Pitchvision Academy


We put the spotlight on your brain in this newsletter.

From having nets, through to coaching a team and building a better culture, it's all about headwork.

Sam Lavery talks about the language of coaching. Mark Garaway covers the "7C's" of mental strength. There are guides to improving your team without treading on people's priorities and we learn the importance of accountable nets.

Have a great weekend.

David Hinchliffe

If You Must Have A Net, Make It Accountable

Nets. Cuh.

It's a brilliant idea to practice in a net, but it's poorly done 66% of the time. If you are not getting better, what's the point of dragging your carcass to practice in the first place?

The problem is that when you are practising in a standard net there is nothing on the outcome. If you get out as a batsman you can just have another go. Where is the incentive to improve? It's the same for bowlers who get a shoeing from some hacker who wouldn't last 5 minutes in a match.

Yet, how many times have you gone to nets, had your bowl, had your few minutes in the net and finished with "12 needed off the last 6"?

You see, the difference between "having a hit" and working under pressure to improve your game is the difference between avoiding getting worse and improving.

It's really that dramatic to your game.

So, let's sort it out with one simple word.


The place of nets

Even in these modern days of small sided games, middle practice, technical drills and so on, there is still a place for the humble net.

You just need to keep it there with the leash of accountability.

There are three basic reasons to have a traditional bowler vs. batter net:

  1. Improving shot selection (or, picking line and length)
  2. Cricket specific fitness
  3. Dealing with pressure

Your first job is to pick which horse to ride.

Simply by agreeing the reason for a net you will be ahead of 70% of your peers (at least). You just made your nets accountable.

Want to take it up another notch and hit the top 1% instead?

Tweak the sessions to match the goal.

Review, review, review

The underlying principle is to keep practice deliberate; in other words, to create a loop of practice, review, adapt, practice. This is proven to be the fastest way to learn new skills.

The big change from traditional netting is the need to review.

The good news is that you need to do very little to analyse your practice in nets. It simply takes a few minutes after each session to think about things.

For example, if you are using nets improve your shot selection, you can take a few moments when you get home that evening to journal how you did. Did watching the ball closely work better for you, or do you prefer to take in the whole picture?

Overtime you spot trends of what is working, and what you can discard. You have created your loop.

To go up another step, use PV/VIDEO to see how many balls you played correctly, and how many you misjudged. A coach is useful here, but you can easily do it yourself. Track this over time to watch your percentage shoot up.

Again, simple review is enough to make a difference to your game by transforming nets, but you can get even better by making the feedback even more instant and the practice even more accountable.

Nets for shot selection

We know from research into elite batsmen that facing bowlers improves your ability to quickly pick up line and length. So, nets are ideal.

As we already discussed, using video will allow you to set a benchmark. If you chose the right shot 22% the first net, aim to increase that number by the end of your 5th, 10th and so on.

Sometimes you will go backwards, but as long as the overall trend is up, you know you are on the right track.

There is little you need to change in the session, but things that will help are:

  • Review your stance technique regularly to make sure you are still, balanced and with your eyes level.
  • Ask bowlers to bowl in overs, to give your more time to pick up clues from the action without worrying about big variations in the ball (like a spinner and a fast bowler).
  • Use match scenarios in your mind as this will influence the shot you play. At the death you might hit a length ball, in a long game you might defend. Stick to this for the whole session.
  • Select shots based on your strengths. Save experimentation for throw downs or bowling machines and bring new methods to nets when you are confident.
  • Experiment with where you look and what works for you.

After the session, review. I can't stress that enough!

Nets for fitness

You can use nets to improve your capacity to work and stay focused for longer periods, like you would in a match. This is difficult in the normal net situation as it is very different from game bowling or batting.

Once fitness is the goal you can make several changes to the structure of nets:

  • Bowler's bowl in pairs in overs. Rotate out of the net and do some fielding drills between overs. Bowl for a little more than your usual spell then call it a day.
  • Batsmen bat with running for longer periods than the usual 10 minutes. Aim to get at least half an hour (if not more) if you can. Then use running games, and BATEX to better simulate match specific running.
  • Batsmen can also rotate in an out of the "fitness" nets in pairs, building in a consequence for losing a wicket. The waiting batsmen can do fitness drills in pads or technical drills.
  • Try this setup.

Fitness requires less review time, but don't rely on magic happening by itself. Track your fitness with testing. This may be as simple as noticing you have more gas in the tank when playing games, or as complex as proper test protocols.

Nets for dealing with pressure

This is the biggie, because nets are so often a matter of going through the motions.

Pressure change all that.

It's best for batsmen who want to get work in while also understanding the pressure of losing your wicket. However, bowlers can equally benefit from understanding how to deal with a big hitting batsman or bowling the last over of the game with 5 needed to win.

You can add pressure in a number of ways:

  • When you are out you are out. Or, use a points system to be a bit less severe.
  • Put a wicketkeeper and perhaps a close fielder in the net (if there is room).
  • Set match situations for the bowler and the batsmen. Use PitchVision to track results. To build up the pressure, only give a few seconds to think abut the scenario before the next ball is bowled.
  • Keep league tables of net performances to grow competition between bowlers and batsmen.
  • Change "last 6" to "intention 12"

Yet again, all this is for very little unless you review after the session.

