Neil Pickup | 10:00pm gmt 02 Mar 2008
I told you this week would be more interesting than last. Alright, I've still barely had the time to scribble this down around about a workload that I'm not going to whinge about on here, because I knew it would be like this when I signed the contract, but there's a lot more cricket on, at least.
The highlight of the last seven days was Thursday's trip to the County Ground in Bristol, home of Gloucestershire CCC, for a day's workshops with current and former captains Jon Lewis and Chris Taylor. In the morning, we practiced "advanced fielding techniques - or, in other words, throwing ourselves around the Nevil Road Sports Hall in pursuit of bowling machine balls.
I've always been reasonably proud of my ability to throw myself in the way of moving objects: I'm pretty sure that 40 overs spent as the only fielder on boundary duty in a losing side speaks something for the fact that I can cover ground. It was interesting, however, to see the process of the diving stop being refined down into technical points and being taken through the reverse-chaining process to build up Chris Taylor's interpretation of the technique. It was also intriguing to be the only volunteer who found diving to his left more straightforward than stopping things to his right.
I think that's got something to do with six-a-side goalkeeping experiences, and facing right footed strikers hitting it at my left. There are differences in the technique, however (cricket, Taylor-wise at least, you're looking at landing on your chest, and my goalkeeping leaves me on shoulders, backside and waist) - and the two skills are not quite transferable.
My sliding stops were less controlled, initially bulldozing a good six yards past the (stationary) ball as my "rudder" (also known as left arm) gave way, overwhelmed by the fact that I take more momentum into a slide than I thought I did (that or I didn't take into account the differential in friction between gym mats and the boundary at Babbacombe CC in Torbay). Once I'd got that mastered, I then found a different way to screw up by attempting to stand up much too early and putting far too much weight over a bit of my left ankle that isn't designed to take it.
I've spent the last three days wearing an ankle support that I discovered at the bottom of my cricket bag from the last time I shanked that particular muscle group. It's not been right since I stood on the side of a pothole at St James' Park, Exeter, while carrying a box of programmes on the night of the Man Utd replay - but I digress. The morning was enjoyable, and I learned a lot: enough to hold two full-length diving catches off an incrediball at this morning's B&NO U11 session. There is value in having 11-year-olds think you're good - it then takes less effort to make them listen to you!
After a Q&A session, Jon Lewis' fast bowling workshop consisted of telling me quite a lot of what I already knew. It started off with my being the only coach present to answer "straight lines" to the question of what was the most important factor in the run-up (and bowling action). This was then the mantra of the session, and having completed Ian Pont's ABSAT course in November, this wasn't a revelation. It was useful as a refresher, to re-flag the points in my mind (particularly with regards to a bowler's load-up, which I am now noticing massively more often), but it wasn't mind-blowing.
Nor, for that matter, were my first sights of Cherwell's U13 district setup, or my wide-net trials for the remaining places in the Colts B summer squad. Good-natured kids are one thing, but it's entirely another to be able to bat... It's season minus seven weeks (I think), and I still possess grave doubts about the stickability of our middle order. Or top order. Or tail.
Such is life. There is good sporting news to report, however - football seven a side: Dragon Staff 11, Summer Fields Staff 2. They are our big rivals, from less than a mile away in North Oxford, and we lost last year: so a result of that nature can't be sniffed at. Nor could the look on my class' faces when it was read out in assembly with the comment "... the headmaster's place as number one goalkeeper may be under threat." Priceless.