Is it possible to forget about playing cricket?
Our sport relies heavily on technique. It's possible to spend hours working out which tiny aspect or another will correct errors. The holy grail of runs and wickets, some can imagine, is just a technical tweak away.
But is it?
Are we in danger of going too far down the technical route and forgetting how to play?
Cricket is also a game that requires rhythm and flowing movement. Many first class players in recent times have been accused of becoming 'robotic'. Too reliant on their coaches' aims to produce technical perfection, they have become lesser players because their natural instincts have been over-coached out of them.
That doesn't sound much like play to me.
In Greg Chappell's coaching book he lists 24 great cricketers who learned the game in an unstructured play-like way: Names that include himself, Don Bradman, Fred Trueman and Bishen Bedi.
These names learned to enjoy playing cricket by picking up a bat and a ball and playing games in the street, park or on the beach. They learned what worked and what didn't work for them. They saw the greats of their childhood play and picked up tips. They moved and played in an unstructured way.
They had fun and didn't worry about technique.
You could argue that these greats were natural cricketers who didn't need much coaching. You could also argue that perhaps they made the most of their talent because they didn't get much coaching in the first place.
In many ways, miCricketCoach is just as guilty of this. I started this site as a way of focusing on the details. I analyse the difference between this method and that in the effort to bring you the most cutting edge reliable information. Sometimes I forget that it is supposed to be fun too.
Sometimes it's better to leave the coaching aids and training plans behind. It's good for any age player to just play: Experiment and push the limits of what you can do. You can fail safe in the knowledge that failing is part of learning.
There is room for everyone to have both structured and unstructured training. A good coach can make sure that coaching sessions have drilling, competing and playing.
To just be structured when you train leads to robotic, over-technical players who think technique is everything.
To bring in a bit of play reminds us to relax and stop thinking about it so much.
Some free play methods
So how do you integrate free play into your training? The joy of this is that it doesn't really matter, as long as you are safe you can do anything. Here are some examples of things I have tried (or want to try):
- Grab an old bat and anything for a ball, gather up some friends/family and go have in impromptu game somewhere: Park, beach, street or aircraft carrier.
- Cover a tennis ball in masking tape, take a bat to a tennis, squash or basketball court and learn the fun of tape ball.
- When doing batting or bowling drills, focus on hitting targets rather than what is the correct technique
- Take your team to a different location to train and do something unexpected like a workout using the park children's play equipment (making sure there are no children around first of course).
- Play a practice match in your training sessions instead of having a net, but play with a soft ball and make it a 5 over slog.
Let your imagination run wild and move, have fun and relax. No robots allowed.
Image credit: Niyantha