How did you respond? How can you better learn to clear the mental noise? How do you get back to "ready" quickly?

Like picking pine and length, and fitness, mental toughness can be improved with the right focus in nets and with the right post training review.

Imagine finally making them useful and not hoping a quick net will do voodoo magic on your game.

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Coach Mental Toughness with the 7C Approach

The most mentally tough athletes posses the "the 7 C's".

One of the regular questions that we get on the PitchVision Cricket Show concerns the development of mental skills: batting under pressure, dealing with failure and much more.

It's my belief that before you look to develop an attribute, then its crucial to understand what it is your trying to develop. So I turn to an expert. Gary Mack is a fantastic Sports Psychologist from the USA and writes brilliantly and simply.

It's Gary that talks with passion about the 7 C's. And I want to explain how they can help the young players that you coach improve their game.

1. Competitive

Mentally tough cricketers will find a way to win in most situations: They use bad breaks or bad luck as a driving force for harder work, increased determination or heightened focus.

Normal people use a bad break as a reason to give up.

Paul Collingwood is a great example of someone's competitive drive bringing the best performances out of him when under the biggest pressure.

Challenge our players about this by asking "What do you do when something goes wrong in your cricket?" Help them learn which choice to make that works for them.

2. Confident

"Every time I see myself stepping out on the golf course, I see myself as favourite". Tiger Woods

Does this translate into how your players feel at the end of your mark or walking out to bat?

If not, then using visualisation to create images in your mind of your successful performances, with the colours and sounds turned up will help to build your confidence ahead of performance.

Pelé - one of the greatest footballers of all time - used to lie on the floor in the changing room before every game. He would close his eyes picturing his finest moments making them as real and bright as possible. The only difference game on game was that he would scrub the opponents from those historical games out of the picture and substitute that days opponents into the mental DVD in his head.

Pelé would see his best performance destroying the upcoming opposition.

Now, that's great confidence prep!

How can we learn from Pelés' example?

3. Control

Ultimately, the biggest battle is not against the ball, nor our opponent. It is against ourselves. Those who manage themselves better often achieve more.

Nick Compton (Somerset and England batter) is a big advocate of being in charge of his emotions ahead of every innings and every ball that he faces. He has developed calming techniques that he uses ahead of batting and whilst in the middle.

His question to young players is

"are you (emotionally) ready to bat?"

I taught Graeme Smith very little in his time at Somerset, he taught me far more! Yet one of the things that his Somerset team worked on ahead of their T20 Cup winning year in 2005 was "belly breathing".

We focused on using this breathing technique to calm ourselves after a hard run 2 or 3 so that we could control the body and mind ahead of the next crucial delivery.

It worked a treat.

Teach your players to breathe into their stomach rather than chest cavity. Place your hand on your tummy so you can see it rise and fall. Notice what sensations you have running through your body, calmness and control are restored.

Belly breathing is a skill; the more you practice the better you will get at it and the quicker the effect in the middle when emotional and physical control is required.

Click here for part 2.

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Cricket Show S5 Episode 27: Our Man in Sardinia

Even the most passionate cricketer has moments where the season drifts and focus is lost. This happens most of all just after the halfway mark before the final push for the line begins. The team of Mark Garaway (calling in from Sardinia), Sam Lavery and David Hinchliffe discuss ways to keep your focus.

Plus your mailbag questions are answered. This week the audio roundtable is about pace against spin for a leg spinner, and what to do if you keep missing straight ones.

Download the show, listen in and get better at cricket.


How to Send in Your Questions

If you want to win a cricket coaching prize, you need to send in your burning questions to the show. If your question is the best one we give you a free online cricket coaching course!

Send in your questions via:

Or you can call and leave your question on the Academy voice mail:

+44 (0)203 239 7543
+61 (02) 8005 7925

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This is show number 270.

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Change Your Cricket Team for the Better Without Trying too Hard

Winning is important for every team. It's also not the only thing, and that's a problem.

For sides who fall somewhere below the professional level, other factors can easily take over and define you far more than the quest for victory: Jobs, family, escapism from the daily grind and so on.

These factors are real and unavoidable, but they don't have to command the side. With some simple, almost zen-like, changes to your approach, you can account for everything and still become a more professional-acting club team.

Here are some practical tip for calmly becoming more focused on winning without being ridiculed for "taking it too seriously".

Here's the Most Powerful Tool in Your Coaching Toolbox

Coach and PitchVision Academy Columnist Sam Lavery looks at the power of words to help cricketers grow.

Can the way you speak turn players into positive "doers"?

Attention to detail in the language we use as coaches is important as we strive for perfection. Not only is what we deliver vital, but also, how we choose to deliver it.

Simply, language will help cricketers achieve what you - and they - would like.

Here's a simple example.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 316
Date: 2014-07-18