The last week of November is one of my favourite weeks in the year. I get the opportunity to assess 16 ECB level IV Candidates undertaking their nerve wracking assessment alongside successful cricket coaches and eminent sports scientists.
It’s been an honour and privilege to watch nearly 100 coaches over the past six years present their coaching philosophy, their work with two players and their reflections on how they have developed as a coach over the course of the programme.
The other benefit is that I get to see some fantastic drills in action in each candidate’s presentation. I can use these drills within the cricket programme here at Millfield.
Former Derbyshire Captain and fantastic batter, Wayne Madsen has always impressed me as an aspiring coach. Wayne is mixing his own cricket career with coaching in the Derbyshire Academy. He also finds time to Coach a local Hockey Club.
Wayne bought his experiences from hockey coaching into his presentation using a hockey stick to help one of his players to expand their sweep options against spin.
As Wayne was talking, I was already picturing the players who I knew would love the drill. Hockey players in the winter months.
I messaged Josh - a hockey player as well as cricketer - and asked his to bring his hockey stick and cricket bat into our next session. Josh is small in stature for his age and his boundary options against spin are limited to hitting under pitched balls with pull shots. This could work for him!
I asked Josh if there was any transferability between hockey shots and sweep shots. I was looking to tap into Josh’s hockey experience here as I had a very limited hockey career (I was useless).
Josh both spoke and then shaped his reverse sticks side and also his orthodox side shots on the hockey field. I noted that his reverse stick technique was demonstrated with a very high centre of mass.
I showed Josh an image of a player playing a reverse sticks shot and asked him what he noticed about her base, her technical shape and her intent going into contact.
Josh picked up that the hockey player bent both of her legs to get closer to the ball (which is on the floor) and is preparing to hit the ball really hard.
Josh was keen to have a go so I asked him to hit some stationary balls off of the floor.
We checked Josh’s alignment. Josh was blocking himself off and having to swing over his front leg which restricted his access to the ball. Josh then aligned the ball with his back thigh instead of the front foot. He found that he could access the ball easier.
Josh tried a reverse sweep from his normal stance position and then also turned (as you can do with a reverse sticks shot) in a switch hit fashion. The latter technique bought him better results and improved contacts. So he stuck with that approach.
Hitting stationary balls from the ground with the hockey stick.
Hitting stationary balls from a tee. Alternating between normal and reverse sweeps, alternating between hockey stick and cricket bat.
Hitting double bounce balls underarm by the coach.
Then (because of time) I asked Josh to create a final drill to finish the session. He lined up six batting tees and hit three sweeps with the hockey stick and then three with his cricket bat.
Here is a video of Josh’s work in the session:
The plan for the next few sessions is to start with the tee drills, then face some bobble feed balls before having some overarm throw downs using the cricket bat and then ultimately to face bowlers.
We will only step up to the final two progressions once Josh is happy that he is able to make consistently good decisions and good technical execution of both the sweep and the reverse sweep in the earlier drills.
The key is not having an exhaustive list of drill progressions, but to recognise the appropriate time to up the challenge and move to the next progression. Equally, it is not a bad thing to go back to the previous drill is your technique and outcome falls down under pressure.
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