Christian: Today I’m joined by Nick Webb. Nick is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Indian National Cricket Team. He previously worked with cricket in New Zealand and professional rugby clubs. Nick holds a Master in Health Science, Sport Science, and Strength and Conditioning from the Auckland University of Technology.
Nick: Thanks for having me, Christian. It’s good to be here.
Christian: Nick, how’s a Kiwi doing in India?
Nick: It’s good. It’s much different to Kiwi life. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s been a good experience so far with some great players and some exceptional fans. It’s just a much different ecosystem compared to New Zealand that goes part and parcel with the role.
Christian: Yes. Having lived and worked in India, myself, I know that cricket in India is probably what the All Blacks are to New Zealand, isn’t it?
Nick: Yes. And then you times that by about a hundred.
How he got into Strength & Conditioning
Christian: How did you get into strength and conditioning?
Nick: It started when I was about 19 years old, which is almost 14 years ago. I was studying at AUT [Auckland University of Technology], completing the Bachelor of Sports & Rec. Essentially how that program works is that in the last year or two, you have to do a certain amount of experience as part of the course, which was great.
I decided to do my project with a semi-professional rugby side, North Harbor rugby, which kind of was a good segue to strength and conditioning. Then it slowly progressed more into some part-time work.
It just led on from there and fueled my passion for the area. It also allowed me to get enough experience to slowly progress up the roles and the ranks and get a little more experience and learn how I want to operate as a practitioner.
I was studying at AUT and it fueled my passion for the area. It allowed me to get enough experience to slowly progress up the roles and the ranks and learn how I want to operate as a practitioner.
So it all started basically in Uni. The Sport Rec course at AUT was excellent because you start with such a broad area because I had no idea what I wanted to get into when I was that young.
It allowed me to form base knowledge around strength and conditioning, physiology, and biomechanics. Eventually, I decided I wanted to have a crack at this area of expertise.
Then it led to some great experiences and getting my Masters in the same area as well. So it all started with the university. I entered the ranks, I guess, of education not knowing what I wanted to do, so that was a good start.
Christian: What I understand is that the study sparked your interest in strength and conditioning?
Nick: Yes, big time. And the AUT setup and how they operated their courses forced you to start thinking about the experience. So, that was a good little addition, so that you can have a feel of what the industry would be like.
Christian: And your role with the Indian National Cricket Team started after the last World Cup ?
Nick: Yes, essentially, it was straight after. The world cup finished, I think July, August, maybe, and then India went straight to the West Indies. During that time, the interview processes were happening and I started in September.
His darkest moment
Christian: As an S&C Coach, what was your darkest moment?
Nick: When you sit through these questions, I actually had to really think about it and it’s probably a couple of dark moments that I had. I could easily sit here and tell you that players get injured or they miss games. Unfortunately, that’s inevitable with contact sport and Rugby and Cricket, but your role is to mitigate that risk.
There were a couple dark moments. It’s a reality for a lot of S&Cs as you get deeper into your career, that you lose your job or you get made redundant. They were tough positions to get through, obviously financially and emotionally, and because you give such a lot to a program you realise at the end of the day, you can’t control these sort of outcomes.
It’s a reality for a lot of S & Cs as you get deeper into your career, that you lose your job or you get made redundant. They were tough positions to get through, obviously financially and emotionally, and because you give such a lot to a program you realise at the end of the day, you can’t control these sort of outcomes.
So my darkest moments were being made redundant from a role and essentially moving on from another one when you are in positions where you have a young family. The first one essentially was the most difficult one to take.
As a young practitioner, you’re so focused on you wanting to get to the top. You’ve got such a beeline for where you want to head and then to get that ripped from underneath you from being made redundant. Considering in your mind, you didn’t do anything wrong. But it was just the nature of new coaches coming through.
That was a big learning curve. Essentially, it made me realize that it’s just a business. If you leave a job, knowing that you’ve given the program 100%, that’s all that really matters. So it was a big learning from that.
That was probably the darkest moment. It was also a big learning moment, as well, on how to handle situations like that and how to focus on the future as well.
As a young practitioner, you’re so focused on you wanting to get to the top and then to get that ripped from underneath you andbeing made redundant. It was a big learning moment, on how to handle situations like that and how to focus on the future.
Christian: How did you recover?
Nick: I got a new job. We had a bit of a grace period in terms of when we got made redundant and I was fortunate enough to leverage some of my relationships that I’ve made over the previous couple of years. So I went into a role temporarily and then got the role with New Zealand Cricket a couple of months later.
His best moment
Christian: What’s your best moment?
