Why do kids play cricket? If you know the answer to that then you know the secret to coaching younger players.
I have been coached by several people over the years. I coached my first team in the summer of 1994. In that time have seen many coaches who could answer that question and had access to the secret.
Yet somehow their coaching does not reflect the answers they give.
This is causing young players to leave the game.
How does this happen? Like everyone else, children will only want to do things they are motivated by. As coaches it is our number 1 priority to meet children's needs so they stay in the game. Doing this will direct the way that you coach.
Fun, fun, fun
An overwhelming amount of research shows that children play sport to have fun. They may also want to make friends, enjoy the challenge or please their parents but if it isn't fun, there is no point.
That's common sense.
Heck, I'm just the same. I'm sure you are too.
To many coaches this is at odds of their own motivations. Here is where things start to fall down. We have all met the coach who is determined to win at all costs and makes sure his star players open the batting, open the bowling and field in the key positions.
The best players get all the game and they win so the coach is happy.
What about the other kids in the team?
How many stick around if all they do is bat at 11 and field fine leg to mid on?
It's the same story with the coach who is focused on technical excellence. We all want kids to have good technique but demonstrations and drills get dull after a while.
It's natural to focus on the nuts and bolts of what to do and forget about how you are delivering that message. If it's not in a fun way we are not doing our jobs as coaches.
Putting fun into cricket
How do we make things fun while also teaching important technical and tactical skills to kids? Here is how I do it:
- Involve as many kids as possible all the time. This is a no brainer. If you are teaching bowling then get them to bowl to each other in pairs. Keep drills short and sharp and make sure no one is standing around waiting for something to do. Unless you are coaching one to one, never give one to one advice and make others wait.
- Do something new every time. Some coaches use the same drills and games every week. While key practices are essential to repeat, children love variety. That means doing something every session that this group has never done before. It also challenges you to come up with things.
- Intervene as little as possible with as few points as possible. Again intervention means inaction and kids hate inaction. If you have to intervene with coaching points keep them short and at most use 2 points. Any more will not go in and will become boring.
- Encourage independent thinking. Rather than telling all the answers all the time, try and draw some ideas from the children. Ask them what they think they should do or if they know what is going right or wrong. It will stop them switching off and keep them involved.
- Always play a game. Games are fun and if they are tied into the skill you have been developing it allows practice in a competitive environment. Just make sure everyone gets a bat!
Is there really anything wrong with enjoyment over winning?
Kids play cricket to have fun first and win second. If you make every moment a pleasure for them then they will keep coming back, keep practising and get so good they will win anyway, right?
Now get out there and have some fun.