TASmanian Sport & Coaching Collective
TASmanian Sport & Coaching Collective

Technique v Nature

Image from cricket.com.au

Who remembers the “Milo Man”?
You know? That person who would come to your school when you were in primary school and teach you how to play cricket in your phys ed lesson?
They would usually come armed with a bag full of bats, balls, stumps and batting tees and show you the correct way to play a cover drive, bowl with a straight arm and play a game of non-stop or diamond cricket at the end of the lesson.
Seriously, you must remember.
I sure do, apart from playing kick to kick with Peter Knights in grade one these lessons were the highlight of primary school for me. And there was free Milo!!!!
A bloke named Rob Stewart was the “Milo Man” on the NW Coast and he’d turn up and shows us the “correct” way to play cricket.
Thinking back on those lessons I can’t help but wonder if he was doing the right thing or the wrong thing which how he coached us. I certainly don’t want to discount the work Stewy did as his lessons shaped the way a generation of kids on the Coast approached the game and he brought a lot of enjoyment in cricket to kids from all schools, many of whom I played with and against in later years and still play some 25 years on.
I clearly remember the “number nine technique” for forward defence, straight, off and cover driving. Your grip was a certain way, your feet moved a certain way to access the ball, you head was in a certain position and your bat and arms made a number nine shape as you played the ball. It was a thing of beauty that I have taught since to Milo cricketers coming through.
The idea of technique is so important but does it stimy the natural skill and talent of an athlete/player?
It’s as hard as a cat’s head to answer this question but if you look at cricket you can see a litany of people with less than perfect techniques operating on pure talent, but which is better.
For example, to my mind, and feel free to play with this, the three greatest batters of all time are Bradman, Tendulkar and Tasmania’s own RT Ponting.
Tendulkar and Ponting had amazing techniques, they could access the ball easily and had footwork the envy of Muhammad Ali himself. Their hand to eye coordination was unrivaled, maybe only by, perhaps, Lara and scored in excess of 27,000 test runs between them.
Then there is Bradman.
A fella who had an unusual grip on the bat, had brilliant footwork but had a natural technique that would probably not have made it through the current coaching system without someone trying to intervene. He averaged, well, you know.
Look more modern.
Alex Doolan, technique to die for, four test matches compared to South Hobart Sandy Bay teammate George Bailey with a very interesting technique – five test Ashes matches and a national short form captain.
In hockey, Blake Govers is a drag flicking master with an amazing technique compared to Chris Ciriello who had a good technique and brute strength to find the net.
Tom Hawkins, text-book goal kicking style versus Buddy Franklin with his arc.
You see what I’m getting at?
As coaches we need to identify what works and what doesn’t. I think we need to coach natural skill first and use technique to hone elements based on improvements needed.
We could have the next Bradman, Ciriello, Franklin out there and with too much intervention take them from a great at international, domestic or club level to someone confused and running around in the reserves, or worse, not playing at all.
Sport is a chance to be free and express yourself, my encouragement to you is to not squash that freedom of expression, but work with it to foster a relationship in your athlete/player with the sport they choose to keep them engaged and in the game.

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