Whether you’re a fan or not, most people would accept that sport is important. All over the world, people are obsessed with it. Different games underpin cultures which transcend national borders, simultaneously uniting those involved in a common interest, but often dividing them in terms of team or individual allegiances. We watch and play sport for entertainment, but it can also be about health, community and personal development.
Cricket is one sport facing a challenge of declining participation at grassroots level, and match attendances that are nowhere near enough to provide financial sustainability for county clubs. The game is having problems making people want to get involved, whether watching or playing. Cricket needs to become more appealing not just to existing fans but youngsters as well, so that interest in the game can grow.
The main thing that fuels my own interest in Cricket is content - It’s a seasonal game, and even with a gruelling international schedule there can be stretches of several weeks where neither my beloved Yorkshire or England are playing. As a fan though, it’s never far from my thoughts - and this is because of the high quality written journalism and video content that is available, often starring players and coaches both past and present.
Particularly when it comes to sport, content does not have to be straightforwardly promotional or corporate. Sure, every business has corporate aims, but that doesn’t mean you have to sell in the most obvious sense. Focus on the product (in this case the game of cricket itself) and build interest that way. Used with this approach, video comes into its own.
Video is widely used by professional cricket clubs for coaching, with bowlers able to look at footage to help them remodel their bowling action, and batsman can analyse why they might be the victim of one type of dismissal more often than others. But this is internal. It benefits players who are already professionals, but does nothing for grassroots players or audiences. There should be more coaching videos available to the public, giving the twin benefits of helping more people develop their skills and getting more people involved in the game, whether that’s adults going to play for their local club or youngsters being encouraged to go to more specialist coaching sessions.
We’ve already made videos for expert masterclasses in music, and I love the idea that video can have an impact on somebody learning a skill. Just from reading the sports pages I know that video has revolutionised sports coaching at the highest level, with video analysis of opponents and past matches held up as a progressive, modern approach. I got in touch with David Smith, Head Coach at Complete Cricket Coaching, for his experience of using video.
I was surprised to hear that David and his team use video as a normal part of coaching players - so video is being used at grassroots level. He said that in his experience video ‘speeds up the process’ of learning technique, and that ‘a lot of player development is about feedback’. His team have been able to create a video library of their pupils, which enables them to track changes in technique and makes a player’s development clear to see.
In cricket, video is particularly useful for changing specifics in technique. David went as far as to say that ‘it’s very difficult to coach bowling without a video camera’, as the player really needs to be able to see what they’re doing and compare it with someone else. I’ve heard the same thing said about swimming, another sport where technique is paramount.
David also recognises the business benefits of video. He said that as well as teaching, video is ‘about building the brand’ and is ‘a very easy way of promoting the company’. For example, a coaching masterclass video not only allows players to watch and learn, but if done correctly it can also increase brand awareness, and let people know how they can get involved in a proper training session.
Using cricket as a case study, it looks like video is already proving its worth at grassroots level. But there is also greater potential for more clubs and companies to market themselves not just through typical promos, but to produce videos which can provide coaching whilst building brand awareness as a byproduct.
In my next blog, I’m going to focus on how sport can build communities, and how video can contribute to this.