The PW Indoor Cricket Academy
Head Coach Peter Wellings explains what the PW Indoor Cricket Academy is all about:
The PW Academy emerged in 2004 from some regular indoor nets I ran on Saturdays with the best of my young players. Its purpose is quite simple – to give those boys attending a high standard of weekly cricket practice of a quality and intensity which they might not otherwise be engaged in.
Using the whole of the sports hall and 4 nets at Featherstone Sports Centre in Southall, each week sees the boys put through a range of demanding physical activities for the first half hour of the session with the aim of improving their athletic abilities. It's becoming increasingly clear that it's much easier to turn a good athlete into a good cricketer than it is the other way round and this is something that English cricket has been relatively weak on until recent years.
Learning to run, evade, accelerate, turn and move more effectively are skills every young cricketer should practice. Allied to this is a focus on fitness which includes bodyweight resistance training and cardio-vascular work. I am a firm believer that young, aspiring cricketers should learn the benefits of sound physical fitness at an early age and the way that cricket is going with increasing emphasis on power batting and explosive fielding then higher levels fitness are of crucial importance.
Demonstrations take up 5 minutes as the boys prepare for their net sessions and they receive advice on areas such as improving their stance and set-up, better bowling actions and options against spin.
From here the PW Academy do something quite different and in my opinion far superior to general nets – they play a match in the nets. 2 equal teams in the senior group (14 to 17 year olds) and junior group (10 – 13 years) play a 'net match' with each team having 40 minutes to bat against 2 bowlers chosen by the opposition captain. The key here is making nets as realistic as possible and the boys learn quickly since if they're out bowled first ball, that's it for them. They can head to the practice net next door but in terms of the match they're as out as they would be in a real game. A coach umpires each match adjudicating on LBW's and catches whilst awarding runs for positive strokeplay and good running between the wickets.
The captain can change his bowlers if needed whilst the next batsman in waits, with his pads on, at the side of the net. Any ball delivered down the leg side or sufficiently wide of off stump is called wide making the whole game as close to a real match as possible. It is a fundamental belief of mine that practice for cricket, as in any sport, should mirror the reality of the actual game and that by training in a more pressurised environment players learn self-reliance. After 40 minutes batting, the bowling team get their chance to chase the target set for them with a winner declared each week.
Whilst the game is going on in the match net, batters can also use the practice net under the tutelage of a coach who will offer advice and where they can work at a particular aspect of their game or try new techniques out. All PW Academy coaches are or have been involved in the professional game here or overseas and all are still involved in playing the game to a high level. Many of the intake have been attending for several years now in which time they form close relationships with the coaching team whom have seen many of them develop from talented 10 year olds into teenage cricketers involved with their county youth side or even club 1st XI's.
The 2008 PW Academy intake included 11 boys who were playing county age group cricket and the Coaching Cricket Excellence team and myself hope that as many of them as possible go onto experience the thrill of senior county cricket and possibly beyond. By offering a tough training environment where young players are encouraged to confront new and demanding challenges, we hope that we're doing our bit to help prepare the elite cricketers of the future.