Little things can make a really big difference; from having the correct equipment in the right sizes for your kid - to encouraging them to practice early - these five tips will help you to encourage your child into the sport and ensure they feel supported and successful.
1. Make sure they have appropriate gear
The quick single: If they’ve got a bat that’s way to heavy for them, they won’t be able to bat properly or if they have pads that are too big and uncomfortable then it makes it hard to run.
While understandable, the thinking that getting children a bat and set of pads they can grow into is destructive.
Having a heavy bat without the strength to wield it often means children get swung by the bat, rather than swinging it themselves. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen a young batsman who can’t hit the ball powerfully because he can’t swing his bat. It takes all of his might to just get the bat moving!
The same goes for their protective equipment. Pads that are too big restrict movement and are difficult to run in. This promotes techniques with little footwork and also results in runouts.
2. Make sure they start practicing before season starts
The quick single: Technical changes take time to become instinctual, give your child enough time to embed them into their DNA before they need to perform them under the pressure of competition.
There is a saying that goes: “Olympians don’t hibernate for four years between Olympics.” The message here is simple. Successful athletes are the ones who have put in the hard yards before competition starts.
The offseason presents the same opportunity for cricketers. Four to six weeks before the season starts is a good amount of time for children to dust off the cobwebs and make sure they are ready to hit the ground running in their first match. This is important because performing well leads to confidence and that builds momentum for a cricketer. Sometimes it takes an individual half a season to overcome a form slump that started just because they weren’t prepared for the first match.
3. Start cricket coaching early enough so they can make changes before the season
The quick single: If you plan on getting coaching for your child, start six to eight weeks before the season starts. That way when the season starts the technical changes are second nature.
Olympians also use the four years between Olympics to become better athletes. Swimmers and runners spend time refining their techniques to try and pry time off of their personal best.
Smart cricketers use their offseason to do the same thing. This period is the perfect time to make any technical changes. Leaving it too late means that the child is trying a new skill during competition which will likely lead to failure and declining confidence.
Starting early means that children have a number of weeks to make the changes and get used to them before the new skills or techniques are put under the pressure of competition. 6-8 weeks out is a good amount of time to practice and embed changes into a cricketer’s DNA.
4. Get into a ‘winners’ Friday night routine
The quick single: Make sure your young cricketer is getting enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has a similar impact on decision making as alcohol consumption.
Some people spend thousands on their gear but ignore the most important bit of equipment they have got. It doesn’t matter how good an Olympic archer’s bow is if his body and mind aren’t in the best shape possible. The same is true of young cricketers.
Getting enough rest will have a noticeable impact on their decision making and concentration - the skills which are the beating heart of performance.
Get into a Friday night routine where they’re getting enough sleep the night before. According to the Sleep Foundation, school-aged children (6-13) should get between 9 - 11 hours of sleep and teenagers (14-17) should get between 8 - 10. Getting enough sleep is important as studies have shown that sleep deprivation has a similar impact on decision making as alcohol consumption.
5. Make sure they’re playing cricket for the right reason
The quick single: Make sure they are playing because they want to.
This is a big one. There are lots of very enjoyable way to spend Saturdays that don’t involve standing in 35 degree heat. Cricket is a big commitment. The average game goes from 6-8 hours, sometimes over a period of two or more days. Therefore it is really important that children want to be there. It is important to have a discussion with your child before the season starts about whether they want to be playing cricket. In some instances, children play only to keep their parents happy.
Give them the freedom to choose if they play or not and let them know that you will support whatever they choose. If they choose to play you can rest assured that you’ve done everything a supportive parent should.