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'Rolling with the Punches' - The Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy

Richard White

John Conlon DemonstratesThe Andrew White NCU Cricket Academy continues to utilise the knowledge and skill sets of other sports with a recent session at the Ulster University (Jordanstown Campus) taken by the well renowned boxing coach John Conlon. John is Irish Boxing's High Performance Head Coach for Ulster, and father and coach of Michael Conlon, the Olympic boxer from Belfast. Andrew commented that, 'he wanted the Academy Class of 2017-2018 to gain an understanding of the mentality, discipline and belief that has set the boxers apart in Olympic sports'.

The session proved to be an eye opener for the Academy cricketers who were joined by Kane Tucker (Commonwealth Youth Games Silver Medallist, Bahamas 2017) and Michael Hennessy, two of Ulsters highly rated young stars. John Conlon talked about the huge tradition of Belfast boxing which has a strong emphasis on the local boxing clubs, that feed through to the national system. Likewise in the NCU, as with the other provincial unions, the club system is the traditional bedrock of the national team. This will become even more important with the revitalised Inter Provincial set up, that is now the stepping stone to International Cricket.

John emphasised how every sport presents different challenges, and that the boxers also look at other sports to help their own development, with the All Blacks a favourite. Irish boxing once looked towards the Russian system, but now the tables have turned and the Russians are admiring how Irish boxing is leading the way in training and performance. He stated that two aspects of boxing set it apart from other sports; 'knowing that you are going to be hit (unnatural in everyday life) and having to make a weight limit, especially when the body is craving food. Both aspects to the sport take discipline and mental strength.'

Academy Cricketers Watch CarefullyAs the Academy cricketers practised punching combinations (jabs, hooks and upper cuts) it was apparent that in comparison to Tucker and Hennessy, their power levels were much weaker. The two young boxers are physically well developed, and when questioned about this stated that the cricketers did have the power levels but that their techniques were preventing the power from manifesting itself. It was demonstrated that the power is derived from developing core strength and driving the back hip through, while maintaining a balanced position. Andrew White elaborated that batting is now very much a power based game especially in limited overs and Twenty 20 cricket with batsmen now trying to clear the ropes at every opportunity. It is also an area that he believes our young players are going to have to dedicate more time to in training. Recently on the Cricket South Africa Twitter Account Adrian Birrell (former Ireland Coach and now South Africa Assistant Coach) was illustrating to a young South African the correlation between boxing and cricket.

John Conlon reiterated that young sports people need to dedicate themselves to their sport, and this extends into lifestyles beyond the pitch or arena on which they play.

'Everyone wants to make it to the top, but boxers believe they will be Olympic champions.'

James Hunter when asked how the session had gone, said that he felt, 'completely uncoordinated'. Notwithstanding he had learned a different aspect to power that could be translated into cricket.

Academy Cricketers BoxingIrish boxing talks about adopting the right mindset, and lists the following as part of that:

  • Removing all excuses
  • Thinking world class
  • Always being professional
  • Being fully committed

The Academy cricketers left Jordanstown with plenty to think about for the future and it is hoped that they will be driven to succeed on the representative stage. They were left with no doubts that physically, core strength needs to be developed, and mentally a more specific and focused approach to their goals. John Conlon's message all evening had been, 'win, don't just play, nothing is impossible, out of drama and chaos success comes, and if one door closes another will open.'

Andrew White was delighted with the evening and commented, 'I cannot thank John enough for giving of his time which is precious given his demanding workloads currently. He is a man who instills discipline, desire and believe in his young boxers and they in turn believe that the world is their oyster. Hopefully our Academy players have left with a new outlook on not just cricket but life in general.'

Photos (c) PressEye