NCU PRO team
During the winter prior to the 2016 cricket season the first intake of talented cricketers (both male and female) participated in the Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy. In a series of articles the NCU Public Relations Team detail why the Academy was initiated and what is does for young cricketers.
In this first article Andrew White explains the background to the Academy.
What prompted you in conjunction with the NCU to set up the Andrew White Cricket Academy?
Andrew White (AW): "Retiring from the international stage was difficult as I had been involved with the Ireland set up for a long time and was part of a tight knit group that had been very successful. So many people had been instrumental when I was younger in helping me fulfil my ambitions and after conversations with the NCU there was a mutual feeling that now was the time for me to play a part in helping young players chase their dreams. The NCU has put excellent structures in place over the last couple of years and they felt it was time to introduce an Academy that allowed those pushing for representative honours to be challenged in a more intense environment."
What type of cricketers do you have at the Academy?
AW: "The Academy is made up of boys and girls, many of whom have had a taste of underage cricket at interprovincial level but also some who are close to gaining higher honours. In the first year we had 16 players, both male and female and ranging from 13 - 17 years of age."
What are the goals of the Academy?
"1. To select players in the 13 to 18 year age range, who have been identified as having the ability to play at regional and national level and begin to challenge them in a more intense environment.
2. To help prepare the selected players so that they have a greater chance of success at regional and national level through innovative coaching strategies.
3. To successfully develop an athlete centred programme that will lay the foundations to enable our cricketers; to develop the necessary core skills to be competitive; to create a culture of excellence and to excel in years to come at regional and national level."
What cricket specific areas have you focused on during the Academy?
AW: "I have tried to offer some technical and tactical advice to the players during the first year with quite an emphasis placed, from a batting perspective, on playing spin. It is something that at youth level we have struggled to do well historically and it is an area that I learnt a lot about from Adi Birrell and Phil Simmons. I was thankful to be able to call on some of our own excellent coaches to assist me not only from a batting angle but also within the bowling and fielding facets. I am still learning and to share ideas and tap into the expertise of the coaches we have has been great."
Have you used expertise outside of cricket?
AW: "A major success this year was the introduction of the IFA Goalkeeping coach to help our players develop footwork and reaction drills, hand to eye co-ordination skills and examining diving techniques to see if there was anything we could learn in the transfer of skills. It proved to be great fun and the players learnt a lot from these sessions.2
When does the Academy meet?
AW: "The Academy met at various planned junctures during the year. Balancing winter sports and examination commitments requires pre planning, and understanding each individuals weekly routines is going to be key moving forward."
Did many players perform well in the underage interprovincial games this season?
AW: "Almost every player in the Academy played representative cricket this summer and the success of our underage teams was a pleasure to see. There is a vast amount of work that goes on behind the scenes by our youth committee and by a band of excellent coaches. Hopefully for those in the Academy they have been challenged in many aspects of their game and it in some small way proved valuable to them during the representative matches."
Do you try and develop the individual as well as their cricketing ability?
AW: "By focusing on the mental skills needed to be successful in any sporting competition, it gave the players an opportunity to explore some key areas that as players we have all had to deal with during our playing days. We were fortunate to have the services of Jo Hopkins from Performance Matters to help the players in the following areas:
- Improving focus and dealing with distractions. Many players have the ability to concentrate, but often their focus is displaced by issues outside of their control. Much of Jo's instruction helps the players to stay focused on the present moment and let go of results.
- Growing confidence in players who have doubts. Doubt is the opposite of confidence. If you carry doubts prior to or during your performance, this indicates low self-confidence or at least you are sabotaging what confidence you had previously.
- Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors. Players with very high and strict expectations, have trouble dealing with minor errors that are a natural part of sports. It's important to address these expectations, help players stay composed when under pressure, while committing errors or simply frustrated."
Do you see the Academy producing future Ireland players in the years to come?
AW: "In time, the hope is that players in the Academy go on to have successful careers whether that is at club, interprovincial or international level. It would be great to see someone who has progressed through the Academy play Test Cricket for Ireland in the future. However the Academy is only a piece of the jigsaw and I am confident that the youth structures, not only in the NCU, but in Ireland will bear fruit."
What are the plans going forward into this winter for the Academy?
AW: More of the same in many ways this winter, although I do have some fresh ideas that I would like to challenge the players with. Leadership among our young players is an area that I have identified to investigate further, and hopefully in the cricket specific elements we can progress at a faster rate working in smaller groups."
When does the second year of the Academy start?
AW: "The second year will begin before Christmas. The players need a break and the opportunity to enjoy their winter sports before resetting their goals for 2017. Currently there is work ongoing to prepare the winter programme across all age groups and it is great to have the opportunity to build on a successful 2016."
The following players took part in the first Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy: