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Pre-season is to be cherished and not wasted

With the cricket season little more than a month away, clubs will be starting their pre-season training soon. The focus normally is on getting fit and doing a lot of basic skillwork. The whole idea of pre-season training is that you slowly build up, session after session, getting more detailed and intense as you get closer to the season.

Unfortunately, for some clubs pre-season is not as detailed because players are reluctant to attend training until two to three weeks before the start of the season; and, in some cases, merely a week before the season. This is partially why we have some ridiculously low scores at the beginning of the season. Clubs who do have a solid pre-season have a tendency to do well early in the season. How many clubs are actually training right now?

Pre-season as a team is valuable because one of the first things you should do is sit down and discuss what your team goals are for the year. However, the likelihood of having maximum players training this early is slim. Therefore, this is an exercise that may have to be done closer to the start of the season when the attendance to training is high.

Coaches do things differently no matter where you go, but I think it is important that as coaches we share information because the aim is to improve cricket as a whole. Being part of the national team, I have had the privilege to work with coaches who have various training techniques, but one really caught my eye that I want to share.

Do a theory session with the players to discuss team goals. Discuss what your three main goals are for the season and place them in order of priority. Once this is done, draw a circle with the title “Goals” in the middle. Then ask the players how do they plan on achieving these goals? As they name various things, such as proper warm-up, being committed to training, making time to games, doing extras, make a list on the outskirts of the circle. The list may obviously be too long. So break it down to the five most important things that the team will do collectively to achieve their goals.

As a coach, once this is done you post this in the changing room and get all the players to sign it. This is their sacrifice to the team and themselves for the year. If ever a player strays and does not hold up his end of the bargain, you have the list there to remind him of his commitment to the team goals, as they the players themselves created it.

For the first month of pre-season, most training is repetition work, whether you are a batsman, or a bowler. Batsmen should hit tennis balls, over and over, working on timing and balance. Bowlers should be bowling at a target, or down a channel, focusing on rhythm, and accuracy. From there, the next step is net training.

Net training needs to be structured. Too many of our cricketers abuse net training and waste their time fooling around, rather than working on a specific aspect of their game. In some cases a coach can inform the players of what he wants the net session to focus on. On another occasion the coach can ask the batsman or the bowler what it is he looking to accomplish during the net session. This just helps to keep the players focused on a specific task during training.

Pre-season should also involve theory to discuss team tactics. Every player should know what their individual role in the team is. Things to talk about of importance: if we win the toss, are we looking to bat or bowl first; how to bat during the powerplays; which bowlers to use during the powerplays. These are all relative and important topics that the team should know before walking on to the field for their first game of the season.

As the season gets closer, players will want to bat on the actual playing pitch to get a feel of the bounce because it is a significant difference from the training nets. It is often good for teams to schedule one or to practice games, or inter-squad games, if they have enough players. This will help to get players in game mode, so that when that first game rolls around they are more than ready.

Pre-season should prepare a team so that they are ready to play come the beginning of the season. Any player who has aspirations of being a good player can see the value of pre-season and will utilise it to the best of his ability. There is an old saying, “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”

Quote of the week: The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential … these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.

— Confucius

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Published March 21, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 21, 2014 at 1:16 am)

Pre-season is to be cherished and not wasted

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