What Daryll Cullinan, Neil Mackenzie & Paddy Upton taught me about pre-school cricket coaching

With Daryll – Precision and attention to detail. 

While working at the Daryll Cullinan center for 3.5 years I grew tremendously in my knowledge of coaching, technical base, philosophical approach at getting the best out of athletes and then putting all of that together to produce amazing cricketers.

Daryll was such a flary batsman, and yet he always emphasised repetition with the basics of the game, and perfecting each technical element or sequence. rather do 1 thing perfectly than 10 things adequately.  

With Neil – enjoyable and simple

After working at the DC Center, I started my own coaching business and brand primarily focusing on the preschool age group, CricketHERO was born. And during our early stages of operating, we had the distinct pleasure of coaching the son of Neil Mackenzie. He was always happy to give feedback, happy to meet for coffee, happy to help where he could whenever we asked. My partner and I even enjoyed joining a Lions training session with Neil’s invite to watch and then insistence to join. Unfortunately after 1 fielding drill, I was up in the dressing room getting medical attention to my thumb (painful but worth it.)

Neil focused on the importance of enjoying your training and playing time, taking pressure off juniors in particular was a strong message, he seemed not to focus on technical attributes at all, but rather encouraged time in the middle. play, play and play some more… 

With Paddy – Collaborative and self empowerment approaches  

After moving to Cape Town, I found myself coaching Paddy’s daughter quite by accident i might add. Paddy Upton joined Gary Kirsten’s coaching staff with the Indian cricket team, the same Indian team that won the world cup. The coaching duo then coached South Africa and enjoyed reaching the number 1 team in the world in Tests, ODI’s and 20/20 formats at the same time.

Paddy is very down to earth and taught me some very unconventional coaching methods that obviously brought him some great success. a game changer was getting continuous feedback and empowering your juniors to lead their own session, aspects like asking your athlete what they would like to work on, what are the best games they like to play, what are they wanting to focus on… I also learnt the art of silence, very often coaching is about constant correction on every ball, to a layman this seems that the coach is excellent, the jargon they use, the amount of information been given, however this proves the opposite. coaching is about looking at the whole picture and creating a step by step routine to improve, the better the coach the less information given because many times working on a key aspect may solve 2 or 3 technical errors without mentioning it. this ensures the junior isn’t going to shut down from information overload but instead ensure that they hone in and complete one task at a time. barking orders makes the coach sound good, but yields very little results in the development of the player.

Working with preschoolers for over a decade has given me great insight into how to get the best results out of children, and it’s all about focusing and understanding what your child needs at their particular stage of development.

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