This short video clip shows “Jamie” playing table tennis with his dad.
For me, this summarises the first stage in learning in a bat-ball sport and is all about providing opportunities to learn to time bat swings to ball flight. In terms of a constraint-led approach, Jamie is learning to couple perception (ball flight) to action (bat swing).
My question then, i to ask if there any other ways of developing perception and action than simply providing balls (for Jamie) to hit and what are the implications of this for learning to bat in cricket?
In terms of batting, it seems that learning to bat by facing bowlers is seen as too hard. Cricket coaching has advocated ‘simplifying’ batting by placing balls on tees, or using drop feeds to develop ‘technique’ in isolation to the need to ‘time’ the swing to the ball flight. As you can imagine, I am strongly opposed to these strategies and believe they simply do not work.
So, what is the cricketing equivalent of multi-ball?
In the recent article I posted by Greg Chappell, Greg says that batting:
- Must be learnt and contrary to popular opinion, it can’t be taught.
He follows up with:
- The early exposure to the art is critical in the development process. Too much instruction in the formative stage can be deleterious to development.
- The first thing that a young player must be able to do is pick length
So, in terms of developing batting skills I would argue that the advice I was given by veteran Yorkshire coach, Ralph Middlebrook the day after my son was born is still spot on. Ralph said: ‘Do me a favour, Ian…bowl at him from day one, as he needs to learn to couple this (he mimicked the bowling action) to this (mimicking a batting action)”. For me, this made perfect sense, theoretically and practically. Thus, my batting multi-ball was via a basket of tennis balls placed on a stool at the top of the driveway. These balls were bowled at the young batter standing in front of the ‘stumps’ (the front door or the house). I ‘bowled’ the ball to land short or full, with the only instruction being to hit the garage wall (square leg) or step forward and hit it back over my head to land on the garden on the opposite side of the road…(a straight drive).
Through this approach, the young batter was able to couple his actions to the ball flight and was easily able to pick length when he started playing in organised cricket at 7 years old.