Our purpose at the Australian Cricket Institute is to develop not only good players but also good people and complete cricketers with good habits, behaviours and skills on and off the field.

To become better on the field you must become better off the field.

Easy said, but how do we go about doing that?

By using an approach that we’ve developed called the ‘4 Pillars Of Success’

After years of being involved in the trenches as both coaches and players…

Studying elite players, exactly what they do and why they do it.

Coaching young players, watching them develop and studying why some develop faster than others…

We’ve simplified success in cricket down to focusing on four pillars.

And we’ve discovered that those who actively work on improving all four pillars more often than not see higher levels of success than those that don’t.

Let’s take a look at what the 4 pillars are and how you can improve in each area to start seeing massive results on and off the field.

The four pillars: Technical, Physical, Mental and Tactical.

Let’s take a deeper look into each pillar…

PILLAR #1: TECHNICAL

Probably the most obvious pillar and the one that most people spend the majority of their time developing. Most players, coaches and coaching programs spend time developing ONLY this pillar, which is a mistake and you’ll learn why.

What is the technical pillar?

It’s your skills and your technique. Hitting balls, catching balls, bowling balls.

Out swing, in swing, wrist position, high front arm, elbow up, foot to the ball - all the things you’ve heard before.

All hugely important.

You must have good skills and a technique that works to be successful in cricket.

But for two reasons…

1. Because a lot of coaches underestimate the learning power of children and how much information they can actually absorb.

2. Because most coaches only know the technical pillar. They fail to educate themselves, up skill and practice what they preach in the other 3 pillars (don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, but it’s necessary).

The majority of juniors will only ever be exposed to the technical pillar unless they reach a really high level in youth cricket, only then will they be exposed to the other 3 pillars.

That’s too late.

Why not start developing all four pillars as early as possible? That’s how you create quality athletes on and off the field.

I believe we don’t give young players enough credit and often dismiss concepts as being “over their head”.

Why can’t a 12 year old learn how to effectively visualise and to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts while they’re out in the middle?

Or that replacing bad carbohydrates and sugars with fresh food and protein is going to give them more energy, make them stronger and healthier and help them think with clarity and concentrate for longer?

I can tell you from working first hand with thousands of young players that children listen to, retain and apply what you teach them a lot better than adults.

They’re a blank slate waiting to learn.

Let’s not underestimate them.

[Rant over]

Now how do we go about helping a player improve technically?

Four things…

SELF REFLECTION

A huuuuge focus in our programs. The faster a player can gain an understanding of their game, their strengths and their weaknesses, the faster they will develop.

To gain an understanding of their game they actually have to spend time thinking about it.

The way we do it is by asking two simple questions after every session.

1.What did you do well that session?

2.What do you think you need to improve on out of that session and how are you going to do that?

SPECIFIC PLANS

From that self reflection we then help players create specific plans on how they’re going to improve that part of their game.

E.G. “I was hitting my drives in the air a lot because my weight was back and I was too early in my shots.”

Ok how are you going to specifically improve on that?

“I’m going to get to training early every day this week and spend 15 minutes on the bowling machine doing the circle drill and focus on getting my weight forward and hitting the ball as late as possible.”

REPETITION

Drills are key to repetition. And repetition is key to skill development.

We create environments where players can work on specifics for long periods of time.

The standard 10 minute bat in the nets at club training doesn’t allow that so players have to get repetition in in their own time.

OUTCOME BASED LEARNING

Too many coaches get caught up in the ‘how’ (elbow here, front foot here, head there) rather than the ‘what’ (the result).

Players are going to have different techniques and ways of getting the result, which in the end is all that matters.

A coaches job is to help a player discover what works best for them.

If you give them an outcome, they’ll figure out how to get the result in the best way that works for them.

We create drills, environments, scenarios that allow players to focus on the result.

If they’re getting results and their technique is sustainable (not causing any harm to their body), that’s all that matters to us.

If your child would like to improve technically over the winter, our academies can help them do that…

Ok, onto the next pillar...

PILLAR #2: PHYSICAL

Why is the physical pillar so important?

Because to execute your skills and maintain concentration for a long period of time you need to have endurance, strength, power, flexibility, agility, speed and energy.

To develop those skills and attributes you need to follow effective strength and conditioning, stretching and nutrition programs.

Here’s a few simple tips on how you can improve (or help your child improve) physically…

FITNESS

- Focus on the engine - legs, gluten and core.

- Break your year into blocks and focus on specific outcomes. E.g. Strength, power, endurance, speed maintenance.

- Do work that’s going to improve your cricket, not make you look good.

INJURY PREVENTION

- Stretch regularly

- Cricket specific training

- Make warming up a habit before training and playing (dynamic)

- Recover properly (stretch, walk/jog, water therapy, right nutrition, water)

NUTRITION

- Eat fresh

- Prepare your own food

- Hydrate - min 2L a day

- Avoid nasties like sugars, complex carbs, bad fats. (commercial sports drinks suck!)

If your child needs help getting themselves physically prepared…

PILLAR #3: MENTAL

The thoughts in your head play a HUGE role in the actions your body takes and the way that you execute your skills.

Nerves, fear, pressure.

None of them are real.

They’re all emotions created by the thoughts in our head. Which we’re 100% in control of once we understand how to be.

I think it’s often overlooked how much of a role our mental skills play in cricket.

There’s so many components within the mental pillar, but the one thing that will make the biggest difference to a players game is self talk.

What you’re telling yourself the night before a game, the morning of a game and during a game whether you’re batting, bowling or fielding.

So many players are riddled with negative self talk…

“What if I get a duck tomorrow?”

“I’m playing that batsman who smacked me all around the park last time”

“This guys’s too quick for me”

“The wicket is a shocker”

“What if I get out now”

“What if I go for 8 this over and let the team down”

“The run rate is getting too high.”

All thought’s that create those little gremlins we call nerves, fear and pressure.

How do we turn those emotions into positive ones?

Confidence, excitement and conviction.

By turning negative self talk into positive self talk.

“I’ve trained hard and feel great so I’m confident of getting 50+ tomorrow”

“I’m bowling really well now so I’m looking forward to another challenge with that gun batsman.”

“I’ve faced faster bowling on the machine, this guy’s going to be easy”

“I’ve trained on a wicket like this so I’ve got the perfect plan”

“Concentrate and watch the ball, I’m seeing it really well”

“This guy’s stronger on the leg side so I’m going to bowl wide of off and go for less that 5”

“We’ve still got this 42 balls left which is a lot of scoring opportunities, wait until it’s in your zone”

Our thoughts control our emotions and our emotions control our actions.

5 simple things you can practice to improve mentally…

 JOURNALLING

Similar to self reflection it gets you to stop and actually think about your thought’s, feelings and emotions.

Write them down every day and think about what caused them.

POSITIVE SELF TALK

Easier said than done but get into the habit of being aware of when negative self talk is creeping in.

Acknowledge it. Put a stop to it and replace it with something positive.

Like all things it take practice, the more you do it the more it will become habit.

VISUALISATION

Whatever the mind see’s it will believe.

Visualisation also creates familiarity, the feeling of having been there before and thing’s we’re familiar with we’re comfortable with.

It’s a whole new topic so I won’t go into it but learn how to visualise.

STRENGTH BASED PLANS

Whether you’re batting, bowling or fielding, create plans around your strengths.

Walking out with a clear plan will fill you with so much more confidence than having no plan at all.

To create strength based plans you need to have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

This is where self reflection and journalling comes in.

Can you see how it’s all staring to tie in?

BREATHING

If all else fails and you still can’t control your negative thoughts, revert to focusing on your breathing.

Long and slow in….long and slow out. (If you want the exact technique email me: [email protected])

Focusing on your breathing clears your mind and centres your thoughts.

If you would like us to coach your child and teach them a set of mental skills that will help them on and off the field for the rest of their lives…

PILLAR #4: TACTICAL

If you don’t know when and how to use them, having the skills will only get you so far.

Having the ability to read the conditions, the opposition, the situation of the game and being able to develop a plan to best suit that particular scenario is a skill.

It’s a skill call tactical ability and game awareness.

And the best players in the world have plenty of it.

Here’s how we help players develop tactical and game awareness.

SCENARIOS

Every net session we run is a scenario.

Whether it be runs, wickets, run rate, singles, boundaries…we give the batsmen and bowlers a target.

We get the bowlers to set fields and we have the coaches go away with the batting and bowling group and facilitate them creating plans for that particular scenario.

We get comments from players like “I actually found myself in that situation in a game and felt like I’d been there and done it before.”

Tick.

CONVERSATIONS

I’ll revert back to self reflection and the example above. We encourage players to tell us, not us telling them.

What they plan to do.

What they did well or not so well and why that was so.

Conversations promote learning.

EXPERIENCE

Often times the quickest way to develop game awareness is though experience.

Play as much as you can and watch as much cricket as you can.

And when you watch take note of what the captain is doing in the field, the way the batsmen are approaching the game and think about why they’re doing it.

SENIOR PLAYERS

Watch them, follow them, train with them and ask them questions.

As I Said above, game awareness develops with experience which senior players have got.

Whether a senior player to you is 16 or 35, find someone you respect and learn from them.

There’a a lot of information to digest there but can you see how each pillar ties in with the next and the four of them work together like a well oiled machine?

Neglect one pillar and the other three won’t operate as they should.

Hopefully that gives you a good understanding of our philosophy at the Australian Cricket Institute and you can see how all four pillars compliment each other.

If you’d like more information about our face to face coaching programs that we offer for girls and boys aged 12-19…

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick

Australian Cricket Institute Co Founder and Head Coach

 

So you’ve just finished your cricket season…now what?

How did you go?

Killed it…great!

Or maybe not so well, maybe your finishing the season with feelings of frustration after not being picked in the grade you wanted, not scoring enough runs or not taking enough wickets.

First things first, whether you had a good or bad season, before you take a little break away from the game and go play other sports or just give your body a rest (both of which we recommend), you need to go through the process of reviewing your season.

Most players don’t and won’t do it but self-reflection is one of the greatest ways gain an understanding of your game and ultimately become a better player.

Maybe you had some goals set, (to take x amount of wickets, or score x amount of runs).  The biggest thing to remember is just because you may not have ticked of those exact numbers or results, your results may have been a little better than you think!

Self reflection is a lot more difficult and confronting if you’ve had a poor season but it’s even more important then.

Photo Above: Brisbane ACI Junior Academy players self reflecting with Chris Lynn

Here’s a 3 step process to go through for your end of season review.

Look At Your Stats. Compare Them To Last Season And Your Goals.

Most of the time stats are a fairly good reflection on how your season has gone. If you had ambitions to become a more consistent player, then here is the true nuts and bolts of it.  Stats don’t lie.

Did you achieve your goals from the start of the season? And how have you gone compared to last season?

Take note of any improvements that you may have made, whether that is strike rate/more wickets/economy rates etc.

Take notes of any areas that you’ve not achieved your goals or have gone backwards from last season.

Once you’ve compared your stats take the time to ask yourself and think about why you improved in the areas you did and why you declined in the areas you did.

It’s really important to understand that sometimes your goals may not be achieved. There are a lot of uncontrollable's in cricket, it could be due to injury, bad form, weather, opportunity.

But there’s a lot of things you can control.

Work ethic, training habits, preparation, diet, fitness.

So be honest with yourself when you’re reviewing your stats and why they are the way they are.

The reality is sometimes things aren’t going to go your way, but still look at the positives. You may not have hit 1000 runs or taken 40 wickets but there will be areas of your game that have improved, and that alone is still worth noting.

TIP: Don’t gloss over area’s that have declined (a lot of players do). Note these as they will be a vital part of your plan going into preseason!

Feedback From Your Coach/Captain/Teammates.

Ask a couple of players, coaches or your captain that you look up to, respect and trust to catch up for a chat and give you some honest feedback.

A great way to get reliable feedback from someone who you have been working with all year is to write out some questions before you meet with them so that they have a clear picture of exactly what you’re seeking feedback on and allows them to give really specific answers.

Send the questions to them before you meet to give them time to think about it and give you detailed answers.

Here are some examples of questions you could ask.

What has been my most reliable trait/skill this season in your opinion?

What have I really improved on?

What areas do I need to work on?

How did you view my season as a whole?

Is there anything specific that our team is looking out for that I may be able to work on and fill the void for next season?

Do you see my role changing next year?

Some of these are great examples of getting information from coach or captain. If you haven’t had an end of season review I thoroughly suggest that you set in a time to recap with  at least your coach.

