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Are you just a coach or are you actually coaching?

Updated: May 1

As coaches, it is essential to differentiate between simply holding the title of a coach and actually being able to coach players. We must ask ourselves whether the players we coach can comprehend and retain what we teach them during our sessions. Our primary objective as coaches is to positively impact players, help them realise their full potential, and guide them towards improvement.

cricket coach

Being recognised as a Coach and coaching are two entirely different things. Sometimes, as coaches, we need to remember our purpose. This is similar to the nature of some spin bowlers I have met during my playing and coaching career. Some spinners must remember that their job is to try and spin/ turn the ball! Do not just go through the motions; letting the pitch and wind do the work for you.

I have witnessed some members of various clubs who proclaim themselves as coaches. However, do they truly understand what being a cricket coach means? Even if they have credible coaching qualifications, their approach is more towards team management. Most coaches need to question themselves if they have a coach's title just for the sake of it. Or can they offer any coaching? As players will often think to themselves, "What has this person ever coached me?", "What have I ever learnt from them?". Do you fully understand what it means to be a coach? If players need to question your approach, have they learnt anything? Have you truly embraced your role as a cricket coach?

I have witnessed specific coaches during junior training sessions at various clubs. They stand at the back of a net, instructing who bowls and bats where and when. Occasionally, they shout, "Great shot, well done!", "Well bowled!" or even, "Aagh, that's out! The shots straight to cover!" What do these praises and comments translate to as a batter or bowler? Do they understand why they have done something wrong or right? Do we understand our duty as coaches? How can we be great mentors who positively impact their careers? Or are we just helping players go through the motions, hoping they figure it out themselves?

A junior cricketer, like most times, I went out of my way to coach. He was on the verge of quitting the game permanently due to a few poor performances in his transition to adult cricket. It was a shame to learn that no one had even spent time with him or bothered to show interest. Especially when the club have so many experienced and qualified coaches. As an U16's player, he had good pace, seam and swing movement. However, he needed more consistency with his bowling due to a few problems with his action. I asked him many questions to see if he knew why certain things were happening in his bowling. This gave me clarity on his knowledge and understanding. I gave him a few ideas about his action and release mechanism. His line and length changed quickly. It only took 2-3 minutes for the changes to show, even adding a few revs to his overall speed. You could see his joy and excitement, full of confidence and positivity. He found that enjoyment and love for bowling again. He was once a player struggling to break into the 4th team and, one season later, is now the regular opening bowler in the 2nd XI.

This young man also taught me something that day by saying, "Thank you for taking the time out to work with me! All coaches here have just told me I need to work on my bowling, but no one has shown me the issues or explained what I am doing wrong. No one has coached me like you have!". Being someone's coach is not the same thing as having coached someone. The outcome and progression of a player's development depend on understanding what it means to be a coach.

So here are a few tips to make sure you are coaching as a coach;

Tip #1 - Understand your role as a coach

A good coach understands that their role is to help players unlock their potential to maximise their performance. It's assisting cricketers in learning what their talents and skills are rather than teaching them something about cricket. Players are more motivated when you work on their issues rather than telling them what to do. Coaching is all about nurturing the talent and mentoring them through their weaknesses and strengths. Making sure their passion and love for the game continues throughout their cricketing career.

"I was playing cricket first and my cricket coach was the one that introduced me to track and field" - Usain Bolt

Tip #2 - Be proactive and take an interest

It's good to observe standing at the back of a cricket net. However, by shouting a few words of praise are we helping the player who wants to be coached? We must be more proactive as we know some players must be shown visually what they are doing right or wrong. Be more proactive after a few balls run down to them in the nets and show them why it was a good shot and what made it great. Question their knowledge and understanding: do they know how to play the same shot again?

"Behind every fearless player is a fearless COACH who refused to let them be anything but the BEST they can be."

Tip #3 - Remember everyone is coachable including the coach!

The harsh reality is that some coaches will refrain from taking any interest in a player. If they don't show even the slightest glimmer of hope that they have some talent or cricketing ability. Other players constantly bowl out the child, and the coach is just watching without providing any feedback or coming down to encourage and instruct the batter on how to play. This differs from coaching, where you stand there as a manager rather than a coach. Your job is to bring the best out of them regardless of their ability or level.

Our job as a coach is to find their potential by providing knowledge and understanding to the players visually and through verbal instructions. Also, I pay attention to their equipment; more often than not, I find cricketers with the wrong bat weight that's causing them to play shots late or early. Helmets that are too big or small cause problems with their visibility to see and judge the ball. We are responsible for ensuring the space and equipment are appropriate and safe for the age groups we are coaching.

No coach can be successful if they have an ego! To coach others, we must be coachable ourselves. There is always someone more qualified and experienced than us to learn from. Who can provide knowledge on the fundamentals of coaching and developing players correctly.

"No matter how much cricket you have played you are always learning" - Sir Alastair Cook

Final thoughts

In order to coach, we need to be coachable ourselves. Show interest and understand your role as a coach. Only then will players benefit from your style of coaching.

Good luck and happy cricketing from Ali Choudhry Cricket Coaching.



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