Who here has the ambition to become a successful professional cricketer?
Every year at Millfield I ask each of our A Team squads this same question. In each team, I see a minimum of eight to 10 hands shoot up in the air.
I will then inform the players that they are in the right place. Millfield School has historically the most successful transition stats for assisting young, talented youngsters to get into the professional game within the UK independent school sector.
Then the bombshell.
Millfield - on average - helps develop 1.3 professional cricketers per year group. Only one out of every three of those players who earn an initial contract is still earning a living from the game after five years.
This is the brutal reality.
It's highly competitive to get into professional cricket. It's even tougher to try and stay there for any length of time.
Coaching and individual work
Some say you’re only as good as your coaching or as good as your programme. This is complete and utter rubbish.
The main differential between those that don't succeed and those that do is the work the individual do themselves. This is true even as good as our program is at Millfield, as good as the coaches are, as good as the facilities are and as good as the fixture list is.
It comes down to the desire of the individual to do the unseen work which makes the real difference.
To rely solely on the programme and the coaches to get athletes to reach their ultimate goal is complete folly. It takes much more than that. Track the development of every world-class player in the history of the game and you will note how important self-reliance practice has been in their development. Here are a few legendary examples:
- Don Bradman: with his golf ball, stump and variety of rebounding surfaces around his backyard. Different types of rebounds developed his infamous catching and batting skills.
- Glenn McGrath: with his self-made PitchVision system against a water butt on a farm in Narromine, New South Wales.
- Brian Lara: batting against small marbles to sharpen his hand/eye coordination at such a young age.
- The Waugh twins: batting and bowling against each other in their backyard. Creating games, challenges and competition between their family members.
- Colin Bland: throwing tennis balls up against the wall, receiving the rebound as if he is fielding at cover point and throwing towards a set of stumps chalked up against the wall.
- Ian Healy: using a wall and a golf ball to underpin his development as a world-class wicket keeper.
So, my challenge to all the coaches and players this week is to look at the different facets of the game and establish some takeaway self-reliant drills and games. Maybe you can enhance or adjust some of the ideas above. Or ask the players to come up with their own adaptations.
Your players can then work in-between their programmed sessions that you brilliant coaches put together on a weekly basis. These take-away self-reliant drills will enable the player to come back with a better chance of reaching their goals, however lofty they may be.