Visit to Canada of ICC High Performance Coach Bob Woolmer in order to lead a 30 hour training course

Prior to the recent visit to Canada, Bob Woolmer wrote the following:-

"Hopefully I will work with a number of people who would like to asssist Canada in going forward. There are a lot of people who cannot realise that the CCA (Canadian Cricket Association) has changed its administartive body and that it will take time to put together a structure and all that people require. Criticism is easy, but positive ideas as to how to go forward would seem to be thin on the ground. I trust that the ICC High Performance coaching course will address some of this. It is designed to bring (together) the modern methods (and combine them) with the old basics. Indeed the sign of a good coach is that he is always willing to learn. This is part of the message that I will put across.".

One of the participants in the training course, held last weekend in Toronto, was Colin Mohammed. Colin has played cricket in the junior and senior leagues in Toronto, (T&DCA) and Hamilton (H&DCA). His original cricket coaching was intsructed by Prof. David Cooper of the University of Toronto, and he took up coaching cricket in 2002. He is a graduate of York University and has over 10 years experience in martial arts, in which he is still training regularly. Currently he is studying part time at Sheridan College, Ontario, as well as working consistently towards full NCCP certification."

Colin agreed to be interviewed about his impressions of the Woolmer 30 hour training seminar held in Toronto recently. The following is an edited transcript of part of that interview. (Jon Harris)

Colin, I saw Bob Woolmer write something in your notebook at the conclusion of the coaching seminar. Would you mind telling me what he wrote?

I felt quite honoured to be learning from Mr Woolmer and he did share with us some remarkable experiences he had against the Aussies and the West Indians, as well as some anecdotes from his schoolboy days. I asked him to date and sign my coaching theory notebook to close it off. He understood what I asked him and why, and he quite happily signed it.

While I was watching a session at the Quasra Sports training facility, I saw that the group of participants were divided into smaller units for some exercises. Tell me what insight this gave you about Bob Woolmer's approach to coaching.

He broke us into smaller groups of 3 after showing us a particular skill, say for example, how to teach a batting stance. After his demonstration we broke off into our assigned groups of 3 to practice the techique by showing each other how to do the skill. I found it to be very effective as a teaching tool since you are involving the class at a practical and intimate level. Bob's insights into the coaching process then became very apparent, he broke the skill down into several parts, explained each component then had us, in our groups do the very same thing with our colleagues. By simplyfying the skill to that level, it becomes easier for the athlete to learn as well as zone into each as a precision movement. His term for it was "progressive teaching." I was not new to that technique as it is part of the 3M NCCP coaching syllabus. Later on in the seminar, we were evaluated by coaching junior club cricketers on that technique and at that point I saw the clarity in the method.

The fact that you were participating in a cricket coaching seminar would indicate to me that there is a coaching programmme in Canada. Tell me something about the organisation of that programme.

As far as I can tell, the structure is non existent. I've been trying quite hard to find out who actually issues the certificates and the requirements for certification, as well as how to take the courses. I managed to find a couple of answers from Mr Jack Kyle and Ron Dipchand. However, as far as I understand there  is no formal organization for Cricket Coaches in Canada. I do hope that they (the CCA) are trying to fix this problem and Bob Woolmer's seminar is a positive step. Thus far, I've been taking the NCCP courses however, these do not cater to cricket's nuances. For cricket to progress, there has to be a unified, professional national coaching structure.

I heard the word 'reactive'. What was that a reference to?

I can't recall what this was in reference to. However, as I understand the term, we cannot be reactive coaches or reactive anything. Reactive gives the aura of past tense, "it's too late" and has some vestige of negativity. As I see cricket coaching or any other coaching, we should try to be as positive as possible. I believe the buzzword nowadays is "proactive"

Did you learn anything from coach Woolmer about the non-physical aspects of coaching? I am thinking of such apects as motivation, diet, hydration and injury prevention.

Definitely. Motivation is a key component here, we did an exercise where we videotaped a participant doing a skill and we were then required to use Digitial Video technology to improve that skill. It became quickly obvious that a one on one session can easily degenerate into the coach using negative language by simply pointing out what the individual did wrong. As I observed, negative language is the best way to demotivate an athlete. If the context is working with colts, we have to be very aware of how we speak to the player, using a "this is what you did right" approach is far more effective. Again, this was covered in the NCCP syllabus.  Diet and hydration is critical to any sport, proper hydration is essential to preventing cramps, dizziness and headaches. We spoke at length about the growing obesity rates globally, the declining upper body strength of children all stemming from eating junk food, carbonated drinks and the lack of proper phys ed programmes in the schools. Far too often I see the eagerness of cricketers from Premier to 3rd Division to run to the nearest fast food joint.  You simply cannot sustain a competitive athlete on beer, KFC and pop.

Injury prevention comes down to proper physical fitness pre-season. As I was taught in martial arts "sweat hard in training, bleed less in battle" Bob gave us a sample 12 month workout schedule based on cardiovascular fitness and endurance building. His words were "these days you have to be triathlete fit to be a cricketer..." If we are to be competitive at all levels of cricket we need to "sweat hard..." and take pre season training very seriously.

Further exchanges with Colin will be published about his 30 hour experience with ICC's High Performance Coach Bob Woolmer.  This weekend Colin is engaged in another 30 hour programme of study for an upgrade of the National Coaching Certifiation Programme, which is not sport specific.

The above was sent to Bob Woolmer for his comments. will attempt to elicit insights from other participants in the coaching seminar (Jon Harris)