Nick: I think when I worked for the New Zealand Warriors Rugby League Club. I was an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach back then. But I think back in 2011 was the last time the club made the NRL [National Rugby League] grand final. All three teams in the club made the final, which is a pretty significant achievement with the top side making the final, as well as the reserve grade and the under twenties.
So it just was proof that the structure that the club had was working at that time. And although it was validation for all the hard work and the sacrifices we made as a group back then had paid off.
It was a validation of all the hard work and the sacrifices we made as a group back then paid off.
It was pretty well led by a guy called Craig Walker back then, who was an Australian. He’s back with the Roosters now. But a few of the coaches are still there now, like Dayne Norton and Ruben Wiki.
So that was a pretty big highlight going and playing over in Sydney with three full teams and support staff there. We didn’t win the final, but it was a hell of an experience and it’s something that I’m definitely proud of.
His advice to a younger Nick Webb
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15 years, what advice would you give to younger Nick Webb?
Nick: If I was to advise myself, it would probably be to not pigeonhole myself into just S & C. You get so worked up around sets, reps, schemes and programming, however, the more experienced you get, the more you realize the industry is just about people.
That is how you manage people, how you lead people, how you have quality conversations and how quickly you learn and the sort of mindset you go in with.
You get so worked up around sets, reps, schemes and programming, however, the more experienced you get, the more you realize the industry is about people. How you manage people, how you lead people and the quality conversations you have.
It is about trying to empower other athletes to have a growth mindset because at the end of the day, they are their best coaches. You also learn from other resources as well, like business has a huge correlation with sport. A Lot of those organizational factors you can take into how you manage sport and the S&C profession.
So I guess not just pigeonholing yourself into just S&C, because at the end of the day, unfortunately, it is quite a volatile industry. You’re on termed contracts and the contracts could end pretty quickly.
We’re fortunate back in New Zealand that we’re not as, probably, ruthless as EPL [English Premier League] where you get sacked the next day, which is really fortunate because you have a little bit of certainty. But that’s just the reality of the industry.
If I was to, again, advise my younger self, the industry is harder than I anticipated and it’s volatile. People see all this glamour and work with all these top teams and it’s excellent. It’s been very rewarding for me and I’m very grateful for the positions that I’ve been in and experiences I’ve had.
The industry is harder than I anticipated and it’s volatile.
But it’s not as easy as students think it is. You have to work hard, you have to leverage relationships and you have to just be prepared to sacrifice things. It doesn’t come easy.
His motivation to start an MBA
Christian: You mentioned the term business. I saw you’re currently also studying and doing an MBA. How did that come about, what was your motivation to start it?
Nick: Yes, I’ve always wanted to do it. I was sitting down and reflecting about where I want to head to in the future. And yes, unfortunately, I don’t see myself in this industry in an S & C role in 10 or 15 years’ time.
As with a family, I want to be able to see my kids and spend time with my family. I don’t think being on the road for another 10 years will do my kids justice. But in saying that, whatever role I do now, I will give a hundred percent.
I don’t see myself in this industry in an S & C role in 10 or 15 years’ time. But in saying that, whatever role I do now, I will give a hundred percent.
I signed up to do a Master’s in Business Administration, which is part of my own development. I started that this year. I’m about six weeks in at the moment. It really validates and justifies my reasoning for it because there’s a huge similarity with business and sport.
The first paper I’m currently doing is about teamwork and leadership. That’s right up my alley, so yes, it’s another string to my bow and hopefully look to more overarching management roles and broaden the scope of roles and be able to add my skills and experiences to other industries as well.
His advice to young and aspiring Strength & Conditioning Coaches
Christian: What advice would you give young, aspiring S&C coaches?
Nick: Exactly the same that I would give my young self. You’d have to be prepared to work hard and just get experience. The university theory-based education is excellent and you have some great universities out there.
The earlier you can start getting experience and learning how to influence people or athletes, young to old, experienced to junior, the better you will be in this industry. That’s something that I really only started focusing on five or six, seven years into my career.
The earlier you can start getting experience and learning how to influence people or athletes, young to old, experienced to junior, the better you will be in this industry.
Before it was more about the theory, sets and reps and how I developed a periodization plan and programming. But it’s also around how you communicate with athletes of different levels and parents if you’re working with young athletes.
It’s how you create influence and affect change in behaviors as well, so a lot of the soft skills are important. Yes, the hard skills are 100% important, but it’s the soft skills that are hugely important.
In the end people don’t care what you know, they care about how you can help them. And that comes with relationship building and building trust as well.
People don’t care what you know, they care about how you can help them.
