I could do this with my eyes closed…

No, I don’t mean it’s just too easy.  I mean that a little blind-fold practice can go a long way to improving performance.

It is always helpful for a coach to watch other coaches working, so the other week I took the opportunity to watch a session at the Essex Autogroup Graham Gooch Cricket Centre, at the Ford County Ground, Chelmsford.  And while I was there, I got into a conversation with the father of one of the young players being coached.

He explained how his son had problems with his batting until he improved his footwork.

How did he manage that, I asked.

By closing his eyes, replied the father.

It transpired that the father was a music teacher.  He explained how he discouraged his piano trainees from looking at the keyboard by placing a sheet of cardboard under their chins.  You can’t play the piano well if you spend all of the time looking at your fingers – you need to know where the keys are, much as a touch-typist would.

OK – this makes sense for playing the piano.  But blindfold cricket?

Turns out the exercise was to unlearn bad footwork habits.  Shuffling, moving the feet around the crease rather than simple, decisive forward or back.  So by practicing the foot movements with his eyes shut, he could stop thinking about why he had to move his feet, and concentrate on how to move them.  And the evidence was clear – after a winter of blindfold footwork, the batting performance was much improved.

I tried something similar with our Colts team, getting some of them to bowl with their eyes closed.  No batsman, and in an open space with nothing to trip over and not nets to run into, so they could concentrate on ly on the act of bowling the ball.

They all thought it was crazy (and they all gave it a go).  And one bowler hit the stumps three times out of four.  Quite probably better than he could ever manage with his eyes open!  None of the bowlers missed the stumps by very much.  And they all left the session with a slightly better idea about what their bodies were doing when they bowled at the stumps.

I just hope none of them tries it in a match…

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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