Sunday, 2 November 2014

Trying to Score

I never thought I'd be able to say I had scored twice in two days.
But I have. And I can.
I'd always avoided volunteering to score. I didn't know how, and it looked far too much like hard work. And all those numbers, and squiggles and things!
But, as luck would have it, this weekend my luck ran out. I had to score! There was no-one else.
There was a manual score book with my name on it for the next 45 overs. All I could do was introduce myself to the opposition  with their fancy ipad scoring, and sit down to learn as I go.

Mr ipad gave me one simple instruction. You have to record in three different places. As long as you do that consistently, you'll be sweet. He checked my figures at the end of each over and made sure we had the same data, and we were away laughing.
I ticked and crossed, added and subtracted, drew flowers in the margin. The 45 overs whizzed by. I chatted to the other scorer, learned a bit about his life and clapped for his son when he scored runs. The whole process of scoring was somewhat therapeutic and peaceful. Surprisingly so.
I was ready to hand over to someone else when the innings was up though. 45 overs is enough for anyone!

By some strange quirk of fate, I found myself Last Man Standing at the next match I attended. It's never a good sign when a coach is marching in your direction waving a scorebook. A quick look over my shoulder and I realised I was going to be in the hot seat again. Everyone else had done a runner. Another 40 overs were coming my way.

This was an away match and a regional rep game. No pressure then. Just a bunch of rep selectors wanting to keep checking scores, bowling figures, averages etc. Piece of cake for an expert like me!
It's funny how when you have no other option, you can just get on with it. This time though, there was the complication of having to train another newbie scorer. Without a backup, there would be no opportunity to have lunch or take a bathroom break. So I showed the new guy the three places he had to record the figures and where to keep the overs tally, and keep the bowlers figures. New guy did a couple of balls and I got up ready to make my escape.
 But panic set in and he got all flustered about what went where and when and how and who! He actually said to me 'I can't do it. I've stuffed it up. You'd better take over.' My full bladder and empty stomach groaned in unison, but I sat back down and took over again.

Another couple of overs looking over my shoulder and new guy was ready to give it another go.
I vaulted out of that chair so fast, before anyone changed their mind.

I have to say I've come to realise that I actually really enjoyed scoring. I can't believe I didn't try it sooner. There's a kind of camaraderie among scorers, it's a special secret society based on mutual understanding and trust. The scorers I have met so far have been very funny, warm and generous hearted. One of them even said he wanted to read my blog. The fool.

If you get asked to score at a match, say yes. Give it a go. Help the coach out.
You might even like it. You may even make a few new friends.
You may even get to draw stars and smiley faces in the column when your batsman retires.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Whose game is it really?

Number two son has loved his cricket for a long time. He always played with positivity and a huge grin on his face.
 In Grade 4 he took huge delight in reverse sweeping the bowlers for six again and again because he knew the short boundary was favouring the right hand batsmen. As a left hander, he wanted a piece of that short boundary.
 He scored his first ton the week he turned 10 when he got 126 not out. He taught himself to bowl offspin and half way through last season switched from pace to offspin. And he did really well out of it.
 He was one of the best in his grade in the field, relishing in a short cover position, but also with a strong throwing arm from the deep. He played Premier Grade and Rep cricket, and joined his big brother's team in the annual Hawkes Bay tournament.

Then one day about three months ago he told me he didn't want to play cricket anymore. Not. At. All.
He had just had enough.
How on earth do you deal with that? First I had to find out what was causing the angst and the reluctance to play. I managed to get him to confess that he just wasn't having fun at cricket anymore. His coach wasn't picking him for rep fixtures  and the rep teams were constantly shuffled around. He also got feedback that he needed to work on his fielding and his batting wasn't good enough because he liked to play across the line. Lastly, some of his team mates thought it was funny to try bodyline bowling on him in the nets. Well, hardly surprising that he didn't enjoy it with all that going on.He was 11 years old!

Knowing how much good stuff he gets from cricket, playing with his mates, hanging out with them between innings, testing his skills and trying new things, I resolved to help him learn to enjoy the game again. So back in July, we started off in the nets with some one on one sessions with a professional coach. It started really slowly. The first week he broke down in tears when he was batting. Tears of frustration. He thought he couldn't go on. Then coach told him to get his frustrations out on the ball. Hit it anyway he wanted. No-one was judging his technique. He opened the throttle a little and punished the ball. He has always been a good timer of the ball, and that skill had not disappeared with his confidence.

There were a few more weeks in the nets, a couple more breakdowns, a lot more frustration. There were weeks when he was crying and saying he's 'not going to play anyway, so why are we doing these sessions?' I kept saying 'because I love to come and watch you play. Just have some fun with it'
Week by week both his confidence and his skill grew and he inched his way towards the new season.

