Take a look at this outstanding article by Greg Chappell about learning to bat.
There are many great points with nearly every sentence powerful in its own right. In order to do justice to the article I want take my time and deal with the key issues in turn over the next few weeks. However, here is a quick summary of the main points, many of which provide wonderful support for the benefits of adopting a constraint-led approach to coaching batting:
Sir Donald Bradman said in his seminal book “The Art of Cricket” that he would rather tell a young batsman what to do than how to do it.
My thoughts: This is a fundamental principle that underpins every aspect of our coaching. In effect instead of prescribing solutions, we create environments where we set nothing more than the global goal and provide opportunities for learners to solve the problem in their own unique ways. This does not mean we don’t ‘coach’ but does change the emphasis of what we do as coaches.
All of the following points have important implications for coaching practice:
- In Test cricket the mental skills are tested as much as the physical skills while the fitness to bat for hours on end is underestimated.
- It takes time to develop top-class batsmen.
- There is no easy road to the top. Hours of patient, intelligent and persistent training is required to reach there.
- The early exposure to the art is critical in the development process. Too much instruction in the formative stage can be deleterious to development.
- It must be learnt. Contrary to popular opinion, it can’t be taught.
- If batting is indeed an art, then ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.
- I was taught that footwork and top hand dominance were critical components of good batting
- Most of the young batsmen that I see coming through have dominant bottom hands and minimal footwork. The more I understand batting, the more I realise that the first leads to the second. In other words, if one has a strong bottom hand grip, it has a negative effect on the ability to use one’s legs.
Why are batting skills getting worse?:
- …the most impactful thing, is that coaches are more prevalent in junior cricket than ever before. By trying to be helpful, we have stunted the growth of generations of batsmen to the point that we are not seeing the rare talents reach the top in the numbers that they once did.
- Learning to bat with an implement that is too long or too heavy for the individual is a sure-fire way to develop bad habits and stunt creativity. Because the bat is unwieldy, the individual grips it tightly with the bottom hand creating habits that are not only limiting, but also hard to undo years later.
- The weight of the helmet is considerable which has an impact on an individual’s balance that restricts the development of good footwork.
- Every prospective batsman sees the ball hit in the air regularly and that is what they practice in the belief that it is what brings success.
What can we do to help?:
- We must stop trying to teach batting and, instead, create learning environments that encourage thinking, decision-making and which achieve the outcome of giving the batsman a strong foundation to play on both sides of the wicket.
- Competition should be restricted until batsmen can recognise length and have developed a battery of options to hit the ball into gaps.
- The best players are known to be the best decision-makers so we must include this aspect in these early sessions.
- Young players should have limits on the weight and size of bats and should be learning with softer balls so that they don’t need to wear helmets or at least wear something that is light enough not to impact their footwork negatively.
- Coaches should be seen and not heard.
- The [role of the coach] should be to set the environment and observe the action. If refinement to a player’s method is required, the parameters of the training session should be adjusted to encourage the desired outcome.
- No other sport trains in an environment that is as far removed from the real game as cricket does.
- Good players don’t learn to play and compete in nets. They have to learn from playing and competing in environments that replicate the real thing.
I will add some commentary to these points later, but for now, I strongly recommend you read this and pass it onto your coaches, coach educators and perhaps most importantly, parents.