If it’s not a normal process for your club/team, your coach will be happy that you’re taking the initiative towards improving your game.

It’s really important to take notes or get your coach to email you some points about how you believe your season has gone. Having these written down means you will not forget what was said in the review, and will make it easier to then set goals and set your preseason up accordingly in the coming months.

Collate All The Information You Have Received And Agree On a Plan Of Attack.

Okay so you’ve looked through your stats, got some feedback and been really honest with yourself about why you went well in some areas and not so well in others.

Now it’s time to put a plan in place with the help of your coach and that plan starts now!

How long you’re going to have away from the game.

What you’re going to do in the off season.

When you’re going to start preseason.

And exactly what you’re going to do during the off season and preseason to improve all four pillars of your game, Technical, Mental, Physical and Tactical.

You should have a very clear picture of the areas you really need to work on as well as your strengths that you want to double down on.

Create a clear and specific plan to have to primed for round one later on this year.

Let me just finish by saying this…IT’S NOT EASY

But success, bar for a few rare exceptions, doesn’t come easy.

You need to understand that it’s not going to happen overnight but if you really want it, good habits like reviewing, planning and executing performed consistently over a long period of time will get you great results.

Well done on a great season, enjoy the break and it’ll all be upon us again soon!

Authors: Nick Fitzpatrick and Joel Hamilton - ACI Co Founders and Coaches.

So your child has just finished their cricket season…now what?

How did they go?

Killed it…great!

Or maybe not so well, maybe they’re finishing the season with feelings of frustration after not being picked in the team they wanted, not scoring enough runs or not taking enough wickets.

First things first, whether they had a good or bad season, before they take a little break away from the game and go play other sports or just give their body a rest (both of which we recommend), they need to go through the process of reviewing their season.

Most players don’t and won’t do it but self-reflection is one of the greatest ways for a player to gain an understanding of their game and ultimately become a better player.

At the ACI, we teach our Junior Academy players and get them in the habit of self reflecting after every training session, every camp, every game….

So by the time the season ends, this process is a breeze.

As a parent of a player, I highly recommend that you encourage your child to self reflect and review their season, and even help them go through the process. Talk it out with them and help them understand the importance and reasoning behind each step.

Self reflection is a lot more difficult and confronting if they’ve had a poor season but it’s even more important then.

Photo Above: Brisbane ACI Junior Academy players self reflecting with Chris Lynn

Here’s a 3 step process to go through with your child for their end of season review…

Look At Their Stats. Compare Them To Last Season And Their Goals.

Most of the time stats are a fairly good reflection on how their season has gone. If they had ambitions to become a more consistent player, then here is the true nuts and bolts of it. 

Stats don’t lie and yes they can sometimes be confronting but we want to coach players to own everything that happens to them, not just in cricket but off the field as well.

Did they achieve their goals from the start of the season?

How have they gone compared to last season?

Take note of any improvements that they’ve made, whether that is strike rate/more wickets/economy rates etc.

Take notes of any areas that they’ve not achieved their goals or have gone backwards from last season.

Once you’ve compared their stats take the time to ask them, think about and discuss with them why they improved in the areas they did and why they declined in the areas they did.

It’s really important to understand that sometimes goals may not be achieved. There are a lot of uncontrollable’s in cricket, it could be due to injury, bad form, weather, opportunity.

But there’s a lot of things you can control and that’s what we want to focus on.

Work ethic, training habits, preparation, diet, fitness, habits.

So teach them to be honest with themselves when they’re reviewing their stats and why they are the way they are.

The reality is sometimes things aren’t going to go your way, but still look at the positives. They may not have hit 500 runs or taken 30 wickets but there will be areas of their game that have improved, and that alone is still worth noting.

TIP: Don’t gloss over area’s that have declined (a lot of players do). Note these as they will be a vital part of their plan going into preseason!

 

 Seek Feedback From Their Coach/Captain/Teammates.

Encourage them to ask a couple of players, coaches or their captain that they look up to, respect and trust to catch up for a chat and give them some honest feedback.

A great way to get reliable feedback from someone who they’ve been working with all year is to write out some questions before they meet with them so that person has a clear picture of exactly what they’re seeking feedback on and it will also allow them to give really specific answers.

