A busy winter in the Kent Cricket Academy

Monday 6th February 2012

I have been involved in a wide range of areas over the winter period and I want to begin this piece by taking this opportunity to promote one of those to you. We have run a number of successful coaching courses for young players in school holidays and we are planning another one during the February half term. On Thursday 17th February, we have a course for 6 to 9 year olds running from 10 am to 2 pm. The course will cover lots of different cricket skills and we will set up plenty of small sided competitive games for the children to develop their skills in. if you are interested in reserving a place on the course please get in touch with Roz Franklin on 01227 473605 or by e mailing her on ross.franklin.kent@ecb.co.uk.

The public coaching courses that we run on Wednesday and Friday nights have been very popular and we have combined traditional net based coaching with work in small groups on key skills. For instance, last week the Friday session consisted of four separate work areas where we concentrated on playing the pull shot, swing bowling, basic throwing and key wicket keeping basics. The following week the players were put back into their nets and had a chance to practice their skills. We are beginning to build up a really experienced and qualified team of coaches and if you want to take advantage of these sessions, please get in touch with us as we have places available on the group courses and for specialist 1 to 1 coaching. Our Wednesday night programmes are designed for 6 to 9 year olds and I have been doing some work with Christ Church University about how cricket is introduced and developed to this age group. We have been looking into how to use games to develop player’s understanding rather than focusing upon technique too much. It builds on a lot of existing research in coaching and teaching about how children learn and I have been very impressed by the input from the University and look forward to developing this in the next month.

Another part of my role has been to work on the Academy programme. I have been assisting our High performance Director, Simon Willis on group sessions as well as doing some 1 to 1 work with several of the players. Part of this role involves running the Apprenticeship scheme that the ECB offer for 16 year old county Academy players. The scheme has been running for several years and has been updated this winter. We currently have two of our players involved in the scheme which gives them an opportunity to gain an additional qualification with us and the programme itself encourages them to spend time planning and reflecting upon their cricket and how they balance their commitments. The Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) is a government funded programme that is successfully run by a number of major sports and it is something that we are keen on developing for our Academy players.

Alongside working with the Academy players, I have been fully involved in the start of the KCB county performance squad programme which began in late January. It has been great working with some very experienced and knowledgeable coaches who have a real passion for developing our younger players. The 2 hour evening sessions are always very intense and high standards are expected from all of the players in terms of commitment and what they do away from these sessions regarding preparation. There is a fresh look about each squad after a thorough assessment system was followed prior to Christmas. As a result, there are several new faces in each squad which is really encouraging as it makes sure no player can afford to ease back in terms of performance.

Part of my summer commitment involves running the performance analysis for the first team. We film every home game and support software allows us to take specific details for every ball bowled including where each ball pitches and the type of shot that the batter plays. The analysis is very useful if used in the correct way and it is really important that players remember to look at examples where they have been playing well instead of just focusing upon mistakes they may have made. From my first years’ experience, the players are all very different in how they use the footage and it can be potentially damaging if they over analyse technique all the time but this is something that the support staff and senior players have to be very mindful of. The challenge for me this winter has been getting used to new software as the ECB have decided to use a different supplier. I had just about got to grips with the old version despite some teething problems which always seemed to cause amusement to fellow staff. Not being particularly IT literate this is going to be another step into the dark but to be fair to the ECB, their support has been very good and I have some time to prepare for the first home game which is only 10 weeks away as I write this.

Obviously a major part of the job is working with our professional squad on their preparation for the summer. The players have gone through a far more intense programme this winter which has involved regular and challenging strength and conditioning sessions that have been integrated with the technical and tactical work that each player needs. The off season period for professional players has changed dramatically over the last few years and the programme that our players follow is pretty much what every other county would have been doing this winter. Obviously, players that are overseas will be involved in matches and outdoor practice and we are looking forward to all of them returning in good form and physical shape as our preparation steps up a notch in the next few weeks.

Finally, this represents a great opportunity for me to welcome our new Head Coach, Jimmy Adams, to the set up. There really is a real sense of anticipation about his arrival and potential impact on this place and from sources that I hold in high regard; I have heard nothing but positive comments about him. I am really looking forward to working with him and wish him the best of luck.