Beyond Drills: What, Why, How and Measurement Questions to Aid Player Development | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Beyond Drills: What, Why, How and Measurement Questions to Aid Player Development

Here at Millfield School, the UK season has drawn to a close. The players have had a few weeks off cricket and are now itching to get back into the cricket bubble and hone their skills for next season.

Over the past week, the coaches at school have been interviewing each player as part of out review and planning process. This guides the players and the coaches (both internally and externally) through a long winter training period.


If you go on the internet and put in "performance programme" into a Google search then lots of pretty pictures with different coloured content will come up. Whilst they look good on paper, that paper simply gathers dust as it is too complicated, too detailed or lacks flexibility.

Simple planning

The Millfield Player Development Programmes that we use, asks the player and coach to identify a specific goal (the what), to explore why that goal is important (the why), to establish an Action Plan showing how this is to be achieved (the how) and asks, "What does success look like?" (the measurement).

We encourage simple language that both player and coach will clearly understand and we list the review date (in this case the 7th December as we break up for a month at the end of that week).

The date of review is essential as it time caps the development phase. This, in turn encourages coach and player to be realistic in the number of coaching points that they list in the plan and also helps them to prioritise their time and resources appropriately.


How or why?

When people write into PitchVision they usually ask us to provide them with new "drills". It has to be remembered that drills form only part of the “How”.

A key question when looking to use any drill should be “Why”.

Why are we using the drill? And then, what are you looking for that drill to develop in the player?

It's a question that is rarely asked. It's easy to become infatuated by a snazzy drill and apply it to all-comers irrespective of their development needs or the demands of the game.


The second element that is rarely defined and hardly ever followed through is the relevance of measurement.

Without measurement, how do we know if the intervention has been effective and yielded an appropriate result?

How do we know when to move onto another goal or aspiration?

Measurements such as pace, length, deviation and line are all available to the privileged pupils at Millfield through the magnificent PitchVision PV/ONE system.

We can also measure success with both areas to bowl and hit, by using synchronised and comparison video footage, by accessing comparable still images such as point of release and also to count the number of balls that we can access when aiming to hit a number of cuts, pulls of drives.

These numbers give us a guide of progress or regression. They don't always have to be totally objective but need to be valid, credible and consistent.

However, in many cases, the best assessment is what it looks like it or feels like, so be mindful of ignoring the these most obvious and historic barometers.

The key thing for me is that we run through a process of:

  1. What
  2. Why
  3. How
  4. What does success looks like?

Any coach or player looking to develop a skill would benefit from following the 4 step process above and by using a template similar to our PDP.

Have a go and see if it works for you!

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Hi Mark. Come across your website from down under and really enjoy the articles and the clear for the game. Clearly you do a lot of work with young cricketers, and I am going to ask about the real young cricketers (9yo now so playing U/10's this season) and your thoughts on coaching them (as I do). Some background: I played to a reasonable standard as a player in my time but only because I was blessed with excellent coaching. Keen to try and pay back to the sport by taking on the kids which includes my own little bloke into U/10's this season. We actually hail from a part of Sydney that over the last decade, has consistently had extremely strong juniors based on the performance of the U/11 - U/16 rep sides in the district. So we play in a very strong competition base with a lot of depth as the kids get older.

The boys in the squad are all pretty sporty, all play rugby in the winter season. When they started last season I didn't expect them to excel at cricket like they did. Most of them simply 'got it'. When we saw this, we started to set them decent hurdles to overcome - none of the boys have ever bowled from anywhere other than the adults popping crease as an example. Essentially we tested some boundaries but did so with trepidation, as you don't want to take the fun out of it and ensure you have the right balance - after all they aren't even 10 yet.

What is the key to coaching talented young cricketers at this formative age? Of course we want to maintain the fun of it all, but half the side have such a thirst and desire for the game, it is hard not to want to keep pushing them. A local tennis coach who played on the WTA tour said to allow the kids to explore their boundaries and do the things they perceive as fun - such as during catching practice, flicking the ball back to the coach out of the back of the hand etc. Cricket loses kids simply because training to get better can be laborious, especially for those not so tuned in.

The final issue - I have been astonished at even this young age how much of a mental game it is for some of the boys. Especially the really talented ones. I have two bowlers who just devastate the poor young kids at the other end when they are on song, but bowl a wide and they really go to pieces. I have to constantly reassure them that Dale Steyn bowls wides, Jimmy A too, so too Mitch Johnson. It is fine to bowl a wide, or two or three! They just feel because the can bowl most balls in the zone when many others in the age group struggle, then one wide and its all over. The mental side of it even with these kids has probably been the biggest surprise I have come across when coaching.

Anyway, any advice / links to specific articles you recommend for getting the best out of the younger juniors, will be much appreciated.