This article is part 3 of the “How to use fitness training to make better young cricketers” series. Click here to go to part 1.Click here to go to part 2.
It’s a physiological fact that the ages of 9-12 are crucial because it’s the time where motor skills are developing the fastest.
Get these 3 years right (9-12 for boys, 8-11 for girls) and you will be giving your players a huge advantage: better coordinated, faster, injury-resistant and ready to move on to more advanced skills easily.
So how does this translate to the training you do with the under-11 squad?
Learning to train
The focus during this time is developing the basic movement skills learned by the under 9’s into formal techniques.
This fact is why people refer to the stage as “learning to train”.
In the ideal world, at least according to Vern Gambetta (who knows a thing or two about it) players would:
- Have cricket based training 3 times a week
- Play other sports 3 times a week
- Train more than you play (training should take up 60-70% of time in cricket)
- The training will now take up more time focusing on cricket specific skills. The techniques of batting, bowling and fielding will be learned most quickly during this time.
This is probably unrealistic for most, but you can still work with what you have, even if it’s just an hour a week.
Use the warm up
As you will be focusing more on cricket skills during your sessions, the best time to look at fitness is during the warm up.
In the warm up you can be less cricket-specific so can look to do drills that improve the different areas of fitness:
- Mobility: Start each session with a series of drills to improve the dynamic mobility of the players. Focus on drills that increase the range of motion at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder.
- Balance: Include in the mobility section drills that involve standing or moving on one leg. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to improve static balance. In cricket balance is dynamic (you have to stay balanced while moving) so start with simple standing drills but progress to drills where balance is needed while the rest of your body is moving. “Jump and stick” drills work well.
- Speed: Introduce speed and agility technique drills into the mobility warm up. For a full range of these see SAQ Cricket. You can also finish each warm up with a “tennis ball race”. Pair up players, one dropping a tennis ball from shoulder height, the other sprinting to get to it before the second bounce. 5-6 sprints each is plenty.
- Strength: This age is not the best time to develop strength and power, but it is a good time to teach correct technique. While no one expects you to be a strength coach, you can take time to learn the proper technique in common bodyweight/resistance exercises. The idea is to get them understanding how to do basic movement patterns: the squat (1 and 2 leg), the deadlift, the row, the pull up and the push up as well as core exercises (not the sit up) and stability work. A resistance band is the easiest way for a cricket coach to add resistance. Insist on strict technique and don’t try and exhaust them (this is a warm up).
- Work capacity: for a lot of coaches, this is what ‘fitness’ means; getting a sweat on. Again, this is not the best time for improving endurance (and we don’t want marathon runners anyway). However, making fielding drills longer can get players used to the interval style training they need to do as they get older.
Once you are done with the warm up (and 15-20 minutes should be plenty) you can get on with the cricket practice.
If you are feeling very clever you can even slip in some more work as you go along. For example, getting the batsmen waiting to go in the net to do some mobility drills or strength training.
Of course, all this must stay fun. They are able to tolerate more drills than younger kids but are still easily bored and distracted unless you keep things moving fast.
But if you keep it fast, fun and focused you will start to see incredible results as young player's super-charged learning system kicks in over the 3 years.
Click the links below to see the other parts of this series: