As a player, the period between 10 to 15 years old is a critical time in a young cricketer’s development.

The skills, techniques, beliefs and habits they develop now are the ones they’re going to carry into the rest of their career and life.

Most children dream of playing for their country, unfortunately that realisation won’t come through for most, and parents understand that (that’s not to say they shouldn’t have that as a dream…I’d actually be surprised if most players didn’t).

What every parent I speak to really wants for their child is to give them the best opportunity to reach THEIR ceiling and fulfil their potential, whatever that may be for them, and to contribute at whatever level they're playing at so they enjoy the game they love.

And that’s our job as coaches, to help players reach their ceiling...

...to ensure they’re getting the right coaching and advice, and that they’re in the right environment to maximise their development.

Here are three things that we’ve identified with the way most juniors train, that may be holding your child back from developing and reaching their full potential.

Preface: This might seem like I’m having a go at volunteer coaches, I’m not. I think volunteers are absolute saints and do a great job. Junior cricket would not operate without them. Most are thrown in the deep end because there’s no-one else. The three points I’m going to touch on are just results of circumstance and moulded into the way we traditionally train (even in senior cricket).

 

1. NO PLAN OR PURPOSE TO TRAINING

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

Team rolls up to the nets for 60-90 minutes, each player bats for 10 minutes in the nets (has a slog at the end), 4-5 bowlers per net, team leaves nets once everyone has had a bat (sometimes not even everyone).

There’s no real plan or purpose, no thought about the situation of the game or where the field is and no specific skill development.

If you want to develop specific skills (like playing a cut shot or bowling a bouncer) you have to isolate that skill and do it hundreds of times over and over, not execute it twice a week in your weekly net session.

That’s why dedicating part of your training session to drill work and specific skill development is important and something we do in all our academy programs.

It’s also important to create an environment in the nets that’s as close to a match situation as possible (you’ll obviously never get it the same).

When a player is out there on a Saturday there’s scoreboard pressure and the pressure of having to hit gaps in the field.

The way traditional net sessions are run, creates players that feel great in the nets (when there’s no scoreboard pressure and they can hit the ball anywhere) but can’t transfer that form out into the middle on a Saturday.

That’s why in every net session we run at our academies, coaches give the players scenarios and get the bowling group to set fields.

 

2. ONE DIMENSIONAL IMPROVEMENT

What I mean by one dimensional improvement or training is that most players just focus on their skills and technique.

If your child is playing for fun and isn’t serious about their cricket (which is totally cool by the way), that type of training is completely fine.

But if they’re serious about their cricket and want to go as far as they can, they need to start looking at their development in a holistic way and understand that things like physical preparation, mental skills and tactical awareness are just as important as their skill and technique.

Physical preparation includes things like the way they warm up, the strength and conditioning they do and the things they eat and drink to fuel their body at different stages (mid-week, pre-game, during the game and post-game).

Mental skills are so important in cricket (it’s the main thing holding most players back). Cricket is such a different sport to say - footy, soccer, basketball which are all fast paced and reactive.

In cricket we have a set amount of down time in between balls and a lot of young players use that time negatively. At the ACI, we teach players tools and techniques to use that time in between balls more positively.

Tactics and game awareness is probably the slowest thing to develop because you need to play a lot of cricket to develop that side of your game.

We can fast track it though, by using scenario based net sessions, setting fields and encouraging open conversations with coaches before and after the scenario.

Technical development, physical preparation, mental skills and game awareness are like cogs in a machine. If one stops working so does the machine.

 

3. LACK OF INDIVIDUAL FEEDBACK DUE TO LARGE NUMBERS

This one is purely a result of circumstance.

Like I said earlier, most junior coaches are thrown in the deep end knowing full well they don’t have the coaching/playing experience to provide a high level of individual feedback.

They’re also often given large numbers to deal with, 11-15 players in a squad and one coach to look after them.

