‘Cricket is a skill-based game, but with stellar fitness training you can execute your skill better. Training is the 1% that leads to the 100% of success,’ says Kenosi Mashwabi, the VKB Knights’ assistant strength and conditioning coach.
How do you help the players to raise their game?
In gym sessions we use some tools to help monitor the players’ progress and then we will give each player a target of a rep rate, which is based on their perceived exertion. We ask them to rate on a scale of 1-10 how much they are exerting themselves with each exercise, and we monitor their progress in that way. At the same time, I have to pay close attention to their form and technique to make sure they get the most out of each exercise and to avoid any chance of physical stress or injury.
A lot of the guys who have been around the franchise system already have a good idea of what is expected of them, so my focus with them is more on ensuring they don’t injure themselves, but at the same time I need to help them to push themselves further to ensure that they keep improving to take them to the next level.
How do you monitor the players’ training?
We give the guys heart rate monitors and that feeds us info on their heart rate and intensity levels when they are doing gym work. We log all the data of what each player did during every day of training in order to monitor their workload and to analyse how their body responds to different workloads.
We log on to a portal that shows us how long the players bat and bowl and how long they have spent on their gym sessions. This is an important tool to monitor how busy the players are to ensure they aren’t batting, bowling or training too much.
What role does strength and fitness training play in cricketing success?
Best way to put it is training is the 1% that leads to the 100% of success. Considering the fact cricket is a skill-based game, but with stellar fitness training you can execute your skill better.
What have been some of your best moments working with the players?
When we took over the strength and conditioning responsibilities for the Free State academy team, they didn’t have much structure when they trained and what they did in the gym. We worked with them tirelessly during the off-season and ahead of a heavy pre-season quadrangular in Hogsback when the guys played four games in four days.
On the second day the guys started to break and three or four players needed intense massages to prepare them for the next day, but by day three the guys were still charging in and they weren’t showing any signs of stiffness – they looked in great physical condition. They didn’t complain about the workload and when they came back they carried on with their training happily. That was fulfilling, as it showed that we had done our job in preparing them for the season ahead of them.
Tell us about the attitude to training among the Knights squad.
They have an amazing work ethic as a squad. If they are going to be travelling on a Sunday then we have an optional practice on Saturdays, but everybody just rocks up and puts in a good session, even though it’s not compulsory. That is the culture of the team – they go the extra mile for one another and they do things like eating healthily without thinking about it.
The team has a nice mix of young guys as well as more experienced players who have been there for a long time, so that brings a different dynamic to play. It’s a nice mix of young and old and they gel well together, and are always mixing and are quick to help each other to develop their games.
Tell us about your work with Free State and the Knights?
I am a trainer at Sports Performance Clinic Gym and we have been contracted by Free State cricket to look after their players. I work as the head trainer with the academy side, the semi-pro team as well as the women’s team. I am also the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the VKB Knights and their massage therapist.
My main focus is to work with the Knights at all their training sessions and I also travel with the team to all their away games. I work with all the teams ahead of time to ensure they are physically prepared for their home and away matches.
What is your day-to-day schedule like with the players?
In a normal week when there are no games, the players will have a morning gym session at the Sports Performance Clinic and we will take them through a session where they do strength and conditioning work. Then there will be a fielding session in the morning, which includes a proper warm-up that I take the squad through, followed by intense fielding drills and then a nets session.
I assist with the fielding drills, which are led by the head coach and assistant coach, but a key role for me is to watch the players in the nets to check out if they are looking fatigued. It’s also important to monitor their performance during fielding and nets to ensure they are bringing the right intensity to their practice. At the end of each session I will then consult with Morne Castelyn (the head strength and conditioning coach for the VKB Knights) and we will make notes on each session from a conditioning point of view, and from there we can decide what needs to be done in training.
What is your sporting background?
I didn’t play cricket when I was younger, my strengths were soccer and rugby, so it was a learning experience to get into cricket with no personal background in the sport. My knowledge in strength and conditioning obviously translates into any sport, but I have had to adapt my knowledge to understand what the players need in order to be prepared for a four-day game, for instance. Having a background in other sports helps because I bring that experience to help keep the training fresh and to help the players shake off any lethargy they might be feeling, for instance through playing a game of hand soccer. You learn as you go and you have to experience things for yourself, as there is so much in this field that you can’t just learn from a book.
Kenosi Mashwabi is the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the VKB Knights and their massage therapist. He is also the head trainer with the Free State academy side, the semi-pro team and their women’s team.
Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix