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Understanding your own game

When planning for competition, the focus should be on strengths in order to achieve team success. Paddy Upton explains in this video.
PADDY UPTON: So far this week, we’ve covered planning for opponents, for the different conditions under which the game might be played, and for key situations that might arise within the game. Next is to focus on our own game, to plan according to our team’s strengths and weaknesses. Currently, how much of your planning is based on opponent’s strengths and weaknesses versus your own strengths and weaknesses? What happens if an opponent’s weakness is also your weakness, or conversely if an opponent’s strength is also your strength? What do you focus your efforts on then? The highest chance of playing well, of winning, and of enjoying the game is if as many plays in your team as possible play to their strengths.
That they do the things that they are best at for most of the game. Research shows that best results are produced when people play to their strengths– when they do the things they’re best at as often as possible. Until March 2008, Indian and international opening batsman Virender Sehwag had one major flaw in his batting– he compulsively attacked the short pitched ball aimed at his head, called the bouncing cricket. Opponents exploited this by regularly bowling that delivery with a field placing that was aimed at getting him out, which happened more often than ideal for Sehwag. In March that same year, Gary Kirsten suggested that instead of working at improving this weakness in his game, why not drop the shot altogether?
Why not just duck under the bouncer? Sehwag said to Gary, but then they’ll keep bowling it at me. To which Gary answered, yes, but by leaving it alone, firstly it won’t get you out. And secondly, only two bounces are allowed to be bowled per over, leaving four balls for you to attack as you please. To his credit, Sehwag took on this advice, worked on ducking under the bouncer, and a week later scored 319 runs in one innings in a test match against South Africa. The runs continued to flow, and he went on to become the International Test Cricketer of the Year, during which time he ducked under every bouncer bowled at him.
He did this by cutting out a weakness, and basing his game plans on his strength, which was attacking the fuller pitched deliveries. In contrast, teams often have at least one bowler who opponents see as a weak link. It regularly happens that opposition batsmen decide to really attack this weak bowler. And the so-called weak bowler, ends up getting his batsmen out. It happens the batsman’s over-focus on the opponent’s weakness, which then pulls them out of their preferred game plan. Importantly, the concept of playing to strengths I’ve been discussing here relates to planning for competition.
When planning for training an athlete’s development, the focus would be on the skills that could either be improved upon, or added to the athlete’s game that would take their game to the next level. A player centred approach to this would have the coach engaging the player in the discussion about what part of their game the athlete wishes to improve, and how they would like to go about improving. Depending on the level at which you’re coaching or playing, it’s important to find the appropriate balance between honing strengths in practise, working to improve non-strengths, and developing new skills.
As a rule of thumb, at the lower and younger levels of participation development of all around skills should get the majority of the focus, while at the higher or more competitive levels athletes will tend to get more benefit from practicing and playing to their strengths. In summary, and again it’s ideal if players are involved in planning for games, as well as in planning for their own development, when planning for competition the focus should be more on playing to your strengths than on exploiting opponent’s weaknesses. If an opponent’s strength and your strength are the same, I’d suggest sticking to your strength, and may the best team win.

When planning for competition the focus should be on strengths in order to achieve team success.

We’ve explored the importance of understanding your opponents and the conditions, now we need strategies for determining a plan to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving the outcomes.

Playing to the team’s strengths is more important than playing to the opposition’s weaknesses, and so it’s important to construct your game around your strengths, taking into consideration your opponents and conditions.

Your task

In the previous steps, you reviewed planning in relation to gathering information on opponents and understanding the conditions in which your players perform.

When a player-centred coach is planning for competition, the focus should be on playing to your own strengths rather than exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses.

In the comments, explain why you either agree or disagree with this advice.

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Player-centred Coaching

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