Christian: Yes, that’s an interesting one. It seems to be a common trend amongst S & C coaches that early in your career, you’re very focused on what’s the right thing to do. These include rep, sets, loading schemes, and periodization. However, later you realize that actually how you can build relationships and generating buy-in becomes much more important than “Should I do three or four sets?”
Nick: Yes. But the entire process was even heightened when I took over the Indian job. As a Kiwi who’d just worked in New Zealand, I was essentially going over there as the only foreigner in the national setup.
I spoke a different language, even though they all speak English, but a lot of them speak Hindi. So it was a new language, new culture, different way of thinking, different setups, mindsets and different way of programming. Everything is different.
Essentially, I am dealing with thirty-five CEO’s over there. These guys are a big deal in India and they are held in such a high esteem who are their own brands.
Essentially, I am dealing with thirty-five CEO’s over there. These guys are a big deal in India and they trade in such a high esteem and these guys are their own brand.
These guys are worth a lot and for them to be on the park is a big deal because essentially, India has such a conveyor belt, of talent, that if you miss one or two games, then that could be their career. It comes on me as well by keeping them on the park by keeping them fit and enhancing their overall training environment.
I thought when I went over there, I could really hone in on all my active listening skills and understand the culture to create influence. I would just listen and focus on the soft skills and understand where they’re coming from.
My thinking was that it would create a great foundation for trust and buy-in. The feedback that I’ve been given is that it’s been a great way to approach the role and we’ve got some great players that are buying into my way of thinking and doing things now.
I firmly believe that I’m not going to be able to influence everyone. However, I think that by honing in on the soft skills, it really sets a great foundation for myself in this role to have influence.
I firmly believe that I’m not going to be able to influence everyone. However, by honing in on the soft skills, it really sets a great foundation for myself in this role.
Christian: Yes. I’ve actually noted that down as a question for later, but it fits in perfectly. I mentioned I’ve been to India. I know what cricket means to India. And these athletes are high profile, celebrity, almost demigods in the Indian country. What’s your approach to working with these kinds of high profile athletes, people and players?
Nick: You’re not the only one that’s asked me this. I ‘m a fan of cricket and I’m a fan of all these players. I think they’re exceptional talents and that is everyone that I’ve worked with.
I’m a fan of cricket and I’m a fan of all these players, that I’ve worked with.
However, I think you can approach it in a way that you don’t think of them as these godly players. You almost have to humanize them and I only think of them as people. And I’m there for the sole purpose of them.
I don’t treat them any differently from say Virat Kohli through to a junior player. They’re all treated exactly the same. You quickly realize that it’s all about performance for these guys. Like I said, there is a conveyor belt of talent out there, and they want to perform and they need to perform.
It’s a lifestyle for them as well and it’s a way to build their brand. There’s a lot of other factors to consider, but I just treat them like people and I focus on how I can influence their performance.
His coaching philosophy
Christian: What’s your coaching philosophy?
Nick: It’s changed a lot over the last 15 years, but I think it’s a good segue into what we’ve already discussed around it being people first and sports second. At the end of the day, what we do has to be people-focused or athlete-focused.
It should also be sport driven and performance-driven, which is a great guideline for how I operate, especially around how I approached my Indian job. Like I said, these guys have got a lot going on in their lives.
People first and sports second. At the end of the day, what we do has to be people-focused or athlete-focused and performance-driven.
We need to ensure that because we play so often, that the athlete is 100% ready, 100% buy-in, and everything around their life is okay too. If not, that will just add to their stress and all the other expectations that are burdened on them, purely by being in the national role.
So I like to keep it simple. I always treat the person first and always focus on performance. We have to nail the performance because essentially, sometimes we only have two to four days between games. So you really have to be specific and hone in on what really matters.
You really have to be specific and hone in on what really matters.
It’s kind of changed as well over the years. I could have told you a holistic point of view or philosophy as well. That’s still relevant, but that’s still part of focusing on the athlete and ensuring that the athlete is absolutely the priority and everything around their life is okay. That’s the crux of it, but I like to keep it pretty simple and keep it people-focused and performance-driven.
Christian: Yes. And I guess by keeping it people-focused, it’s already holistic in itself?
Nick: That’s right. A hundred percent.
His core values
Christian: What are your core values?
Nick: I really value respect. You have to respect the person, you have to respect where they’re coming from and respect where I want to head to as well.
I really value loyalty as well. I know sometimes in the sports industry, you can get caught up with that and that’s part of the reason why one of my darkest moments was when I got made redundant.
I really took that personally because I thought I was being loyal. I’m loyal to the team, the athletes, my family, and my kids and it’s a big value that I hold dear to me.
The big ones are respect, honesty, and open communication. I think if you have all those three, I think you have a great foundation for an open, growth-focused, and learning environment, whether that’s at home or whether that’s in the performance environment with the team or an organization.
The big ones are respect, honesty, and open communication. If you have all those three, you have a great foundation for an open growth-focused and learning environment,
Christian: Yes. I think the loyalty part is an interesting one because I think if you want to get the best for your athletes, you have to be extremely loyal. But on the same side, as you mentioned, the way most organizations work you also have to be aware that it’s just business.
Nick: Yes. It’s just business. And you have to realize that it is just business. When situations like that happen, you just have to look after number one and that’s just natural. When things are going pear-shaped, unfortunately, for whatever reason, you just have to make sure that you look after yourself and your family.
I’m lucky enough that I’ve had great relationships with everyone that I’ve worked with. I haven’t left or been moved on with any sort of spitefulness or attitude towards anyone. It’s been quite amicable, and I just take anything like that with a grain of salt and as an opportunity to learn from the experience and it almost hardens you to the industry.
Christian: I think that’s a good point.
The person that has influenced him most
Christian: Which person has influenced you most and why?
Nick: There have been quite a few people, but I think that it’s not one specific person. I think my experiences have influenced me and the people that have been in there. Being in the Warrior’s environment really taught me how to deal with a multicultural environment and how to deal with people.
Craig Walker was excellent at that and creating buy-in and dealing with different cultures. He was an Australian and we also had Australians on the side. We had Kiwis, we had Polynesians and I think that was one of the reasons why we were so successful.
Heinrich Malan, who I worked with at New Zealand cricket and Central District Cricket, he’s an excellent skills coach. He’s not an S&C, but he’s a cricket coach.
He and I were in the trenches for five years developing that district at the coalface. He’s an excellent leader and a great communicator. He is a very modern, contemporary coach.
I met Lance Hamilton at Central District Cricket as well. He was the High-Performance Manager and was an excellent manager, excellent leader, and was highly organized. I learned a lot from him and how he deals with conflicts and scenarios and manages the full program.
Obviously, behind any sort of success is a wife or a partner or another meaning behind him. My wife always questions me to my dislike sometimes, but she definitely keeps me honest.
She always asks the right questions and makes sure I’m doing things for the right reason. She’s also my biggest supporter as well.
How did the New Zealand Cricket Team get to the top of the world
Christian: New Zealand has managed to put themselves on the landscape of cricket. They reached the World Cup final 2019 and literally being the unlucky second. You have been in the cricket ecosystem in New Zealand. What did they do to really get to the top of the world?
Nick: I think New Zealand is in general, and in sports, they’ve always been known to punch above our weight. I think it’s almost a number eight wire mentality, meaning, we say that over here because essentially we’re not the richest country. We’re not the most highly resourced, but we make things work.
It comes down to a mindset and New Zealand centers its high-performance philosophy around learning and growth. They make sure that they are one of the quickest learners, whether that’s acutely or over time.
We’re not the richest country. We’re not the most highly resourced, but we make things work. New Zealand’s high-performance philosophy around learning and growth.
The system and the setup in New Zealand cricket is vastly different to India. New Zealand cricket has very good people in the districts such as the Auckland Northern districts, CD, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. There’s not a lot of state sides, but they have great people in there.
So when Black Caps go back into their cities or states, they are looked after very well. In the Black Caps and the New Zealand cricket environment, they’re very clear with how they want to play and how they want to express themselves on the field with humility and sportsmanship. I think a lot of teams respect that.
We have some exceptionally talented players as well and they work exceptionally hard. They know that there are teams and countries that far outweigh the number of resources and financial support that New Zealand cricket has. This just enhances their mindset to work harder and smarter.
So, I’m not surprised that New Zealand cricket has made the last two world cup finals. They seem to buck the trend of previous years where they faltered in the semi-final stages, but they seem to be stepping up and getting better.
The crux of athletes that have played in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, there’s still some there. They had that experience that they could bring to the 2019 World Cup as well. A lot of the support staff are still there as well, so they brought that experience.
But they’ve been an inspiration to New Zealand because young New Zealand cricketers, males and females, want to play like that. They want to be seen as being humble and have great sportsmanship, but play hard and fair.
That just has a trickle-down effect too and you’re increasing participation numbers within cricket in New Zealand, which over time, hopefully, will enhance that conveyor belt of talent coming through the pathways as well.
Christian: Sounds a little bit like the “no dickhead policy” of the All Blacks, isn’t it?
Nick: Yes, you have to get that balance right. New Zealand rugby is very fortunate. They have a lot of very good players and New Zealand cricket does too.
But I think when you have to apply that philosophy, you need to make sure that you have enough resources or athletes or players to replace as well. Organizations need to be aware of how toxic that one person is or if they just need to be led or managed better. How do you do that?
Do you do it through peer leadership and self-responsibility, and getting their teammates alongside and say, “Hey, pull your head in” or is it best to do this from a more organizational perspective? So there’s a lot of factors that go into that, but New Zealand cricket has done that very well.
There is a “no dickhead policy” unofficially and it’s worked very well because it’s self-policing as well. You’re there for the team and you have a team first mentality rather than a selfish mentality. You’re not there for yourself.
How to manage expectations
Christian: Dealing with individuals: As an S & C coach, we deal with individuals and their expectations. Sometimes the expectation of the individual is different from what you think should be done. How do you manage these expectations?
Nick: First and foremost, as an S & C, we have to have a quick reality check that we are there for the athlete and they are not here for us. They’re there for themselves and the team, as we’re there for the athlete and the team as well.
As an S & C, we have to have a quick reality check that we are there for the athlete and they are not here for us and the team and we’re there for the athlete and the team as well.
So we have to shift any ego that we have aside and in some way or another come to some common ground. That usually is formed by the way we communicate, and there are always going to be expectations from the athletes and how they want to operate.
I encourage that because that is actually showing me they are thinking about how they want to prepare for themselves. They know their body better than anyone and how they want to prepare. So that’s a good thing.
It’s how you communicate your ideas, way of thinking or your advice to them. So you shift away from any sort of ego and you provide meaning to the athlete around why you want to do something and how you are going to do it.
But the “how”, and especially the “why” you think they should be doing something is especially important. At the end of the day, if they decide that they want to try a different route then it’s okay and you have to work with that. It’s almost a little bit of self-discovery as you go.
Maybe it’s the right way for an athlete to do it, if they’ve decided that, or they might actually say that my way is the way and they want to try my way of thinking. It’s providing an environment where they can lead their decisions.
You shift away from any sort of ego and you provide meaning to the athlete around why you want to do something ad how you are going to do it. It’s almost providing an environment where they can lead their decisions.
You just have to guide the process in a way that you are actually forming the direction that you want, but you’re allowing them to discover that themselves as well. At the end of the day, I personally want my athletes to be self-sufficient.
They need to be thinking about their own performance and the only way they’re going to be doing that is making decisions for themselves. Obviously, I have a certain skill set and experience that I can help guide them based on my knowledge and experience.
But I would be more direct with a younger player versus less directive with a senior player. But it’s just choosing how you approach those situations and the expectations on those players.
Christian: You just answered the question that I had in my head, how would you deal through different age groups with that? So more direct with the youngest, more facilitative with all older players?
Nick: Yes, because the younger players have less training age, they have less experience and they need to be directed. Then you slowly loosen the reins off and allow them to have a little more power and ownership.
Then once they get further down into their career, they’re a lot more self-sufficient. After that, you can almost have a facilitative sort of approach and make sure that you’re asking the right questions and you’re more collaborative.
How to deal with decisions you don’t agree with
Christian: In a team of coaches and support staff, everyone is wearing his own head and wants to do things in the best interest. How do you deal with the conflict between different support staff?
Nick: I think conflict and challenge is a great thing. You have to have a conflict to find the right answers. It has to be constructive. At the end of the day, as long as all the support staff is thinking about what’s best for the athlete, you always should be able to find a common ground.
You have to have a conflict to find the right answers.
We all have different expertise and opinions and perspectives and that’s healthy. If we all had the same idea or perspective, then we would be doing the athlete a disservice around how we approach preparation and performance.
You have to stick to facts if there is a conflict in ideas, especially between S & Cs and physios. Physio will come to a discussion, so to speak, around what it means clinically. We as Strength & Conditioning Coaches have to underpin that with what that looks like from an S & C and physical performance point of view.
So, the medical and the S&C directives, the physios and S&Cs, they come hand in hand. The relationship between the two is hugely important because players will very easily see if there is a disconnect between the two.
The relationship between the Strength & Conditioning Coaches and Physios is hugely important because players will very easily see if there is a conflict between the two.
In my opinion, some of the players will tend to head towards the medical preference, but generally, that’s only happened once or twice in my career. It’s an easy route. It’s a very medical based decision and it’s a safer option, where performance decisions can be quite confronting and push players.
But yes, I guess my point of view is that you have to have a united front when you are approaching some form of discussion or conflict, differing opinions and directions of programs. So I think that that’s very healthy and you have to just keep in mind that your decisions are team first and player first.
A typical day in the life of an S&C Coach in the National Cricket team of India
Christian: How does a typical day in the life of an S&C Coach look like?
Nick: In India, you’re essentially just with the national team. You’re in a bubble, especially in India. I was lucky enough to spend the summer in India on tour for about four months against various international teams and you’re certainly in a bubble.
You’re highly guarded. You’ve got your own room and there’s a lot of security around. You’re ushered through to the bus, you’re ushered to training, everything is well controlled.
There’s a lot of security around. You’re ushered through to the bus, you’re ushered to training, everything is well controlled.
You wake up in the morning and it’s either a 10:00 to 1:00 or a 2:00 till 5:00 practice. Before the day or even the night before, I would message out the S & C requirements.
I would also have discussions with individual athletes around what their next couple of days would look like, knowing that we have two, three or four days in between the next match. We base those discussions around the workload they’ve done in the previous game.
Then we come up with a plan sometimes two or three days ahead, what each individual players’ workloads would look like from a skill and physical point of view.
In the morning I need to do my own strength or fitness work because that sets me up for the day. It allows me to have my own time and get a good sweat up and sometimes reflect. It fires me up for the day and gets that oxygen going.
Then I go to breakfast and then we either go to training or if we don’t have training, some guys would hit the gym in the morning. Otherwise, I’ll catch up on some form of administration or programming or that sort of thing.
I have discussions with individual athletes around what their next couple of days would look like, we base those discussions around the workload they’ve done in the previous game and then we come up with a plan, sometimes two or three days ahead, for what each individual players’ workloads would look like from a skill and physical point of view.
It’s a very tight time frame on traditional training days because there are big days where we’ve either got gym and skills or we’ve got one or the other. Because we play so often, a lot of the skill sessions are optional for players, so they get to choose which training they go to.
Some will go to every single one, while some will only go to one or two out of four days. But they will be allocated sessions where everyone must go to training. It was quite unique in my experience compared to other sports. The reasoning for this is purely because these guys play so often.
They would just end up training for training’s sake and they wouldn’t actually get that balance between S&C and downtime and even balance around their own life, which is much different to New Zealand. I can’t say that for the Black Caps because they are very similar, but certainly from a domestic circuit perspective
But yes, it’s a full day. So say you train in the morning doing skills and you get back around 2:30. The guys would either have a mid-afternoon nap or have some downtime. Then we would generally hit the gym between 4:00 and 7:00 PM.
It’s harder to program with the national side because you’re in hotels. Generally, it’s much harder to get the full team out into a commercial gym and train. A lot of the stadiums that are in India have gyms at the ground, which is great so we try to use those. If we have the access, we would either train before or after skills, at the ground.
If we are unable to then it’s all in hotels and they have limited equipment. We do quick reckie once we get to the hotel. Based on what equipment is there so that we have base plans around what we need to do for players and who’s coming in.
It’s a longer day because we finish around 7:00. Then on top of that, I would do all the GPS work and download and provide feedback. On top of that, as you said, I’m doing my Masters and business as well – so it’s pretty busy.
My wife thinks it’s a holiday being over in India, away from her and the kids, but we were lucky enough to travel and tour New Zealand, January to March and my wife and kids came on tour with us and she realized that it’s not a holiday. It’s pretty full-on.
My wife thinks it’s a holiday being over in India until my wife and kids came on tour with us through New Zealand and she realized that it’s not a holiday. It’s pretty full-on.
So that was a good eye-opener for her. They are long days, but you just have to try and balance that with trying to get your own sort of mental space as well because it’s important too as a coach. You need to have your own time and some downtime because otherwise you just get burnt out.
How to design a training program
Christian: How do you design a training program?
Nick: A good segue to what I just said. How I would program for an athlete is different now with India too, say New Zealand where you have three or four months of a pre-season. So there are two ways I would do it.
I’ll start within India because it’s the freshest one. I prefer to choose one or two physical aspects that you really have to try and hone in on.
You just have to choose one or two physical aspects that you really have to hone in on. Essentially you train the player first.
You find out where they’re coming from, what injury history and what’s their number one skill set. You want to know what their sports-specific skill set is. Also, it is important to know what they are currently working on at the moment.
Additionally, you also want to know how they want to play their sport and how they want to express their skills on the field. So how do I underpin that in a program where you have probably three days between the game and limited gym facility equipment?
