Widely heralded as necessary to ensure parents (in particular) and enthusiastic volunteers (especially) understand a little about the game, the new Level 1 coaching award falls somewhat wide of the mark.
Speaking to assessors and attendees, it's firstly very difficult to fail (to test this theory my cat went on it, sailed through and now has a position as a regional coach). However more importantly, it doesn't prepare anyone to actually deliver any coaching because technical aspects of what to coach are not covered. Simply put you may as well interchange the word coach for... organiser.
Yet once armed with this new award, hundreds and hundreds of 'qualified' coaches are out there 'teaching' cricket with not much knowledge of what they are doing. It's hard to see what the difference is? Except of course we now have more qualified coaches than ever and it does require you to have CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks and get a first aid certificate. On the down side, many volunteers and parents have been put off by having to take this award in the first place just so they can do some coaching at their club. Like me, who came through a club littered with volunteer coaches, helpers and parents on coaching night, now days others find that many clubs really struggle with the numbers wanting to play the game compared to the coaches 'qualified' to coach.
One local club I know has just 3 ECB coaches for more than 150 youth players. The result is those players are not developing as they should and the resulting standard of cricket is low.
I personally would like to see the coaching awards made more difficult to pass, have far less paperwork, understand more about how to deliver skill, be less reliant on just getting kids running about to fill their time and perhaps even specialise in disciplines.
It's always been baffling how, just because a coach is a certain level, they can teach a certain discipline. Wouldn't it have been far better to have batting, fast bowling, spin bowling, wicket-keeping and fielding coaching awards for coaches Levels 1 to 4? In that way, a coach could be a Level 2 batting coach and Level 3 spin bowling coach for example. Parents seeking a coach could therefore know that coach knows what he/she is doing. I know Level 4 coaches who know absolutely nothing about fast bowling coaching. It's a fact they admit to. But if you were coached by a Level 4 coach you'd assume you are getting the very best you can, wouldn't you. It's just not so.
So is the problem with the labeling of coaches or is the problem with the teaching of the skills they need to pass on?
It's both. The levels of coach are far too generic, which means the technical skills they have learned are far too basic for that level they have been given. Strip out the disciplines and make them harder, more intense, better informed and full of great content that a coach can take out and start using right away.
It's called relevancy. Let's make our coaches more relevant for their environment. It will not only make them better equipped to deliver the correct skills but also ensure parents, administrators and more importantly, players know who is best to work with.
In this country we seem to be forever altering and tweaking, changing and messing, fiddling and rejigging. Things are renamed, rehashed, renewed even re-invented. But it isn't rocket-science. The answer is to integrate best practice and make the learning progressive and cohesive. Cut out the unnecessary paper work. Teach coaches to coach skill, how to, why they should and when they should. Explain fault correcting, intervention and the drills to make the changes.
In other words, have coaches teach the right things from the start, because even a little knowledge is great. Better to have some idea of what you should do than have none.