The result of that is the coach turns into more of a manager; organising who is batting when and in what net and where each bowler should be.

It’s near impossible to provide quality individual feedback when you’re working with those numbers and have limited facilities available.

That is one thing we’re very conscious of in our academy programs, keeping the groups manageable and having enough coaches to allow players plenty of time on task and individual feedback.

 

HOW CAN WE HELP?

If your child is passionate about cricket, trying to become the best they can, and you feel like any of the above circumstances are holding them back from developing and reaching their ceiling, we’d love to chat to you about how we can help develop their game.

 

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick

Australian Cricket Institute Co-Founder & Coach

Making mistakes and failing at sport, or anything in life for that matter, is not enjoyable. It can cause a lot of negative emotions and reactions, particularly in young athletes.

As you grow older and gain more experience you realise that mistakes and failure are not only ok but they’re critical cogs in the wheel towards developing and improving as a person and athlete.

If we learn from them that is.

As a coach or parent, the best thing you can do after letting the dust settle is to help your child/player learn from their mistakes by asking great questions and getting them to engage in positive conversation.

Here’s 5 questions you can ask your child or a player you coach to help them learn from their mistakes…

1. Was it an Execution Error or a Mental Error?

Helping them to understand whether it was their execution or mindset/decision making that let them down is the first step because then they’ll be clearer on what they need to work on so it doesn’t happen again.

Execution error example: Knicking a half volley trying to play a cover drive to a ball that is not swinging and it was the right time to play that shot.. They have made the right decision but simply made an error in their execution of the shot - meaning they need to get more volume in and practice the shot correctly.

Mental error example: They have tried to play a cover drive to a good length ball swinging away because they had faced a lot of dot balls and the pressure was building - meaning the pressure got to them and they tried to manufacture a shot, they need to work on mental application and the ability to get through spells of good bowling.

 

2. Put Yourself Back in The Situation - What Thoughts Were Going Through Your Mind?

It’s a great practice to do this as soon as they can so that it’s fresh in their mind.

The aim here is to help them gain self awareness about what their self talk is like and understand what’s going through their head when they do well and what’s through their head when they make mistakes - identifying the self talk they need to avoid.

3. Was The (skill error) Something That is Within Your Plans/Strengths?

We’re really big on encouraging players to develop plans around their strengths and stick to their strengths on game day.

Players don’t need to be able to play every shot or bowl every type of delivery in the book.

They need to understand what they do well and base their game around that.

So helping them identify whether their mistake was within their plans is really important.

If it was, great - it might have just been an execution error.

If it wasn’t - that’s a mental error. “What can I put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen or rarely happens again?”

 

4. If You Were in The Situation Again, Would You Make The Same Decision or Do Something Differently?

If it was simply an execution error then the answer to this is probably “Yes, I would do the same thing again.”

If it’s a mental or decision making error it’s about getting them to look at it from different angles and say…

“Ok, what could I have done there to get a better result?”

“What could I have done differently?”

All part of the learning process for young players on the journey towards a deep understanding of their own game.

5. Aside From Not Getting The Result You Wanted, What Did You Do Really Well Today?

Ok we’ve directed the mistake, we’ve identified where the error was, we’ve learnt from it and we’ve made a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Now let's shine the torch on the positives.

Most of the time players will have done SOMETHING positive during the day/game and we need to identify those things because that’s what we want them doing more of moving forward.

Encourage them to say “How can I bring more of that into my game?”

If you work through those five questions and encourage conversation around them with your child or a player you coach, it’s going to turn a mistake or failure into a really positive learning experience.

If you'd like to have a chat to our team about how we can help your child develop their skills and confidence next season, pop your name on the 'early bird' list for our 2019/20 programs and we'll have a 30 minute phone call with you to really understand where they're at and what they need to improve on...

Join the 2019/20 Early Bird List Here

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - Australian Cricket Institute Co-Founder & Coach

 

 

 

Pat Cummins has had a huge 12 months which has resulted in him becoming one of, if not Australia’s most popular player among fans and winning the Allan Border Medal.

