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MILO T20 Blast Coaching

Tips on how to teach children Cricket through MILO T20 Blast

Undoubtedly the new kid on the coaching block is T20 Blast. The introduction of the format and associated “Skill Zone” into junior cricket structures has proved challenging to some of cricket traditionalists, whilst the concept of 90 minutes of activity with little or no downtime for participants has been popular with kids and parents alike – certainly across Tasmania.

In this article we collate some observations and experiences from some of Tasmania’s T20 Blast centres with a view to refining the offerings of the “skill zone” to ensure the experience from week 1 to week 8 is well structured, ridiculously fun and delivered with a Game Sense philosophy encouraging learning through play and a series of challenging and open tasks that require the learner to discover solutions and refine their processes.

The beauty of the skill zone with a transient population is that it actually forces the coach to adopt a Game Sense approach – as there is little or no time for instruction. Instead the structure and challenges of the activity drive the learning, creating a space for each participant to discover solutions and overcome the challenges in front of them at their own pace.

Captain Hurricane getting involved in ………..in the “Skill Zone”

With this challenge in mind the Tasmanian delivery team quickly discovered a couple of games that came to the fore as early engagers that kids quickly picked up and could be delivered regardless of the comings and goings of batting pairs.

One of these was “Yes, no, wait”. A simple calling game with children replicating match scenarios and introduced to the topic of calling and communication, whilst also developing their running fundamentals such as sliding the bat and turning with the ball in sight. The game is quick and easy and players can move in and out of it, without disrupting the rest of the group.

A “Skill Zone” in full flight – yes, no wait…..

As the weeks progressed – players become more accustomed to the transient experience of the skill zone and could quickly adapt to the activity at hand as they arrived:

Target Bowling:

A feature of this activity was a variety of targets, each presenting a different challenge to the participant. One was the usual and simplest set of all 3 stumps where the focus is on “line”, another was 2 bases with one stump connecting them and the target was to bowl under the stump “length” and the last was a single stump presenting a more difficult challenge to the developing bowler. This combination of three targets was turned into a relay where teams had to try and complete each task before tagging a team mate who would then do the same.

Gap hitting batting:

Developing batters at this level is challenging and finding tasks that are difficult but achievable requires a real balance and skill from the deliverer. One successful batting activity was developed with players aiming to hit the gaps between cones placed around the space. This was aligned with AFL style scoring with 6 points for the central gap, and one point for either side. Cones were placed to the left, centre and right and the participant’s goal was to try and hit the ball through each target, moving the targets further away after successfully hitting the ball through each target but had a maximum of 9 attempts before changing with their partner.

Free play with traditional equipment:

Some centres were based at club training facilities with a variety of “traditional” training equipment available to the kids. Equipment such as “catchet boards” and “crazy catch” were very popular and again provided unstructured learning opportunities for players to challenge themselves and their partners and explore ways to use the equipment.

Run the Gauntlet:

The Tasmanian team have for some years been experimenting with a variety of targets to inspire and challenge players when developing throwing skills. One of the keys we’ve discovered is that the motivation to throw is directly proportional to the humour associated with the target. The “Run the Gauntlet” activity is just such a game with a motley collection of individuals, including the kids themselves, encouraged to run between two rows of cones spaced 10 – 15 metres apart. Kids lined up on either side then take aim and great delight in pinning mum, dad, the coach, their partner or Captain Hurricane as they make their way through the “gauntlet”. On warm evenings this game was further enhanced by arming the runners with water pistols and giving them at least some opportunity to fight back.

One on one cricket:

A final space and comment must be saved for 1 on 1 cricket, the fundamental cornerstone of backyard cricket for generations. What is 1 on 1 cricket? Simple, 1 batter and 1 bowler with 1 set of stumps and the freedom to create and shape the contest of their choice. Often a simple space left amongst the skill zone for pairs of cricketers to engage in a 1 on 1 contest was all that was required to keep pairs occupied and competing for their entire time in the “skill zone”.  With no instruction or rules, players developed their own format and shared the batting and bowling as they saw fit.

A typical skill zone with players arriving and departing

The T20 Blast Program has grown by 250% in the season just finished and as the season progressed we continued to develop and refine our delivery processes and adapt activities to suit the developing player. Over the next couple of months we will review our operations and look to further enhance our delivery for seasons to come.