Pitchvision Academy


Congratulations to the latest coach of the month: Vic Williams. Read about his journey below.

Plus there is content on reviews, playing straight and Pakistan's victory in the Champions Trophy.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

Vic Williams: Coach of the Month

After decades in the game, coach Vic Williams has been recognised by the Coach of the Year panel. He is the latest coach of the month.

The panel are constantly hunting for coaches who are doing great work under the radar. Vic is exactly that type of coach. Well-known in the Queensland, Australia coaching setup for his skills, he is not a household name around the world. Yet he has been tireless in his efforts.

Vic has been coaching since the 1990’s when he gravitated to helping younger players in his team before coaches were commonplace. It was in 2001, when he became a development officer in Queensland where his work started in earnest.

Vic quickly established himself as a coach who got the best from the players in his charge. Through the years he has been involved at every level: Queensland youth teams (Under 15’s and Under 19’s), regional academies, Queensland Fire, Queensland Bulls and Brisbane Heat.

His three decade passion for coaching is most strong in fast bowling, where he has a fantastic reputation for developing young bowlers and getting the most out of first-class quicks. Players from every level are using his skills as a consultant through his coaching company, Vic Williams Cricket Coaching.

Vic’s philosophy is based around a modern player-centered style. Unlike many “old-school” coaches, Vic has developed his style over the years based on what works. He talks about getting buy-in from players, providing a vision and helping them work the answers out themselves. This approach highlights his curious mind, always engaged with the problem-solving of cricket.

There is a consultancy approach to Vic’s coaching. He told PitchVision that trying to tell players what to do is difficult because the shutters come down. With so much information easily available these days, many cricketers are hamstrung by “knowing it all” and not being open to fresh ideas. One of the coaches greatest skills, according to Vic, is to prevent and lower those barriers to help players push themselves forwards.

That said, Vic was also clear on his thoughts on fast bowling,

“At the end of the day, bowling is as it always has been: Run in, get everything moving towards the target and get it through!”

He has embraced technology like video analysis to assist him with this process. The rules of nature may not have changes, but showing a player a replay makes it much easier for them to understand what they need to do.

Vic also talked to PitchVision about flexibility in technique. Over the years he has seen that cricketers aged 14-19 are in the best position to establish a bowling action that works for them. At this stage you can use your skill as a coach to identify what works for a player and what can be changed to improve pace and accuracy.

Players like Geoff Thompson and Lasith Malinga had unique “slingy” actions that worked for them, but don’t work for the “average bloke”. A good coach, Vic told PitchVision, is able to hone a unique talent - never coaching robots - while also getting the basics nailed down.

It’s these insights, alongside his decades of unrecognised hard work, that makes Vic Williams the panel’s choice for Coach of the Month.

Click here to find out more about Vic Williams Cricket Coaching.

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Use the Nobel Exercise to Improve Cricket Reviews

It’s report writing time of year, before the pupils at Millfield School depart for cricket fields all over the country for nine weeks of runs, wickets, catches and stumpings.

Whilst the report writing process can be a little laborious at times, we have decided to use it as a self-awareness builder for the cricketing pupils.

Inspired by Alfred Nobel, we have asked each of the players to write their own report and then to compare it to the report that is written by their coach.

Back in 1888 Alfred’s brother Ludvig died and a French newspaper mistakenly published Alfred’s obituary. It condemned Alfred for his invention of dynamite the obituary went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

Nobel was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. Because of this “awakening” Nobel rewrote his will and testament which established five Nobel Prizes after his death in 1895. The most well-known being the Nobel Peace Prize.

We gave each player an hour to come up with his or her own report for the year. 1050 Characters which could include statistics, observations, references to performance and recognition of attitude and commitment in their writing and assign an effort score from one (good) to five (terrible!).

Here is one of the examples of the players work:

Effort: 1

Max has begun to take wickets and is able to bowl long spells this year. His action, when correct is encouraging but at the moment the consistency of repeating his ideal action is letting him down.

He is beginning to achieve some great things. He has earned his debut in the Meyers XI in the National T20 and hopes to play some more games in the near future. He is also making his way into the ECB South West side. Although he still believes that his greatest achievement of the summer so far is winning house cricket for the Great house.

His batting has also progressed and he been able to bat at a higher scoring rate for longer periods of time. He is most comfortable against the spinners, but needs to work on his shot selection outside off stump.

In fielding he can be one of the best in the side however needs to remain calm and remember to take one thing at a time when looking to get a run out or taking simple catches. He makes too many basic errors. He has captained the side well and sets decent fields most of the time, but really needs to win the toss more often.

My report:

Effort: 1

Max has moved on well as an all round cricketer.

He is becoming more and more consistent as a bowler and as a result is able to build pressure on good batters over longer periods of time. There is still some work to do to fully embed his front arm and upright posture at point of release.

As a batter, Max has moved on hugely. In 2016, Max was a developing batter who underachieved (averaging 9.46) whereas his 2017 season has included unbeaten 50’s and an average of 43.75. The significant upturn is purely down to an insatiable work ethic and clarity about areas of his game that need development.

