As we transition from Winter to Summer sports, from footy, rugby, soccer, hockey to cricket what are the things a coach should be looking for?
First thing is the mental state of the player and is he or she bringing any negative baggage from their winter sport with them. Some players either don't enjoy the season due to various reasons, didn't have a great season on a personal level or didn't make the state squad or lost the grand final.... these are all things that happen in sport but some players can bring that negative mind set into the start of the season. I believe that if you have a few sessions that are fun, team building and the message you give the players is about a positive season ahead this helps alleviate these negative thoughts. Remember that it only takes one person with a "can't do" attitude to spoil the experience for others. I also strongly believe that as a coach you need to take an interest in their well being. Ask players how they are and then listen to what they have to say. Communication is a two way thing speaking and listening are equally important.
One occupational hazard of playing sport are injuries. Find out early in the gig who is carrying what injuries, how this will affect their performance and what you need to do to assist them to get back to full strength. A broken arm, torn hammy etc doesn't stop players from still being a part of a team.... as the coach give these player meaningful tasks at training and matches that they are responsible for and keep them involved and more importantly a part of the team.
The final piece to understand is where the player is at this current moment in time. Where they need to be by the start of the season and plan with them what needs to be done to get them there. The player has to buy into this plan and see the benefits of doing so. It might be so that they have a role to play i.e. opening bowler who is really quick but is so erratic that they are not asking questions of the batsman... great they are fast but the likelyhood of getting those all important early wickets are not great where the chance of getting the batting team off to a flyer are. Discuss this with the player and get them to understand what their role is what they need to do between now and the first ball bowled in order to not only improve themselves but to play the part they have been asked to do and contribute for the team.