Back when I was doing my ECB coaching award we were practicing leg spin under the watchful eye of our coach tutors. I'll be the first to admit I make no claims as a bowler, let a lone leg spin. Suffice to say, I was pretty poor, even with a tennis ball in a sports hall.
The tutor spotted my efforts in the group and wandered over. "You are planting your front leg too far across David," he said. "Try landing your front foot more towards the off side."
The difference was clear and immediate. I was spinning the ball more with greater accuracy. From that one comment I understood the feel of bowling leg spin for the first time in my life.
That's how important a good coach is to your game. I was lucky in that the coach tutors are guys who have been in the coaching business for years.
How do you find one who can work the same magic on you?
With any coach the first thing to check is his coaching qualifications. Nowadays there is no excuse not to have the officially recognised coaching award for the country you are in. Here in the UK the ECB provide a Level 2 award which is the minimum you should look for. The Level 1 is a coaching assistant and is an important position for clubs with groups to coach it does not give a grounding for coaches wanting to work with senior players or with juniors in a one-to-one environment. If you want that, go for level 2 or higher.
The qualifications alone are no sign of a good coach though. The ECB award ensures the coach meets the minimum requirements. You want somebody a little better than the minimum and that's where experience comes in.
There are 2 forms of experience. Having one does not mean you have the other.
- Playing. A talented player will have played a lot of cricket and may well have gone through similar issues that you are experiencing. However, it's one thing to know what you are doing but quite another to be able to get that across to someone else. Good players are not always good coaches. Never accept playing experience as a way of judging a coach alone.
- Coaching. An experienced coach will almost certainly have helped someone with the same issues as you. They will also have the skills to communicate how you can work through the issue. This is different from just having experienced it and in many ways more valuable.
Ideally you want a coach who has done both: Played at your level to understand and coached others to transfer that understanding to you. If you have to choose I would go for the more experienced coach, even if he/she has not played at your level.
Every coach is slightly different and some will suit you better than others. Find out what a coaches philosophy is. You can ask them directly and you can poll other people who have been coached by them. Philosophy points include:
- What the coaches motivations are (performance, participation, etc.)
- How the coach rates certain factors in cricket (fitness, athlete welfare, fun, winning, etc)
- How well the coach knows their own strengths and weaknesses
- What style of coaching is used
The last one is a big one. A coach who is always tweaking your technique may suit you but it will drive most people mad. You might like to have a laugh more or get down to business more. If you are working in a team, how does he or she keep respect and control?
There are many more factors too. It's common sense really. A coaches philosophy will give you an insight into how you will work together.
Qualifications, experience and philosophy are the most important things you can find out about your coach. Even if you have little choice and the coach you get is the one who turns up to coach you, it's important to know these things.
If you do you will have a better insight into what the coach wants and be able to get more from your time together.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008