Northern Knights Head Coach Simon Johnston receives ECB Level 4 Coaching accreditation
BELFAST - Northern Knights’ Head Coach Simon Johnston was delighted to receive his ECB Level Four Coaching Award recently after two years of dedicated work at the prestigious accreditation.
Johnston, who was first appointed head coach of the Northern Knights in late 2016, was thankful for the opportunity after Cricket Ireland funding through its Elite Coach Development Programme made it possible.
We spoke to Simon at his home in Belfast.
What drew you to wanting to take the ECB Coaching course?
“I was asked by Michael Hingston (former CI Coach Ed manager) and Richard Holdsworth a few years ago if I would be interested in applying for it. Back then Cricket Ireland could nominate one person a year. Once the offer was made, it was a no-brainer - if you get offered to apply for the ECB flagship course you jump at it!”
“It’s a course I had aspired to be on for a long time, but - being honest - never dreamed I would be good enough to get on it.”
“We then sent away an application with a presentation, then had to fly over to England for an interview, and do another presentation to get on the course. Thankfully, a few days later I got the call to say that I had been accepted. I was over the moon with getting onto the programme, thanks to Cricket Ireland for the opportunity and support going through the process.”
What is involved in a course like this?
“It lasted a little over 2 years, and you had a large number of core modules to cover, as well as there being five sets of week-long stays at Loughborough University. You had to complete assignments after every module and if you passed those you moved on.”
“In Year Two you had to complete a portfolio on two players, as well as your head coaching journey - if you passed, you then went through to a final assessment and interview. I found it very challenging, as I wouldn’t say I’m very academically-minded, but I loved the experience. We had world-class tutors like Peter Moores, Mark Ramparkash and Peter Such. On top of this, I was very lucky to have some brilliant coaches going through the course with me – the likes of Marcus Trescothick, James Treadwell, Andrew Gayle, Alex Gidman and Phil Simmons to name a few. That would be for me the best bit about it all, the sharing of knowledge from all the guys has been incredible.”
How do you feel this work will support your duties with the Northern Knights and future ambitions?
“A lot, I hope, and fingers crossed the players I have been coaching the past few years will have seen the benefits already. My biggest takeaway is really understanding why I’m doing things or what am I really asking the players to do. Perhaps in the past I may have done things just to tick a box, so to speak, but now I feel there is a real purpose and plan in everything.”
“Future-wise for the Knights and our pathway, I’ve made some lifelong friends on the course and hopefully these relationships I have gained from a large number of county coaches will remain strong and we can continue to offer things like specialist workshops and trips for our pathway players as we have been able to do over past few years.”
“I was also very lucky throughout the course that I had a great mentor from the ECB in Nathan Wood, and back home Eagy [Ryan Eagleson] was a brilliant support having done the course himself a few years before. They are both huge “people” coaches and great to learn off.”
Would you recommend it for other current or aspiring coaches?
“I would recommend all coaches to do all their coaching levels, to be honest - whatever level they aspire to. You obviously have to work your way up to the Level 4 - I did my 1,2, 2.5, 3 before getting onto it, but the more the merrier really. The more qualified coaches we can get out on the ground in Ireland the better, it can only benefit the players out there at clubs and grassroots.”
What have you been doing over the off-season? When will you start work and training for the new season?
“We have only been able to train with the senior contracted lads and Wolves since November, and 1-on-1s only. Those guys in have been working very hard for their tours away and hopefully they will get their rewards when they are out there.”
“Knights-wise we are hoping as soon as lockdown eases to get out and do some 1-on-1 straight away, or some small pod sessions - we will just have to wait and see. With the short time period before the start of the season, it will be very much a case of minimal time for technical work, just keeping it simple and getting the bodies batting and bowling again.”
Last week the new emerging IP competition was announced – how important is it for Irish cricket to have a formal emerging / pathway competition like that?
“I feel it’s critical, and something we have been championing for a while now. It’s great to see Cricket Ireland investing in it and I’m excited to see the players preforming in it. It’s a really good chance for all players just below senior inter-pros level to play some top quality cricket, and also for us as Provinces to look at the next crop of players in the pathway coming through.”
“With it being an under-19 World Cup qualifying year, it’s also a great opportunity to look at some under-19 lads as well - so doubly exciting. Well done to all for getting it over the line.”
Flash back to 2020
Watch an interview with Simon…