Aside from the obvious - bowling fast, taking wickets and scoring valuable lower order runs, I thought I’d take a look at some of the reasons he’s adored by fans and the traits that you’d do well in adopting from the star quick…

1. He's Adaptable

No doubt Cummins would probably love the new ball. He bowls with it for NSW and Thunder.

But he’s been given a job to do with Australia, coming on first change, and he’s adapted to it brilliantly.

He bowls from any end and bowls whenever he’s given the ball. He doesn’t whinge or complain. He gets on with it and does his job.

Become Adaptable.

2. He Gives 100% One Hundred Percent Of The Time

Pat Cummins runs in and bowls at 100% - all the time.

He bowls the same pace in his last spell as he does in his first which isn’t always common in fast bowlers.

He puts a huge price on his wicket for a number 8 batsman and tries to bat for as long as he can, no matter how hostile the bowling is.

Every time Cummins has the bat or ball in his hands it looks like he’s playing to win or save the game, no matter what situation Australia are in.

You should strive to do the same.

 

3. He’s a Fierce Competitor

Pat Cummins competes hard.

There were some times during the recent test series where Australia were no hope of winning or saving the game and he was batting against some pretty hostile bowling on lively decks. Cummins scrapped for long periods of time, when a lot of other fast bowlers would have had a swing to get out of there as fast as they could.

On the flip side - when he’s on song and Australia are on top, he puts his foot on the oppositions throat which we saw with some devastating spells of fast bowling and it was great to see him get some bags of wickets.

When the competition is even and the wicket is flat - he seems to more often than not force something to happen.

Learn to compete like Cummins.

4. He’s Humble

I think another reason Cummins is so likeable is because he’s humble.

As I said earlier, he never complains or whinges about bowling first change or where he bats.

He never boasts about how good he is or how he’s going to do this and that.

He gets on with it, lets the bat and ball do the talking and gracefully accepts any accolades that come his way.

Be humble.

5. The Way He Carries Himself Off The Field

I don’t know Pat personally but from the outside it looks like he’s got his life and priorities in order.

He’s in a long term relationship with a partner he seems to treat with love and respect. He seems to have a good set of values and morals and he’s never in the media for poor behaviour or any of the wrong reasons.

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say a bad word about him!

If you model your off field behaviour on Cummins, you’ll position yourself well.

Now, go work at applying these five traits to your game and life.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - Australian Cricket Institute Co-Founder & Coach

 

 

The time used between balls by many players is not used very effectively by many players.

Cricketers come to the Australian Cricket Institute with a common problem. “ I get bogged down after a few balls and then play a silly shot and get out” or “ I have trouble bowling the ball where I want to consistently”.

For some, and to the naked eye, that’s a technical deficiency, which most likely is a contributing factor.

However the other side of it that hardly any people explore or consider is what is going on between their ears.

Cricket is a game of stop, start, hit a ball, stop and have some down time then only to be going back to getting ready to hit the ball again.

In this down time, most players use their time negatively or not at all. Your ability to be consistent and achieve the desired outcome over and over again is technical yes, but the time you spend in between balls is just as crucial.

Using this time well can help with staying in the moment. Thinking about what you need to do right now.

Too many players think about what has happened or what is going to happen. e.g. “ What if I play and miss again” or “I just bowled a wide, don’t bowl another!”.

If you can overcome your mind and use this time effectively the benefits are there to see.

Your concentration levels last longer, you make better decisions, you are not affected by the situation of the game as much and as a result you can make clearer decisions.

Below I’ve listed out 5 different things you can implement into your between ball routine that can help you from drifting away and putting pressure on yourself.

1. Positive Self Talk

A very simple one to start off with but sometimes quiet hard to master.

The important think with this is to realise that you are always going to have negative thoughts or reactions when you do something wrong or under pressure.

The important part is trying to wipe that as quickly as possible and turn those thoughts into a positive.

This can be practiced and done on any occurrence.

Instead of thinking “this bowlers too fast here, I don’t want to get hurt!” You could go down the path of “his pace is going to make it easier if I use that to my advantage, wait for the full overmatched ball but the rest I can use the pace and run it down to third man”.

2. Quick And Non Bias Self Review/Reflection

A lot of players spend so much time in between balls sweating about what shot they’ve played.

How many times have you seen a player hit it straight to a fielder and drop their head back in annoyance?

Or keep playing the same shot that they wanted to for the whole time between balls and then face back up?

I’m not saying you can’t practice the shot you wanted to play, but a lot of people spend too much time worrying and sweating on that ball and what they did wrong.

What you can do is really simply review and reflect on your shot and move on to something else as quickly as possible.

It could be as simple as a rating out of 10 and then what you’d do differently.

Short. Sharp. And finally,  wiped clean so you don’t spend the next minutes or balls thinking about it.

 

3. Breathing

This is a relatively simple one.

It’s been proven that when you are under pressure or stress, your heart rate will go up.

The easiest way to lower that is by controlled breathing.

If you can actually focus on your breathing you’ll find that not only will it help you get your breath back and decrease your heart rate, but it will also then take your focus away from the game and other thoughts!

Try in for 5 or 6 and out for 7 or 8.

Allocating some time between balls to do this will help you get your levels back to even and you’ll be able to make better decisions.

4. Anchors to Distract You Away From The Pressure

Many elite players use certain actions or sequences of movements to help them switch off or take themselves away from an uncomfortable environment.

These pressures and distractions can look like the 'yappy' annoying slips cordon, concentrating on certain parts of the environment, scoreboard pressure and of course those negative thoughts we spoke about previously.

By having certain actions that take you outside of the situation, this helps you clear your mind and use that down time in a different way not thinking about those above pressure.

Some of these look like:

  • Walking out to square leg
  • Signing a song between balls
  • Staring out of the field of play and switching off from the contest
  • Watching people out on the boundary or those not involved in the game
  • Undoing gloves

As mentioned these “anchors” or whatever you want to call them, help players take them self outside of the contest and the stresses.

I’m sure you may even do some of these already.

5. Visualisation

Finally another tool you can look to use is visualisation.

This is a very underestimated and yet quite an effective way to help players feel confident and problem solve during their time on the pitch.

The power of visualisation is quite influential.

Visualisation during your innings or while your bowling can help you settle yourself into your role or give you the confidence to replicate during your innings.

Using some of your time in between balls to see yourself playing that correct shot or bowling that ball in the right area.

When visualising, go deep into it. How does it feel, what does it look like, what does your body have to do in order to execute that shot or particular ball.

The more you can replicate how real it is and the exact movements the more realistic it is and will transfer into your mechanics of what you are doing.

It may be you visualising playing the ball confidently, or getting into a powerful and balanced position when playing your shots. Alternatively from the bowling perspective, it may be you coming and bowling a great length ball hitting the batsmen bat high on the splice as they are coming forward.

You can play out any scenario in your head before you’ve done it and it will fill you with the confidence to execute this in real time.

So there you have it, these are some techniques you can implement into the time you spend in between balls.

My advice is not to just copy and do all of them, find a sequence of events that is comfortable to you, but more importantly works.

The whole point of this is to use your time effectively in between balls and take your thoughts away from the negative things and elevate the pressure that players put on themselves.

How you do this is ultimately up to you, these are just some techniques you can implement.

Lastly, this between ball routine has to be repeatable. You cannot achieve consistent results if you continuously randomly do these actions.

It is a method to doing them and there has to be a distinct reason in your routine as to why.

These processes are for you only and as a result can be done however you like in your own way.

Don’t copy Steve Smith or David Warner just because he is a world class player as these will not necessarily work for you.

