Monday, 12 March 2012

Forty days and forty nights

The blog's been quiet of late as last week we didn't have nets, and this weekend just gone I wasn't at nets because I was on a coaching  course (of which more later). Anyway, our fixtures are up on the website now, which can only mean the season is rapidly approaching.

To be exact, it's now exactly forty days to our first game of the season, a cup game at home against Leek & Moorlands 2nds, who are a pretty tough side. Adding it all up, assuming I were to be available (and get picked) every Saturday and Sunday, played both friendlies we have lined up and two of the three tour games, I could potentially play 40 games this year. I think it's unlikely I will, and in addition to one Saturday game I'll have to miss I'm pretty much decided to only be available (at most) for the away games on Sunday. Even so, that's quite a full season.

As for the state of my preparations, I'm afraid I feel decidedly half-cooked. I haven't hit any consistent form with my bowling yet, and until the outdoor nets are available I can't be sure I have enough time to properly prepare. My batting's a little better than last year, and I think I should move up to 9 in the order, but my fielding hasn't really been tested much yet. As for my overall strength and fitness I am feeling better and I haven't had any internal injuries yet so that bodes well. I do feel stronger so hopefully everything I do will be just that tiny bit more effective. My aerobic fitness hasn't really improved so perhaps that's something to work on.

Another thing that's on my mind is my role as Vice-Captain of the 4ths. Firstly, Dan and myself have not yet had a chance to talk about what exactly my role will entail, and secondly it seems quite likely that at some point I'll be called on to stand in as Captain, and while on tour that was all very well, in this case it would be a proper competitive match. I do think I have many good attributes for a captain, but I'm all too aware that I'm still inexperienced, don't have a full grasp of tactics, and have some attributes that count against me, principally consisting of being to introverted and quiet and all too readily questioning my own judgement. In addition to that there's the complication that it isn't my team, so I'd lack the advantage of having arranged everyone into my preferred way of operating in advance. Still, that's a relatively minor concern, and a re-read of Brearley's Art of Captaincy should suffice.

Broadly speaking, I'm somewhat concerned that I'm not as prepared as I should be, or rather, as I expected to be. It's not so much that I haven't worked hard enough, as I've used every opportunity to practise that I've had, more that I'm aware that I'll have to work harder than I had planned to do over the next 40 days to arrive at our first match with the confidence that comes from being as prepared as you realistically could be.

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Sunday was the first of three days on the ECB Level 1 coaching course, each one sadly necessitating that I miss nets. However, having had that one day I'm feeling a lot better about my suitability as a coach and came back full of ideas about how I could help the juniors and the 4ths to improve, as well as how to make them more likely to listen to and take in what I have to say to them. It seems very much that coaching is not so much about what you say and do as how you say it and do it.

I must say I'm very impressed with how well-structured the ECB's coaching training is. It's all very supportive and relatively easy as long as you're willing to listen, use your imagination and stretch yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. The pack with the course is pretty comprehensive, and I don't see myself struggling to reach the required level. Of course, there's the usual pain-in-the-backside CRB check, safeguarding training (last Wednesday, not too gruesome), first aid training and endless focus on safety in all things, but that's a given and you just have to engage with it as best you can.

One highlight was one of the films they put on during the lunch break. It was some kind of appreciation of Terry Jenner, and it was a great little spur for me to think "yeah, that's the sort of guy I want to end up being" as well as giving me the odd technical pointer about my own bowling. It's amazing how much technical knowledge he could impart, so simply, so quickly, so effectively, even in a seemingly rather insignificant comment. I was utterly transfixed.

I did get a bit of exercise this weekend after all, as we had to role play as little kids for our fellow students to coach. I love underarm bowling, and once again I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to show off my Simpson-Hayward inspired underarm off-spinning flipper, which caused a couple of the batsmen some trouble. It's a fun delivery to bowl, and I like to think I'm carrying the torch for the long-forgotten 'lobsters' in my own little way...

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