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Coach of the Month - Mark Macdonald

For all clubs the important task of “coaching the coaches” to ensure they have the expertise and support to perform their role is a major challenge.

Mark Macdonald from the Winston Hills Cricket Club in Sydney’s Parramatta region has armed himself with every available resource to maximise his, and his club’s, coaching expertise.

Like many junior coaches, Mark became involved as a volunteer when his children started to play the game and didn’t have a strong playing or cricket coaching background.

The way in which he has used the educational courses available to improve his coaching CV provides a fantastic example of how skills and knowledge can be acquired and shared across a club.

“I wanted to make sure I had the skills to do it properly, and that others in the club benefitted from that too, and I think that’s had a big impact on the way we go about things,” he says.

Mark initially completed the level one (community) coaching accreditation required at most clubs. But he felt there was more he could add to his own coaching, and to the other coaches at Winston Hills CC.

He has since undergone the level two (representative) accreditation and found the strong emphasis on fielding was particularly valuable. Subsequently, he set the goal for his club to have the best fielding teams in their district.

“If kids can enjoy that aspect of the game I think it keeps them really engaged when they’re not batting or bowling,” he says. “It just makes the game more fun.”

Significantly, Mark has taken full advantage of Cricket NSW’s masterclasses and workshops which provide educational support for club coaches on specific areas of the game.

“We’ve arranged to have some of the master classes held at our club which obviously makes it easier for our coaches who don’t have time to travel,” says Mark.

“We’ve had (former Australian bowler) Jason Krejza talking about spin bowling and master classes on fielding and batting. They really fill the gaps in the (accredited) courses in those specialist areas.”

To “bring back” the knowledge he is acquiring to his club, Mark has set up a WhatsApp group with his fellow coaches and provides a weekly coaching tip as well as sharing stories and advice on every aspect of coaching and the game itself.

Engagement and retention is a key priority for Mark who has seen enormous benefits for his club from both a more inclusive approach in games and also improved skill acquisition.

Even before the introduction of the new junior formats Mark and his fellow coaches put a strong emphasis on giving everyone a bat and bowl while improving the overall level of skill has allowed more players to progress up the age groups.

“As they get older the bowlers get quicker and you need the skills to be able to keep playing,” he says. “We’re finding the kids are enjoying their cricket more and also improving as a result.”

Consequently Winston Hills CC which was struggling for numbers several years ago is now fielding 20 junior teams and thriving on and off the field.

This is largely because Mark and his fellow coaches at Winston Hills CC are utilising the education and support available to improve their own skills and give their players the best possible experience.