You probably don't have time to read this article.
But it’s worth carving out a moment to read on this time.
What with all the running around, raising players for the next Under 13 match, trying to wrangle a bunch of distracted kids in a net, dealing with parent queries and wondering if it will rain anyway, real cricket coaching is a long way from the utopian world you were told about on your coaching course.
What you need are some quick, practical and simple ways to help players develop without the need for a deep understanding sports coaching theory.
So here are two things you can do straight away that will instantly start the process of improve those pesky kids.
When we were kids, coaching was about telling us what to do. Play straight, “brush your ear”, don’t forget a long barrier.
These days its more about questions.
Questions are useful because there is very little fixed technique any more. There is no copybook. Different things work for different people. That means the only way to find out what works best for you in by experimenting.
So, telling a young player to “brush their ear” when bowling might seem sensible advice if they have a low arm, but it might just lead to other issues that confuses further. Remember, Malinga never needed that advice!
Instead, ask questions to tease out a solution from the player.
You can ask a kid things like, “how high is your arm when you let go of the ball?”, “How accurate is your bowling when you get tired and your arm drops?”, or more directly “What can you do to get your arm at 11 o’clock when you let go of the ball?”.
Questions like this are designed to get the playing thinking about - and trying - different ways of getting what they want (hitting the ball, bowling straight and so on).
Of course, your input is still valuable too. You know more than the kid about technique generally so you can throw in suggestions that fire up the problem-solving part of their brain to see how it goes.
But there is a problem with this way.
Despite being more effective, it’s also more frustrating to ask questions.
Some kids do not engage with the questions, saying “I don’t know” or “what do you think?”. Others see it as a test they need to pass by giving the “right” answer. It can be frustratingly slow to inspire some people.
That doesn’t mean you give up and just tell the girl with the “poke” drive to have a higher back lift. If you feel that temptation, remember she will be a lot better cricketer if you can tease a solution out that works for her rather than hoping she will be the female Brian Lara.
You might be desperate for a win in your next cricket match but, in the long run, more enjoyment through better understanding of their own game will keep kids coming back far more than a W in an U13 game.
Put cricket in context
Speaking of enjoyment, kids are motivated (and as a result improve quicker) when you meet their needs and wants.
One of the best ways to do this is to put everything into a context that sparks that motivation.
(And as a consequence, one of the worst ways is to try and fit cricket into kid’s lives in the same way as it fits yours; it’s rarely the same)
That means pitching all games and training in a way that fits the kid.
A 15 year old who is playing senior cricket and has ambitions on getting into the first XI will be motivated by techniques and tactics they can apply to get them wickets to get in contention.
An 11 year old playing their first season of hard ball cricket probably just wants to run around with their mates and have a fair turn.
A coach giving them a bunch of instructions about the “right” way to play is a recipe for disengagement.
But a coach who helps a player feel confident and comfortable enough to try - because it will help the child have more fun - is tapping into almost bottomless reserves of energy.
It’s all about setting the right context and letting the power of cricket work its magic.
I realise these seam subtle things that are not easy to see working. Persevere. By asking questions, being patient and remembering why kids come to the cricket in the first place, you stand a much better chance of keeping them coming back and building a team of passionate, motivated and skilful cricketers in the long run.