Your child should send the questions to the coach/player before they meet to give them time to think about it and give detailed, well thought out answers.

Here are some examples of questions your child can ask…

What has been my most reliable trait/skill this season in your opinion?What have I really improved on?

What areas do I need to work on?

How did you view my season as a whole?Is there anything specific that our team is looking out for that I may be able to work on and fill the void for next season?

Do you see my role changing next year?

Help your child go through the process of writing out their questions but encourage them to think of their own great questions.

If your child hasn't had an end of season review I thoroughly suggest that you encourage them to set up a time to recap with  at least their coach. (It’s also great to get a teammates perspective)

If it’s not a normal process for your child’s club/team, I can guarantee you their coach will be very happy that they’re taking the initiative towards improving their game and more than happy to help.

It’s really important to take notes or get their coach to email them the feedback.

Having the feedback written down means they won’t forget what was said in the review, and will make it a lot easier to then set goals and plan their preseason in the coming months.

Collate All The Information They Have Received And Agree On a Plan Of Attack.

Okay so you’ve looked through their stats with them, they’ve got some great feedback and been really honest with themselves about why they went well in some areas and not so well in others.

Now it’s time to put a plan in place with the help of their coach and that plan starts now!

How long they’re going to have away from the game.

What they’re going to do in the off season.

When they’re going to start preseason.

Exactly what they’re going to do during the off season and preseason to improve all four pillars of their game.

What specifically are they going to do to improve their technical skills? (skills sessions, drills, how many sessions a week, when will they start, how will it progress closer to the season)

What specifically are they going to do to improve their mental skills? (journaling, visualising, breathing techniques, practicing under distraction)

What specifically are they going to do to improve physically? (fitness plan, nutrition habits, stretching)

How are they going to improve tactically? (watching cricket, asking experienced players)

All four pillars provide the foundation for your child to become the best player they can be.

Neglect one and it’ll effect the other 3.

They should have a very clear picture of the areas they really need to work on as well as their strengths that they want to double down on.

Create a clear and specific plan to have them primed for round one later on this year.

Let me just finish by saying this…IT’S NOT EASY

But success, bar for a few rare exceptions, doesn’t come easy.

As a parent you’re in a great position to mould that mindset into your child.

You’ll need to explain to them that it’s not going to happen overnight but if they really want it, good habits like reviewing, planning and executing performed consistently over a long period of time will get them great results.

If you’d like the ACI to help coach these habits into your child and have their best season ever, we’ve opened up early bird interest in our Junior Academy Programs all over Australia.

 

 

Well done on a great season, enjoy the break and it’ll all be upon us again soon!

Authors: Nick Fitzpatrick and Joel Hamilton - ACI Co Founders and Coaches.

Dear Cricket Mum,

Now that the season is wrapping up, I wanted to write you a letter...

A letter to let you know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me this season.

Cricket mum, I know your efforts often go un recognised, but let me assure you they don’t go unnoticed.

First of all, thanks for making sure I’m always organised!

If it wasn’t for you helping me pack my whites and lunch I’d be playing in shorts, wearing no socks and going hungry every Saturday.

Thank you for the time you sacrifice…

Sitting in the car while I train or under a tree while I play.

I know, I know…”why does cricket have to be such a long game?”

And you “could be doing so many other things on your Saturdays”

I appreciate that you choose to sacrifice your time to come and support me and watch me play the game I love.

Thanks for the amount of travel you’re prepared to do to get me to training and games.

We sure do some kilometres! I do like car trips with you though.

Thanks for always making sure I’ve got my hat (even though I lose it every week) and for making sure I don’t miss any spots with sunscreen.

I know I’ll probably pay more attention to sun safety when I’m older, but for now you do a great job!

Thank you from me, and my team mates, for all the yummy treats you bring to games!

Lollies (snakes are my favourite), afternoon teas and oranges to keep us going.

You always seem to have a back up supply of water and gatorade when I run out as well!

Thanks for the money you spend on me.

I know cricket is an expensive sport.

Season fees, extra coaching plus new gear!

Thank you for not always letting me get the new gear I want as well. Otherwise we’d be getting a new bat every couple of months.

Even though I don’t show it at the time, I understand why that is silly.

