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Back in 2014, I started coaching at the MCC Cricket Academy, and was assigned to support a coach delivering a "Little Legends" session for a group of 3-5 year olds.
Not really cricket, I thought - more 45 minutes of childcare, with a cricketing theme, perhaps, but not really cricket coaching.
I found out later that some of my new colleagues had directly requested not to be scheduled to work with the Little Legends, and I could understand why. But as the new coach, I didn't think I could get away with opting out.
Three years later, I find myself leading the delivery for 5 weekly sessions for 5s and under. And the more I do, the more I appreciate the value of coaching the very young players in the Academy's Little Legends and Mini Masters programmes.
I remembered one of the first pieces of advice I was given when I first trained as a coach - always coach the player, not the skill. And I also remembered how much I enjoy playing games.
I had no formal training to work with children this young, no idea how to even attempt to engage a group of 3 year olds.
I was very fortunate in my first year to work with a cricket coach whose full-time job was in a nursery school - in addition to a suite of planned activities and games, I have taken a lot from Rohan's example.
Different groups respond in different ways, and the range of activities and games needs to be adapted to suit - the STEP framework (Space, Task, Equipment, People) helps. Some general rules and examples of best practice have emerged over the three years. In no particular order.
finally, and very importantly
I have written elsewhere on the importance of helping young players to deal with "failure", and how every experience can become a coachable moment. I believe the same is true for coaches.
Every one of the examples above has been derived from an activity or other incident in a live session that did not go to plan.
That's a lot of mistakes, I know. In my defence, I have led more than 300 Little Legends or Mini Masters sessions, so that's a lot of hours, lots of games, and more than 100 children.
And still learning.
It has been the same for me in 25 years of coaching pre-school gymnastics. I believe that all coaches should start at this level as it gives them such an insight into how the skills are broken down to a level that even small children can understand what it is they are doing. If it doesn't work try a different take on it and make it creative and fun. The pre-schoolers teach you so much about coaching it is well worth doing. Whether they stay with Gymnastics of Cricket is not the goal but to make them appreciate the benefits of physical activity and playing the game. They will move onto whatever sport suits them and from such basic grounding at all levels they will have enjoyment participating, performing or competing (and losing).
Excellent advice, Having coached in primary schools and in club environment I have found that coaching 3 to 5 years old amazing, they have great imaginations and are easy to please. I feel as a coach you have to grab there attention from the very beginning if this isn't achieved you may loose them. I will always refer to Multi skills educator Mr Gordon Fern who gave me the will to continue with coaching and showed me how easy coaching was if you made it fun, specific to the sport your coaching. Last week I pinched my next door neighbours boys 4 and 5 year to walk my dog with me, She advised the boy that they needed to behave whilst with me. I made the brothers hold hands all the way down to the local field to which they did, I had a ball throwing stick which the boys loved and want to have ago, I gave the boys some tips on how to use the throwing stick at first it didn't go so well the boys started to argue over who was going to take the next turn in throwing the dogs ball, I advised the boys that they could both take turns in throwing the ball by having 2 goes each and see if they could get the ball to go further each time they threw the ball, the boys thought this game was hilarious as the dog would jump for the ball run back and drop ready for another throw. That afternoon the boys walked about 1 mile had fun and managed to throw the ball quite a way once they had the hang of the throwing stick. A really good and entertaining dog walk. On our way back the boys said "that wasn't a long dog walk!" I advised the boys that they had been out about 1 hr and had walked 1 mile, there little faces was a picture. I feel at this age fun and a little guidance is what is required.
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