and you want to play games to test yourself and enjoy your success.
So, you begin to seek out more support. The coaching starts to become more organised and technical so you feel you are progressing in your cricket skills. Practice is an important part of making the team.
This can be a double-edged sword though. Many players just want to play. They find the more formalised coaching boring and pointless. The fun and the challenge is in playing. If they are forced into hours on the bowling machine they lose interest, or at the very least don't come to training.
Equally, even with some success, if players feel like they are not good enough to make the team they will drift onto other ways to scratch the achievement itch.
If you fall into this category, understand that it's fine to play as much as you can. Formal matches, pickup games, beach cricket and anything else with a cricket bat shaped object hitting a ball are all awesome.
It's also important to practice, so try and gear your training sessions to the competitive element. Here's one from a recent ECB magazine:
- Separate the squad into pairs of equal ability.
- Go through 5-10 predesigned 2 minute challenges (i.e. throwing down the stumps) and assign a point to the winner of each challenge.
- Bring the squad back together and split into 2 teams, each team's number of wickets is the number of points scored.
- Have a middle practice or net and keep score. Add "wickets" for playing and missing or other practices you want to discourage alongside conventional wickets.
- The team with the most runs for their wickets is the winner.
Adding this competitive element to practice will satisfy your desire for recognition and fun, while also improving your game enough to go up a level.
Advancing: Mastery through practice
Advancers are established players. You are now looking to test yourself within cricket as you are playing for for the game itself more than the need to have fun or feel part of a team.
Your motivation is runs and wickets.
You see your performance in games as the extension of your practice.
You want specific work: deliberate practice, and specialised skill work. You train as much as you can, and drill hard as well as using middle practice and small sided games.
You're the first to practice and the last to leave. You cannot ever get enough target bowling and throw downs. You are developing new things all the time while building up strong areas further and dealing with weaknesses.
It's this kind of person you see in professional and serious non-professional cricket. You look to the pros to emulate their practice methods, even if you have less time.
Oddly, it's advancers who can drop out because of competition. You enjoy practice so much that you end up disliking competitive challenge. If you fail you think your hard work is not paying off and you lose your motivation.
So, make your challenge to train to win.
- Plan your practice so you work towards a peak at the right time.
- Work on your ability to perform skills when the heat is on, like becoming a finisher.
- Factor in other elements like fitness, nutrition, sleep and hydration.
- Recognise that unless you play in a "serious" or professional side, you are probably seen as the crazy practice nut who is too over the top and has forgotten about playing for fun.
Summing up: All different, all equal
You will find many player motivations within a side, even at the highest levels. The better team coaches, captains and cultures are able to accept these differences and work with them.
In other words, while out motivations differ, we are all in the same team because we are of roughly equal ability.
Bear that in mind, and your own practice and play will improve, as will the practice and play of your team-mates who stop thinking you are weird for your different motivations and instead start to help you avoid the pitfalls.
Which type of player are you, and how can you better understand others you play with to reach a balance that everyone likes?