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Making the best of life on the sidelines

Posted in ECB Coaches Association

Richard Johnson

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This is my first season in a non-playing role. Over the last 30 years I’ve played for everyone from Sunbury Juniors and Middlesex U11 to the Middlesex first team, Somerset, England and Berkshire.

After seven operations on a more than troublesome knee I was advised to give up bowling for a living, so now I am full-time in coaching. My verdict: physically it is a lot easier but mentally it is just as tough.

Like my playing career, I’m keen to experience all levels, so this year I’ve been coaching tiny tots in Taunton, the Berkshire Minor Counties side, and some of the country's best emerging fast bowlers at Loughborough’s magnificent National Cricket Performance Centre.

I completed my Level 3 early this summer, and I am about to embark on the two-year Level 4 programme.

{error}Last summer I was player/coach at Berkshire (we won the Minor Counties Championship), and I think that year really helped me make the transition from full-time county pro to a life on the boundary edge. Of course there are days when the ball is nipping and there’s a bit of cloud cover and I think it would be nice to play again, but then I flex my right knee and soon realise that would be a bad idea.

When I finished playing the game full-time I thought I was pretty well equipped to go into coaching, having played under some top coaches. I have tried to pick up something from all of them to develop my own style.

Obviously when you are playing the game every day you should become pretty competent tactically and develop a good understanding of the game. I worked with some really excellent coaches in my time as a player – Duncan Fletcher was the highest profile, but Kevin Shine at Somerset, who is now a good mate, and a host of other guys who really knew their stuff.

Technically they helped me, so now I would back myself in that department.

Communication is the area I’m on my steepest learning curve. It is all very well having the info in my head, but it is no use to the player I’m working with there. Trying to get my ideas across to an individual player or a team in a concise manner and in such a way they completely understand and remember, is a trick it take years to master.

The best coaches can ask the killer question at the perfect time, or make a memorable pithy statement with the right tone and body language to back up that verbal message. Verbalising my thoughts at the right time is something I’m interested in developing.

Having been on and now tutored Level 3 courses it is interesting to see what a mix of people are into cricket coaching. Some of the teachers are brilliant communicators and you can see all the pros in the room impressed by that.

On the other hand the guys who have been playing the game every day for ten years have great analytical skills (technical and tactical), and all the teachers sit there admiring that.

The course works because it brings coaches together who have contrasting backgrounds and experiences – they learn from each other.

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