Many young players dream of making it as a professional cricketer. How do you give yourself the best chance of making it to the top?
One simple way is to play with the intensity and enthusiasm of a player who is in an Academy.
You see, Academy players know that talent is a flexible thing. You can be born with great natural hand-eye coordination or you can learn how to improve it over time.
Wherever you are on the talent scale, the key is attitude.
Attitude influences ability directly.
The player who works with intensity and enthusiasm will always make better strides forward than the player who wants it all to be handed to them through their natural skills.
At least that's what Gary Palmer, the PitchVision Academy Batting Coach and Director of CCM Academy says. And he should know. Gary was a professional cricketer with Somerset for 10 years before turning to coaching and building up an impressive CV. More importantly he has coached 38 young players into full first class contracts, Academy intakes or age group squads.
How to practice like you are at an Academy
Gary is always looking for talented young cricketers to take into his Academy. Would you be able to keep the intensity up and show you have what it takes?
To help you decide, Gary has agreed to reveal what his Academy sessions are like. If you can keep up with the pace in your own practice you know you are on the right track.
Once you have been selected for the CCM Academy the basic structure is simple: 15 full days of coaching spread throughout the winter, spring and summer followed by a 10 match summer season against first class Academy sides.
The days are very intense. I came along to see the Academy in action recently. Gary and his team of coaches (all former first class or International players) lined up a taxing plan.
All the players start with an hour of fielding drills that covers the range of skills required of a modern professional cricketer: Diving, throwing from your knees, backing up, and hitting the stumps.
This is followed by a batting warm up starting with tennis balls with a bobble feed to get the body moving and groove the muscle memory for key shots. Four bowling machines are then brought out to deliver technical, tactical and mental coaching.
With four or five batters per net, each net sets their machine on a different theme of bowling and through the use of cones placed in specific scoring areas each net tries to achieve a given total. Because this is interesting and competitive the players are lured into batting for long periods of time while remaining focused for every delivery. Each group has half an hour per net meaning the players have two hours of highly intense and focused batting.
As Gary supervised he told me the exercise tests and builds mental strength, and encourages batters to learn to perform a skill well under pressure.
Not bad considering we had not even had lunch yet.
The afternoon saw the group split up. More traditional nets put the specialist bowler's through their paces. Meanwhile a couple of bowling machines had been set up for some one-to-one coaching.
Today, Gary explained, he was teaching the boys how to play different types of spin. One net is for the ball turning away, the other net for the ball turning in. The players couldn't relax as Gary was drilling, coaching and assessing players all the way through.
The day finishes with a tactical game to bring in a more competitive element.
The big picture
It felt to me like a test to the players. They all had the desire to be professional and the CCM Academy was giving them a taste of the experience. However, the problem for most cricket clubs and players is they can't possibly find the time and resources to devote the same attention.
Even if you did have the bowling machine, nets and drills you need, how do you drive yourself on without someone with experience to guide you?
Gary was kind enough to show me his secrets, but to really succeed you actually had to be there.
CCM Academy Intake 2011/12
Gary is starting his selection process for the 2011/12 intake now (starting over Christmas 2011). So now you can be part of the Academy. Players have travelled from all over the UK to attend the Academy held in Hampshire.
If you are interested in finding out how you can trial for CCM Academy in 2011/12 then click here.