Then came time for Premier Cricket Trials. The coaches were all asking him if he was going to trial and I could see his confidence eroding by the minute. He didn't want to let them down but he knew in his heart that he didn't want to play that Premier cricket and hear that he wasn't good enough in the field/with the bat/wherever. He didn't want to see the same kids open the batting every week, watch them get all the chances while he waited week after week for his turn, only to be told to go in and 'score quickly, because we need the runs now.' He didn't want to see the coach's son behind the stumps all the time when he believed he could do a better job. He was frustrated at being left to bowl later in the innings when there were fewer wickets to collect.

A lot of this stuff stems from parent coaches, setting up a platform for their son to succeed on. Some of it comes from the introduction of CricHQ and live scoring at Junior Cricket level. The kids all compete for MVP status and it has changed their (and their parents) attitude for the worse. But it also comes from a young man with a whole lot of self doubt that just needed some support.

Well, today I saw that spark. It's there again. It's been there all along, but he found himself today. He watched Amla's magnificent 119 runs this morning, and this afternoon he went into the nets and played a number of Amla shots. He copied Amla's footwork and his stroke play, and he had an absolute blast doing it. Watching from the end of the lane I could see his teeth as he was grinning from under his helmet when he connected with the ball again and again. He scored sixes and fours and sent lofty drives straight back over the bowler's head.

I think he'll be ok. He is not going to play Premier cricket, is not interested in it at all. He is going to play with his mates in A Grade and have a whole heap of fun, He will have the time of his life. And I will enjoy watching him doing it.

If you're a parent coach, or thinking about becoming one, just remember one thing. It is meant to be fun. For the kids. It's their game, not yours.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Dear BlackCaps

Dear Blackcaps

Yes, I'm doing it again. Dropping you a note because I feel that someone has to. It might as well be me hey?

You need to hear it directly from us, your team of 4 million, because the media have got it wrong again.
Whoever hit the town, or the bar, or their feet, or the booze- all of that should never have been given headlines at a time when we are all drunk with euphoria over that epic Test win at Eden Park. So I'm not going to refer to it again. Because this is about you guys, the ones who knocked the Number Two Test side off in our own backyard.

I sat in the stands of Day 5 of the English Test at Eden Park so I've suffered along with you when you should have had the win. I even took my lads out of school that day so they could witness a live lesson in courage and determination. It must have worked because they begged to be taken to Day 4 of the India Test at the Garden of Eden. I even told them that I had a feeling you would take 9 wickets and we would be the victors. It wasn't going to go to five days. The signs were already there. All that talk about India having two days to score their runs, didn't really ring true to me. Our bowling attack is ferocious at the best of times, more so when they can smell the victory.

You know, the crowds at the Garden of Eden may not have been massive, and nowhere near what you would see on tour overseas, but they knew how to make some noise.There was plenty of atmosphere and people were there to have a good time and enjoy the day- wherever it may take them. They certainly were very good hearted. I even saw quite a few New Zealand and Blackcaps flags waving in the breeze.

I need to spell out some of the awesomeness that I saw. The pace bowlers really were phenomenal. The movement they got off the ball, the commitment to keep coming back even when they were smacked into the hoardings by some very polished batsmen was truly special. I never saw them drop their heads once.
 And guys, keep up that 'controlled aggression'. Have a good close look at the batsman's nasal hair, no need to say anything. We all know what you're thinking.
 Welcome back to Wagner. Our favourite new New Zealander. We've missed that special spicy blend you bring to the table! Keep on serving it up.

And to the batsmen. I cried tears of joy when Brendon raised his bat to the crowd for his double century. Tears for all the months of frustration, disappointment and close finishes. Tears for the sheer relief of finally pulling it off, and against a very capable and determined opposition. And tears of sheer pride because you're one of us.
  My cricket going lads  adopted Corey as their new hero as he smacked balls around Nelson Park a few weeks ago, so we were all pretty stoked to see another exciting run at the Garden.  And Kane- bless him. He serves up the kind of batting porn that only he can. That straight bat is truly a thing of beauty, and imitated up and down the country every Saturday morning by kids in grass stained white pants. As for Rosco, where do I begin? You've been the poster on the kids wall for a long time. But this 2014 version? Unbelievably good!

My only teeny suggestion going forwards? Come back out and thank the crowd. There were loads of kids and die hards waiting to thank you personally for doing what you did. We all knew you were exhausted, and Kane and Tim popped out for a bit, but hey think it over for next time.

I told the kids that they didn’t understand it yet, but that victory would go down as one of the most significant in our cricketing history. It was the first time I had experienced such scenes and I’ve been watching you guys for a pretty long time.

At this point I don't care what the Indian supporters are saying or doing either. It's not about them. This is about us. You are our Blackcaps. And it's your time.