Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reflective practice

Update 26/1/19 287

In some professional fields of work practice - teaching and nursing are two that come to mind, there's a necessity to reflect on what you do in order to adopt new strategies and approaches to your work, in order to keep on top of what you're doing and maintain professional standards.

If you're old enough you may remember 2013 and the Australia teams "Homeworkgate" incident after a lost series in India...

After Australia's humiliating defeat to India in the second test at Hyderabad - where they became the first side in test history to declare in the first innings but then lose by an innings - players were asked to identify three areas of possible improvement.

To me, this sounds as though they were asked to reflect on what they'd done in a more formal manner rather than simply chat about it and sleep on it, which to me coming from a educational background seems like a reasonable request. At the same time I can see why in a sports scenario such as the Australian cricket team this might not have gone down that well.

That aside, I reckon there's a place for it in cricket in both the informal manner and the more formal written way which I'm going to explain. It's evident that some cricket players do it in their own personal way as a part of their development and practice and I write about this in one of the other posts  - see here

Needless to say a lot of people will think this is total nonsense and an utter waste of time, but others might see it differently and see some merit in it. So, what does it involve?

Gibbs Reflective model

In Peter Philpotts book The Art of Wrist Spin bowling one of the things that he tries to get across to the reader is the need to take all aspects of your training, practice and development seriously. Grimmett too, wasn't one to take practice lightly and practiced pretty much in isolation, never bowling in nets to a batsman because he wanted no-one to know his tricks. If you take your bowling seriously an extension of the committed practice might also include reflecting on what you do in the form of a written response?

So, it works like this... You have a practice and you get nowhere. But, rather than get on the XBOX and start playing PUBG or spend the next 5 hours looking at memes on your phone you use this illustration of the Gibbs reflective cycle to reflect on what went wrong and devise a plan to for the next session.

(1). Description (What happened)? You clarify what it was that you went out to practice on. Again, referencing Philpott, there is no point on going out without an aim or an objective, so this first question gets you to look at whether that was the case. What happened did you really go out there with a clear intent and did you stick to it? Briefly you write down what you did - a paragraph or two.

(2). Feelings (What were you thinking and feeling)?  Again, this requires a brutally honest appraisal of your emotional response. Were you up for it? Was your state of mind correct, or did you practice with your head somewhere else or did you go and practice to take your mind off of something else. Again a brief written response of a paragraph or two.

(3). Evaluation (What was good and bad about the experience)? This is fairly self-explanatory and again should be kept to a few paragraphs, I try not to dwell too much on the negatives and look for the positives and try and use an approach where I use two positives where possible and one negative aspect. This usually relates to what you actually did - the physical aspects of the practice.

(4). Analysis (What sense can you make of the situation)? This is the important bit and when I teach this, I tell students this is the bit that should contain the most detail. In order for it to be analytical there needs to be a questioning aspect to the process - ask the question what if and explore what the outcome would be if something was done differently - why might it make a difference.

(5). Conclusion (What else could you have done)? You might find that you draw conclusions in the analysis section, so pick out the main conclusion and reiterate it or skip this section and go straight to the action plan.

(6). Action Plan (if it arose again what would you do)? Well, it is going to arise again, because you're going to have play or practice again in the future. So, plan what you're going to do, how will you implement a plan or strategy? What are you going to do next time you practice that is going to enable some form of improvement, what are you looking to improve - how are you going to do it and when?

As I said it wont suit everyone, but some people will find that by writing stuff down and being brutally honest with yourself like this in black and white does actually help.

Here's some examples from my old blog...

If you're not convinced and need more evidence of it's potential see here


  1. Lots of factors to be taken into account here. Big boundaries guarded by good catchers, required run rates of 8+ an over, and batsmen who are looking to get down the pitch and hit straight 6s, hard professional tracks, make bowling back of a length at a good pace (50-60mph) a good option for a spinner, because its easy to hit these short-ish deliveries 60 yards, but hard to hit them 100 yards.

    But I rarely play in a game with those characteristics, and I doubt you do either! A 60yard hit would be a catch in the IPL, but would be a big 6 on an amateur cricket pitch.

    I think you're right though about the line. Start off with a line outside off to try and frustrate the batsman and get established in your spell, and then you always have the option of bowling a bit straighter in your 3rd/4th over just to see what happens - you can always switch back if it doesn't work.

    Sadly, having previously been a good resource, BC seems to have descended into chaos. There's a little clique of trolls who just seem to bully anyone who posts.

  2. I can't win can I with this! I'm aware that your comments relate to my latest post and by the way thanks for doing so, but this doesn't work as well as the blog on the website - the comments in time will end up at the end of God knows how many pages. Anyway, that aside, yeah you're right and I definitely don't bowl with enough pace to bowl short, although the faster flatter ones might work, but I'm nowhere ready to try and put those into practice, so will work on getting the ball on or outside the off-stump as a bread and butter approach. 90% accuracy of line would be a good place to be with some spin by my reckoning.

  3. Sometimes when I go to this blog, this reflective practice post appears, and sometimes its an introduction page? Very confusing.

  4. Yeah I'm still not happy with the way it works, I reckon I need to have a separate blog for the day to day diary style waffle - with maybe a link to this blog. I might have a another re-think at Christmas when I intend to transfer a load of the content from the old MPA blog.

  5. I had a little net last night. Indoor nets, so very little turn off the pitch. Managed to pick up a few wickets by variations in flight/pace/angle.

    The most satisfying was against a left-hander: I stay round the wicket to left-handers, and look to drift the ball towards the slips, with the occasional one turning back in towards the stumps (and occasionally I will bowl one at the stumps that then turns away to slip, but that's a different story).

    Anyway, he's a good bat, and he was starting to anticipate the ball drifting away and was starting to get outside the line of off stump to drive the ball to mid off. By doing that, he is playing more down the line of the ball, taking the edge out of play, and also gets his pads outside the line of off, to take away lbw. Its a clever tactic.

    I said to the guy next to me "lbw this ball". I went as wide as possible on the crease, dropped my arm slot to make the angle even more extreme, and fired one in a bit quicker and skiddier at middle stump with just enough turn to straighten the angle. Because he had already started to move outside off stump, he was playing across the line and couldn't get his bat down in time. Plumb in front.

    Its nice when you actually come up with a plan and then execute it correctly.

  6. It sounds technical, it's obvious you've played for a long time and that you've got the potential to see these things and then make sense of them. Being able to get it to drift must also be a massive bonus... In this situation are you pretty much able to decide whether you get it to drift or not, or is the case that sometimes it does, other times it doesn't?

  7. I can't really control the drift per se - pretty much every ball drifts. Its more a case that if you bowl quicker and flatter you get less drift, whereas a slightly slower ball with plenty of revs and more loop will get more drift.

    I wouldn't worry about drift - dip is just as valuable a weapon, something I struggle to get.

  8. Sorry SLA, been massively busy at work and had so little time to have a look at this let alone get on with populating it. Thanks for the drift comment, drift still pretty much alludes me for the most part, sometimes it'll happen, but yeah you're right with regards the use of dip, when I'm bowling well I try and get a lot more round arm and that has some different attributes, the most obvious being the ball dips dramatically, but it's rare that I get that confident in a match situation that I'm able to put it into action.