On Target
January 13, 2006

Quality matters – A Coach’s perspective

With Neil Williams

There is a serious need for the employment of a Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) Sports System for Cricket in SVG. This will ensure that the fundamentals or ‘building blocks’ of performance are established at the appropriate time in a child’s development.

I believe that the cricket stars of tomorrow are either made or lost during the early years between the ages of 6-15. The philosophy of the LTAD is to identify and select the most talented cricketers, and develop them through excellent coaching, in order for them to achieve their potential.{{more}}

The aim will be to produce St. Vincent cricketers rather than cricketers who play for St. Vincent.

A good development nursery structure will ensure the nurturing of the abundance of talent at the various progressive levels. Time and money are wasted at the top level when it is too late to fine tune these players.

Invariably the coaches with the lowest qualifications and least paid are the ones normally saddled with the responsibility of developing these gifted youngsters. If some of the better coaches (as with the national football coach who is working with the various progressive levels for both male and female) were to work down the food chain, then it would be beneficial to both coaches and players. However, it will require a massive cultural shift to entice the elite coaches to work at this less glamorous stage.

In some of the Eastern European countries on the other hand, the coaches who work with the very youngest children are the stars of their sport. They are the high profile coaches, both in terms of financial reward and celebrity status.

At present, coaching the junior ages here can become a baby sitting exercise that is aimed at simply maintaining activity in a safe environment. Although these are important aspects of coaching, much more could be done during this time which would help to set the foundations for any involvement at a higher level.

A lesson that cricket can learn from other sports is that you must build the athlete first by ensuring the acquisition of movement skills during the early stages, and then later build the player.

For too long we have tried to build the player first and as a result the player ends up underachieving and the coach spends much of his time on remedial work in an attempt to correct basic deficiencies. This hampers the ability to produce elite cricketers.

Poor training between 6-16 years cannot be fully corrected. In order to ensure that these essential movement skills for cricket are acquired we must

include these within any programme for the 6-9 years of age for both boys and girls. Children who are lacking co-ordination, balance and general athleticism will later find cricket difficult to learn and unrewarding and soon leave the sport long before they have reached their full potential.

Quality matters when it comes to developing our future stars. In order to develop a better class of players at all levels of the game, we must look at a long term strategic plan rather than simply focusing on short term success.

Scientific research has identified that it takes at least 10 years or 10,000 hours for talented athletes to achieve sporting success. There are no short cuts! This is one of the reasons why I have declined to work with National Youth teams since there is no structured approach to players’ development.

It was depressing to watch some of the Zonal Under 15 matches earlier in the year. The standard across the board was very poor; cricket, player discipline, fields, umpiring. In fact only one official umpire was present during the three matches that I watched involving East St George. The stand-in umpires were members of the Youth Academy Programme.

It is imperative that we place an emphasis on quality for the advancement of our gifted young cricketers.