Max makes too many mistakes in the field. He rushes his thinking and then his body movements when receiving an incoming catch and when picking the ball up for a potential run out. Fast feet creates time when it comes to presenting our hands to the ball. Baseball fielders seem to take an eternity to pick the ball up but rarely make errors in their execution of their skills. Max needs to slow down his thinking when fielding to enhance his chance completion stats.

A top year from Max.

We seem to be on the same page. Max is very aware of his personal strengths and weaknesses and this is seen in the transformation of his batting fortunes from 2016 to 2017.

What we also see is a lad who has a quirky sense of humour. That humour has been crucial during Max’s tenure as captain. He is a fantastic leader who has turned his team from an OK side into one that plays some incredibly exciting cricket.

Have a go at the “Nobel exercise” if you are a player and then ask your coach to do the same. Compare and contrast your views. It will open up some incredible conversations and may lead you towards attacking a development area that would not have been identified in a normal assessment or planning process.

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How to Teach Beginner Cricketers to Play Straight

Picture the scene, you are coaching a group of keen 9-11 year old players.

You tell a 10 year old to drive, and you ask him to demonstrate the shot. He shadows it perfectly. Excellent.

You do some drills with a tennis ball and, with a little effort, he hits it back straight. Now we are talking!

You finish the session with a soft ball game: He swipes at the first half volley and tries to put it over square leg.



Back to the drawing board: If only they listened! If only you had more time! If only there more more coaches for one to one attention!

It's frustrating but you are not alone. It happens to every coach. It's your job to use your skills teach him or her to translate the shadow to the drill and finally to the open game situation. Remember; that's not easy and it's a test to your skill as a coach as well as the cricketer's ability to learn.

What's rewarding is when a kids does get it right. That makes all the pain worthwhile.

You are watching the match, your girl is batting and gets a half volley. Instead of hacking at it and getting out she executes a checked drive between the bowler and mid on. You smile to yourself and clap in satisfaction. It feels better than if you had hit that ball yourself.

Here is how you can get much more of that warm feeling and much less of that frustrated one.

Groove drives in the warm up

Grooving is boring to kids because there is no competition. Yet it's also a very fast way to build up muscle memory.

So, find a balance and count grooving as part of the warm up.

Use tennis balls and partners and focus on one or two technical points. Hit a few balls and move on quickly. If you want to do a little more grooving work, you can transition into a challenge such as hitting a target area 10 times in a row.

How long you spend here will depend on the time you have and the tolerance of your beginners. However, 15 minutes for a warm up and grooving in an hour session has worked well for me.

Of course, repetition is good but you also never want to hear those dreaded words "oh, not this one again".

So, there are plenty of batting drills with a technical focus that you can use to prevent boredom: one hand drills, the flamingo drill, quick-fire batting and plenty more. (See Gary Palmer's work for more details of these drills.)

Make feeds realistic

As we know, technical muscle memory is only a third of batting skill. You also need to spot line and length and decide to play the drive. That means you need to help your players develop these elements right from the start as well.

The ideal way of doing this is for a bowler of the same age to deliver drivable balls. Which is impossible.

You can simulate bowling instead:

  • Bowling machine (with shorter legs for younger players)
  • Throwdowns/bowldowns from the coach or other reliable feeder

That way you can more balls in the right place to drive, but also factor in picking line and length. To also add shot selection you can throw in the odd ball that is not there for the drive.

Neither is perfect, but at least it gets the player thinking about the other two thirds of batting.

Focus here less on the process of the shot (high elbow, etc.) and more on the outcome such as where the ball went. It's in this part of the process that you can give players a little more room to work things out rather than copy "perfect" methods that might not work for them.

Reward straight shots in games

In a group setting, it's not easy to do realistic feeds to large numbers of players, so you can integrate the feeds into a small sided game where everyone else fields while waiting for a bat.

Then you can bias the games towards rewarding the drives. Here is an idea from coach Andrew Beaven:

"Play a game where the only scoring strokes allowed are in the V, and the players will start to adapt. Even if the bowling is a little wayward, batters will be encouraged to adjust their position at the crease (side-to-side) if they are to hit wider deliveries straight back past the bowler.

"Then move sway from the negative restriction ('you can only score if you hit straight') to positive reinforcement ('double runs for all straight hits' or 'boundaries only if you hit it past the bowler')."

Of course mistakes will be made, and a good idea is to track players scores over a few sessions to see improvements.

Most of all: Have fun!

This has been a dive into deep waters, but let's not forget beginners are motivated by having fun above all else. So keep it light, short and make sure everyone is moving as much as posisble.

For me a key way to do this is to not make driving a "technique" but an "outcome". In other words, let players see how straight shots work better in the long run, then help them learn when to play them so they can work out the rest themselves. If it's fun, it sticks.

It's a challenge to which most will rise if you have the patience and the fun elements.

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Coaching View: Have Pakistan Proved You Don't Need Structure to Win at Cricket?

Pakistan won the Champions Trophy. They did it, in the words of one supporter, with "no home cricket, no money, no structure. No problem!"

Setting Up Group Practice for Cricket

Sam Lavery talks us through some ways to keep nets running when you have a big group of players to keep busy and develop skills.


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: 468
Date: 2017-06-23