My philosophy is that these guys are in the national squad for a reason. They’re already exceptional at what they do. So instead of developing a physical quality, let’s just get them better at what they’re already good at.
So for example, if someone’s already very quick, let’s just make them even better or give them the physical capacity and qualities and target those in training. Lets add to their ability and get even quicker. For me It’s about enhancing the training environment and strategically choosing when the best times are to push forward or pull back.
An example of that is providing objective data, for example, live GPS data, if you have the ability to wear GPS units or GPS watches. You give them live feedback on how fast they’re running. Sometimes a simple metric like that will enhance the training environment.
Some of these guys don’t even realize how fast they can run. And when they’ve got someone measuring them or you get a GPS on them in a game, they want to know how fast they ran that day. They actually want to move quicker and play faster and harder.
So you’re setting up a training environment that is making their current skill set even better. From a gym point of view, as I said, you have to understand what the skill set is and the demands of the game and underpin that at that current time, with what the current physical priority is.
These guys are in this national squad for a reason. They’re already exceptional at what they do, so let’s just get them better at what they’re already good at. So you’re setting up a training environment that is making current skill set even better.
I could focus on max strength or it could be relative power. It could be speed or it could be purely just body care, shoulder care, rehabilitative sort of gym work.
How I program is when focusing on a tour I would know what the players’ physical priorities are and I’ll have different options for each quality that we would interchange on. Based on selection, a player could be picked and he’s playing three days later versus a player who is not selected, he has six days to prepare.
So there’s a great opportunity to strategically choose days when to push or when to pull or just hold. So you have to have options for each one. It’s a different sort of programming style in international cricket because you have to be ready for selection. Your period of progression can change based on selection.
We travel with 15 players. Eleven play and I tend to really push the non-players really hard and treat that six-day window, for example, as a micro-dose preseason. I would really push them hard the first half of the week and ease off till next because they could be selected to be next.
Guys like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, all the all-format players play year-round and we just have to strategically choose our days when we really push them based on their game workloads.
So for example, Virat Kohli, he gets a duck, if you know what that means. He doesn’t do much with the bat. He hasn’t got a lot of running under his belt and he doesn’t have a lot of volume, so we can get into the gym the next day and really push him from a strength and a power point of view versus if he scores a hundred and he’s actually buggered, then we will ease up. He would come to me and say that he feels like he needs something. Knowing what he did the day before, we would adjust his plan based on his workload.
This is different from a domestic scene where you have probably through three, four, five months off-season, pre-season. You can really get down into exactly the same sort of process: understanding the sport, understanding the number one skill set, how they want to play the game, how the team wants to play the game and the demands coming up.
You then use this to formulate really structured training blocks that lead to each other. So you just have more time identifying key physical qualities from block one.
In terms of periodisation, back then I planned four or five months ahead. You pretty quickly learned that what you plan five months down the track, changes three weeks in. There’s a lot of things that you have to be adaptable with in your programming.
You have to at least have a blueprint of where you want to help this athlete and where they want to head, but you have to be adaptable. You start with some general movements to max strength and to speed and power, but it’s not genuinely linear.
And as experience, you get to know which sort of physical qualities can be programed together and what can lead on to the next, and the physical cost of certain modalities, say eccentric training. What’s the cost of incorporating that into your S & C program, while it has massive strength benefits its highly neural drivin which means that players will be sore and likely fatigued as a cost.
Do we implement those sorts of techniques into this international scene, when you’re going to go two or three days between matches? Probably not, but a certain amount of targeted eccentric work, like on the hamstrings that you had built over time then yes. I would provide small doses of this.
So there’s a lot going on from a programming perspective. But I guess to answer your question in short, like the philosophies and how you program for the domestic team and international team, the starting point is the same, but just the time is the determining factor.
The different roles in the National Cricket Team India
Christian: That leads almost perfectly into the next question. You’re the Head of S&C for the national cricket team in India. How do you distribute efforts or responsibilities? Do you all do it by yourself?
And the next question is because it literally is different tasks, you have Batsman, you have wicket-keepers, you have bowlers, they all have to do different things. How do you manage that?
Nick: It’s important that us, as coaches and support crew we’re all on the same page. There’s not a hell of a lot of time from a skill point of view to develop because you’re playing so often.
It’s important that us, as coaches and support crew we’re all on the same page.
It’s more about honing in on what’s going to enhance performance, but I think we all have different agendas based on our expertise. You have physical performance, physios and medical. Batting coaches are batting, obviously, bowling is bowling and they can almost be segregated.
They can always be separated from a skill point of view and they are, that’s why there are separate coaches for each skill set, where from an S & C point of view, based on the initial conversations that you have with a player, what do they want to achieve? How do they want to play the game?
