The Cricket Wales National Coaching Conference, 2017.
Sunday 8th October saw the first Cricket Wales National Coaching Conference take place at Glamorgan Cricket. Towards 50 coaches from around Wales spent the day in talks and in sessions with genuinely elite-level colleagues from the ECB, Glamorgan Cricket and Cardiff Met. University.
The recently-appointed Head of Coach Development at the ECB – John Neal – gave the opening address, in which he very much set the tone for original, challenging and good-natured exchanges between those leading and those participating. John was strikingly confident that revolutions in the game will be met by dynamic and appropriate developments in coach education – structurally and in terms of the detail.
He was clear that there must be more opportunities for ‘horizontal’ Coach Education – as opposed to the slippery (vertical) pole of the current set-up. Look out for significant change on that. The former WRU and RFU man was also refreshingly sharp around the role of the coach to enable players;
‘players must problem-solve – coaching is not about answering’.
In short, it was a real coup for Cricket Wales – in the person of our own Lead for Coach Education, Paul Morgan – to have brought John Neal back to Wales so early in his stewardship of the national game. A great start to the day.
Next up came the practical stuff – held downstairs in the Indoor School. Dan Garbutt and Cookie Patel, both respected coaches and coach developers with the ECB, ran sessions respectively around Game Sense and Fielding. Meanwhile Mark O’Leary from Cardiff MCCU majored on spin.
Dan hosted an all-action, rolling, changing multi-game, where the coaches/players were left with no option other than to invent ways to score runs through small target areas. It was huge fun, exhilarating and close to exhausting but – despite the apparent chaos – skilfully focused on challenging players to think tactically, move brightly, adapt to the moment. Just as you would… in a game.
Cookie Patel looked at ideas and principles around fielding, offering thoughts and drills to test, refresh or build knowledge or confidence on such diverse skills as catching, sliding and use of statistics. Again Cookie was great company; powerfully authoritative and chirpy in a good way, too!
Our local expert, as it were, was Mark O’Leary of Cardiff Met. Mark produced a genuinely inspiring spin-session, bustling through entry-level under-arm games, progressions towards leg and off-spin, fine-tuning or ramping up the revs on the ball.
Particularly impressive were Mark’s demonstrations. They were done with such ease and yet such enthusiasm that the allegedly impenetrable arts – of leg-spin, in particular – were opened up. That thing where many of us coaches feel inadequate around leg-spin became a non-issue: this about enjoyment and flow and that fabulous search for the ‘absolute ripper’.
After a fine lunch, Hugh Morris spoke, fascinatingly, about Glamorgan’s plans for a significant re-vamp of what we might broadly call Cricket Development.
Hugh was clear that re-designing and re-invigorating a Long Term Athletic Development Pathway will be key to building a quality, sustainable game which provides appropriate support to all players whilst producing professional/international class individuals at the ‘top end’.
He went through the detail on this, as well as the rationale, clearly convinced that a) this is the way forwards b) Glamorgan will make this happen. In brief, Hugh’s commitment to this approach was utterly convincing: the Glamorgan CEO seems prepared and confident that cricket in Wales can be really well-placed to transform levels of participation and standards in the years to come.
Hugh took one or two questions, before the coaches returned to rotate through the afternoon’s activities back in the hall.
Last up, making the usual quips about the ‘graveyard shift’, came Dave Leighton – National Participation Coaching Manger for the ECB.
Dave led questions about how we might want coaching, in Wales and elsewhere, to develop. He listened and offered thoughts on the void ‘beyond Coach Ed.’ How coaches and clubs might be better included, better informed, better supported. He again was notably positive re- the prospect for change and development and investment in both Coach Education and club support. Specifically, he trailed the possibility that Head Coaches at clubs might be substantially supported and developed by the ECB, so as to lead change and good practice in the club network. Again, the implication was very much that the ECB are ready to act.
Overall, the first Cricket Wales National Coaching Conference was an outstanding success: well-attended, led by brilliant speakers and deliverers. Speak to somebody who was there – we are confident they will say it was somewhere between worthwhile and downright inspiring. Our thanks go out to all who made it possible and we look forward to more of these events.
Watch this space.
Here’s what Aimee Rees – Senior Women’s Head Coach for Cricket Wales – thought of the day. Note that Aimee strongly recommends attending the next one!
I felt today’s conference was excellent, it was really well organised and all of the presenters were engaging and knowledgable. There were some excellent workshops on fielding and game awareness but the stand out session for me was on Spin with Mark O’Leary from Cardiff MCCU. I am already looking forward to the next conference. A really productive Sunday and I would encourage all coaches to attend the next one.