An elite programme begins

The programme for the under 19 England team has begun in earnest.  We started on Tuesday in Derby at the county cricket ground. The coaching team and players have set themselves the task of beating Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka at the beginning of next year.  This is part of an overall plan to win the 2012 World Cup which takes place in Australia.

The programme has all of the essentials required to maximise a team’s performance and give it the best chance of being successful.  We have asked everyone to volunteer for the programme (all of he players want to be here). We have set base line standards for the players which they have met (we have the most talented players available).  We have decided on their goals for the next six months and ensured that there is a supportive system around them so that they maintain focus throughout the next six months (they have a vision and start point). We have consequences for not achieving the goals set (they are removed from the programme). They understand what it is to be in the pressure zone.

On the very first day we set out to maximise our time together and had the players identify what a world class player does in a training environment. They came up with the following statements.

  • Ruthless and deliberate practice.
  • Focus on personal performance and trust other to do the same.
  • Be organised with the correct equipment.
  • Give constructive feedback to each other.
  • Have a confident and positive approach.
  • Put themselves under pressure and manage it well.
  • Be resilient and bounce back from poor sessions and drive through pain.
  • Do the basics exceptionally well.
  • Use time efficiently and effectively.
  • Make the training real have good routines.
  • Always hydrated/fuelled and drink regularly.

We score ourselves against these criteria every evening out of a maximum of 10 for each question. We are currently in the 80’s for the total score each day.

The practices we undertake during the programme are designed so that the players are able to develop and learn appropriate skills in line with their personnel development plans (all plans are agreed with everyone that supports the player. This ranges from their county coach to their mums, their plans cover all aspects of being an elite cricketer). They are then put in to pressure sessions to see if they can apply those skills under pressure, followed by a testing session in a competitive environment to see if the skill really holds up under real pressure.  Those that finish in the bottom section of any test have to then undertake a performance consequence as a result.

We have also assessed their team resilience profile. This looks at four areas, such as the team’s inner drive, its fight, its ability to handle critical moments and its resilience. The team scores highly in two areas and low in the other two.

We have also started the process of getting the team to relax during down time and given then lessons in mindfulness and mediation.

We have consequences for those that fail the tests so that players learn to deal with adversity and find appropriate coping mechanisms (it is tough being an international athlete and they have to learn to deal with many different elements of adversity including the media, we actually put the players through an agressive media inteview to take them out of their comfort zone as part of one of their conseqences).  Their resilience in these situations is enhanced by having routines to underpin their thoughts.  A simple guide line we give them is to ensure the following:

  • That they understand their purpose (from the event/day/week/month/year)
  • What are the clear actions that they need to undertake to deliver the purpose (unambiguous and quantifiable)
  • Visualisation of the result (what does it look like, what does it sound like, what does it feel like).
  • What do they need to support them (positive anchors/power words/breathing technique/getting in to the correct zone).

The consequences involve a physical activity if they under perform in a test or an attitude consequence if a person is late or does something that is not appropriate. For example I have had to serve dinner to the entire team because I left something behind when I had left a room. The physical consequences are very tough as this also builds mental toughness.   I generally put the under 19 team through the same type of consequences I gave to hardened soldiers when I ran the United Kingdom Special Forces Selection course.

Today we have conducted an analysis of the week and the players will take away an updated individual action plan to iron out their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. We will test whether they have achieved their targets at the beginning of the next camp.

My physical training this week has been excellent because I have joined in with the under 19s in most of their sessions. It is great to have to train with intensity. It is something I love and to get paid for doing it is always nice.

My daughter scored a goal in a very important hockey match today (local derby) and they won on a ground they have not won on for a number of years.  Very disappointed I missed it.

I am away to Dubai at the end of the month and then on to other areas in the Middle East.  This will be an interesting visit as I am tying down a number of business opportunities which have quite a bit of potential.

Have a wonderful week.

6 thoughts on “An elite programme begins

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