Thanks for putting up with me when I’m in a bad mood after cricket.

I know it’s not your fault even though I sometimes take it out on you. You even help me with my gear sometimes when I’m in a bad mood…

I’m old enough to carry my own gear now, I’ll try not to let that happen.

Thanks mum for always making sure my whites are sparkling and don’t have any holes in them.

I know it’s a real pain to get those grass stains out.

I should be thinking of you when I dive for the ball when I don’t need to….but I don’t so I’m sorry about that.

Most of all mum…

Thanks for loving me and treating me the same no matter what happens on the field.

I try so hard to make you proud, when I fail I feel like I’m letting you down.

I know you don’t think that but those are the things that go through my head.

So thanks for helping me to understand that cricket is just a game and that I don’t need to get upset about it.

I love that you can take my mind off cricket.

I love that no matter what happens I’m still great in your eyes.

Thanks for a great season mum! Let’s do it all again soon.

Love you.

From every cricket son and daughter around the country.

P.S. Mum, I'd love to train with the Australian Cricket Institute this year - you can find out more about how I can do that here.

Author - Nick Fitzpatrick 

ACI Co Founder and Coach.

Parenting is a tough gig! (So I've heard haha!)

Throw sport into the mix and it becomes even tougher. There’s no question that everything you do has your child’s best interest at heart. Sometimes in getting caught up wanting the best for their child, parents can behave in a way that is harmful to their child's love for the game. Here’s my top 5....

1. Pushing your child too hard.

Kids are no different from adults, they need a break. Give them a break away from school, away from cricket…just to be a kid. It’ll freshen them up, keep them interested and improve their performance. Let them (and their mentor, see #3) push themselves, they’ll do a good enough job of it without you jumping in.

 If you’re constantly telling them to work harder, train more…you’ll take the love out of it and they’ll end up hating the game. It’s much better coming from within themselves or a professional mentor.

2. Over doing it at games.

If you go to watch you child, find a spot out of the way and sit there and watch. Don’t be that parent that tries to coach them from the sidelines or in front of the team. Don’t be that parent that annoys the coach asking when your child is going to bat or bowl, or telling them how to coach. Definitely don’t be that parent that yells abuse to the umpire and opposition from the sideline. Sit in the shade and enjoy the game.

3. Trying to coach them yourself.

I think there must be something biologically ingrained in teenagers, especially at that age, not to listen to their parents (I’m sure you’ve experienced it). They’ll hang off every word you say until a certain age…and then, not interested!

Don’t take it to heart. It’s not you, like I said, I’m sure every child goes through it. Instead of trying to coach your child yourself, look for the right mentors. Look for mentors that can guide your child in not only becoming a better player but also a better person. It might be one person, it might be a few but your child needs that support network.

Of course you’ll play a part in mentoring them, they’re your child, but if you try to do it all on your own, they’ll likely lose interest in the game5

4. Showing disappointment or even worse, anger. (#1 biggest and most common mistake)

Of course you want your child to succeed.

But know that your child’s world revolves around impressing you.

When I was a junior, all I wanted to do was score a hundred so I could go home and tell mum and dad (well they were usually at the game, but you know what I mean).

When I failed, my parent’s didn’t bat an eye lid. They kept smiling, encouraged me to learn from it, then spoke about something else (see #6). And that was so refreshing and actually helped me learn to separate the game from my external life, which is an important ability. You don’t want to be taking your failures home, to school, or work as an adult.

You’ll never understand to what extent your love and acceptance means to your child.

Never show your disappointment and ABSOLUTELY never get angry at them for failing. They are already hurting inside.

If you do, they’ll end up hating the game.

5. Using guilt on them.

Have your “guilt gland” removed. This will help you avoid phrases like “I’ve got better things to do with my time” and “Do you realise how much I have had to give up for you to play cricket”. Everyone loses when you play the guilt game.

If you’ve made the decision to let them play cricket. Support them 100%

Put the guilt trip on them and they’ll end up hating the game.

In concluding…

At the end of the day, you’re the most influential figure in your child's development as a cricketer. I’m sure everything you do has your child's best interest at heart. This guide is likely just a reminder but stay on top of these 5 destructive behaviours and you’ll go a long way to creating a fun and supportive environment that encourages your child's love for the game.