 

Author: Joel Hamilton - ACI Co-Founder & Coach

 

 

I’ve been very lucky.

My parents chose to put me into structured sports and as a result I think I’ve learnt a lot of key skill sets that help me not only with social life, but work and business life as well.

I’m not saying that this is just in cricket, however that is my medium of communication today.

Cricket is a different game, a silly game to many.

Spending a lot of your time preparing and practicing only to get a small go at it each weekend.

There are many important skills that I feel you find and develop from the uniqueness of cricket (and other sports) that really set people up for success.

You hear it quite often that many CEOs or high performing people have either come from an elite sport or military background.

This doesn’t surprise me one bit.

I’ve compiled the 5 key skills that your child will learn playing the game we love, which will ultimately help them for the rest of their life.

1. Deal With Failure

It may sound weird but I think one of the best parts of playing cricket is how well you get used to dealing with failure.

I mean, how often to most players go out and score 50 plus runs? Or take 5 wickets in a game.

There are very few sports that give you one go at something and if you don’t do it right, you sit out for most of the day!

I think understanding the relationship that players have with failure, and overcoming that fear ultimately contributes to more consistent performances.

Transfer that into real life, or work and school and this gives people greater confidence and an understanding that failure is okay, it’s just doing the same thing badly all the time isn’t going to get you anywhere.

2. Ability to Handle Feedback

Being involved with coaches, playing in a team sport and learning constantly, you will encounter many of these people giving you feedback.

Some good, some bad.

The one thing in cricket that I think really helps with players outside of their game is how they can handle it.

Of course, many players don’t deal with it well, but the majority have at least been playing the game have had to dissect and receive negative feedback before.

This can be a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow, but I find being involved in teams and constantly reviewing their games, techniques and performances, you find that players seem to be a little bit better at taking it and trying to find ways to make them better.

3. Setting & Achieving Goals

Another crucial aspect that we rely heavily on in our academy programs is having players set, reflect and more often than not achieve goals.

Engraining these thoughts and habits into younger players at an earlier age only bodes well for their schooling and other interests.

It’s teaching this skill effectively and just having them being aware that small improvements over time result in greater outcomes in the end. It’s called the compound effect.

I’ve been amazed at how such a simple skill isn’t necessarily common practice to many people who haven’t been exposed to it and I think it’s just a natural thing that players do in our game.

Even subconsciously.

4. Working in a Team With Different Personalities

Not everyone you play cricket with are going to be your best mates…

Actually you’ll find over time that you will encounter quite an eclectic bunch of people.

Our great sport draws many types to the game we all love!

But somehow when you have to all come together with a common goal or purpose stuff like that doesn’t matter.

I think this is a very key ingredient to team sports.

Having the ability to work in with such different types of people, but coming together and trying to achieve the same task or result.

This skill in itself is invaluable. Be it in the work place, in the school yard or just socially in general.

Being introduced to this through the medium of sport makes their life a whole lot easier on the outside.

5. Accountability For Actions

Being accountable for your actions is sometimes a throw away phrase.

But for people who have been in team environments, especially one like cricket you see there is merit in it.

Having that awareness to stick to your role within that team and not steer away from that.

Choosing to work within the team structure and knowing that if you make a mistake or do something away from your strengths and it doesn’t work, the group will pay the price, not just you.

A lot of these skills and traits develop subconsciously, and as I mentioned earlier, aren’t necessarily just native to playing cricket.

But what I have noticed over time is the bond and lessons that I have learnt on the fields, are very, very similar to life so far.

Sometimes not necessarily fair, or something that you want to do, but at the same time something that needs to be done in order to be effective and win.

So on that note, if you are a parent or coach I thank you.

The kids or your players may not think it yet, or may not even come to realise it at all over their time, but you have done them a massive service in life by having them involved in a team sport such as cricket.

Written by Joel Hamilton Co Founder ACI