I could be dealing with an all-rounder who bats and bowls and they all have to field. So it’s the communication between me and the link between the medical and all the skills coaches and getting their opinion of how we develop their plan.
We’re always having those corridor conversations with the coaches around what they think will enhance their performance in a couple of days’ time or two tours time from a skill and a technical point of view. Then it’s how I underpin that in my S&C program.
It’s more of those conversations with the skills coaches, whether that’s through the gym, running base programming and their warmups, some potentiation work or priming work, and how to incorporate that into their preparation.
That’s a really difficult part because the skills coach could be saying one thing, but I’m doing another thing that could be totally negating what the coaches are actually wanting. So it’s conversations that are usually important and everyone getting on the same page and singing from the same song sheet.
Is Virat Kohli’s fitness nature or nurture
Christian: You’ve mentioned the name Virat Kohli before. He’s considered one of the fittest cricket players to play the game. How much is nature and how much is nurture?
Nick: It is a bit of both. I think that if I was speaking to Virat and he’ll be the first one to say that.
It’s been quite a transformational process for him. It’s very similar to many other Indians in India. He was playing his cricket and he was tubby and overweight and didn’t understand the benefits of fitness and S & C and how being fit can influence his skill set.
It’s still, unfortunately, some mentality in India, in the lower grades, that to be successful in cricket, you just need to bat, you just need to bowl and you just need to field to be fit. But what I’m saying is that’s just not enough.
With Virat, he had a transformational moment. He realized that if he was going to survive in Indian cricket and compete and get the best out of himself and not only take ownership of his own program but lead other people around, he needed to change.
It’s been quite a transformational process for him. He was tubby and overweight and didn’t understand the benefits of fitness and S & C and how being fit can influence his skill set. Virat had a transformational moment. He realized that if he was going to survive in Indian cricket and compete and get the best out of himself he needed to change.
Full credit to him and the support crew that he had from 2011 to really change his mentality and his mindset and the way he was able to influence others to really buy into the training process in Indian cricket. There’s still a long way to go, I feel.
Now I’ve been integrated into the environment seven or eight months, Virat’s an exceptional person and an exceptional player. And like I said, it’s been a quite transformational process and he’s really driven the need for fitness and S & C and making that link between wanting to be able to hit the ball harder, bowl faster, run between the wicket faster etc.
When the key moments in a game occur, you need to be fitter. It also allows you to be able to handle long tours. If anything, it’s going to allow you to recover much quicker between matches because even in the domestic scene in India, you play a lot of cricket. So it’s about linking S&C and physical readiness to what is a skill dominant sport.
His interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Nick: Yes. There could be a couple of good young practitioners as well. I could give you a couple of ideas. Quite interesting would be Scott Logan, New Zealand hockey.
Nick: He could be quite a good little interview. He’s doing a lot of stuff with ASCA [Australian Strength & Conditioning Association] as well. He’s been in that role for quite some years, and it’s been quite a transformational process with their program as well, so you can talk to him.
If you wanted to go left field, you could go to Heinrich Malan as well, who’s like I said, I was in the trenches with them in New Zealand cricket. He’s a skill coach, and a very good people leader, great coach. He understands it.
You could delve into more leadership and how he sets up training and develop athletes. You could go on that line. If you wanted to delve more into rugby as well, there’s a guy called Adam Keene who also worked in New Zealand cricket, but he’s now working in Japan rugby.
You have also got a guy called Scott McLaren, who is an ex-decathlete here in New Zealand, but he’s also worked for New Zealand cricket and he’s working in high school sport as well. So he’s got vast experience as well. I think he’s also competed at the Commonwealth Games as well.
I know them all personally, so I know they’ll have great conversations with you. But there are many others that you can have as well. Those are the guys that I’ve dealt with and I think that’ll be great conversations and maybe open up different avenues of conversations for you as well and to your readers and your listeners.
Christian: Yes, thanks. That’s cool.
Where can you find Nick Webb
Christian: Where can people find you?
Nick: I’m on Instagram. Nick.Webby is the username. You can follow me there. I like to share training videos and my experiences and life in India to those fans and people who are just hungry for information.
So you’ll find a lot of stuff on there. I’m not a big user of Twitter, to be fair. Obviously email and What’s App in there, but I’ll try and keep all my personal stuff to my personal life, but the main social media site is Instagram.
Nick Webb’s social profiles
Christian: Nick, thanks a lot for your time.
Nick: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Christian: Thank you.
Nick: Cheers buddy.