One of the world's most brilliant coaches said to me the other day that "Great players listen to their body, not everybody" and the quote got me thinking through my career to date as both a player and a coach.
As a player I listened to everyone, trusted every opinion and recall the day that I scored my first 2nd XI hundred only to return to the dressing room to be told that I wouldn't score a run in 1st Class Cricket as my trigger movement was a forward one.
I spent the next 5 years moving back and across only to find myself out of balance at ball release.
In truth, it was only when I moved into coaching that I realised that my batting stance was better when it was more upright, narrow and my trigger was to move forward ahead of ball release. I could still pull, cut and evade the fastest of short balls yet able to score off the front foot too from this natural stance and movement pattern prior to release.
This was my natural preference: the way my body was designed to move. The experience proved to me how much I had listened to well meaning advice rather from others rather than listening to my own body throughout my career.
Then as a young coach, I often found myself offering advice based on my own experiences rather than listening to players talking about their own processes when they play their 'A' game.
Why would my physical experiences have a positive impact upon the players I coached?
Well the truth is that they would not necessarily, yet that didn't stop me from thinking that they would at the time!
It was only when I started to work with really great players such as Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Smith that I started to understand that the best way to coach was to listen to the players talking about what they hear, see and feel when playing at their best.
With KP in particular, we talked a lot about his set up and stance. At times, we would try out things such as standing tall, using his height in his stance and yet the thing that he kept coming back to "his crouched stance" and "his controlled backswing".
These were the two things that felt most natural for him and were always apparent when he felt at his most balanced and powerful.
I have had my fair share of coaching success in the past yet it's only now that I am really beginning to understand the value of applying movement patterns in cricket which are akin with the way that individuals move naturally.
Here are some examples of Technical "MUST/ALWAYS" that surely can't apply to everyone:
- The head must lead the movement when front foot driving
- To trigger against pace you must move back and across
- If you are going to trigger you must get it in early
- Wide bases are always more stable than shorter ones
- If you hit the ball in front of your eyes then you must be out of control
- You must play straight batted shots with a high top front elbow
- Leg spinners must have a long delivery stride and off spinners always have shorter ones
- You must watch the ball as hard as you can when facing a bowler
- 1st slip always watches the bat and 2nd slip must watch the ball
Ask a few of your players whether they agree or disagree with these statements through their own physical experience.
I bet you find that some agree and others don't and therein lies the message.
As coaches, we must challenge conventional thinking rather than blindly accept it.
Can we assess a players natural preference for movement and apply that preference within a cricketing context?
What do you think?