Just been re-watching a couple of really interesting webinars from last week — biomechanics of bowling and batting, with Paul Felton and Stuart McErlain-Naylor.
Well presented, and clearly very relevant to anyone coaching in a development or performance environment.
So what was I doing on the call? I coach the U9s…
In truth, I watched as much out of general interest as for any obvious practical application. To see how biomechanics studies were being reported, rather than to find out about individual techniques and model bowling actions.
I am wary of prescribed techniques. Too many are based on “experience” i.e. “what works for me”, or “what I have seen working for [insert name of great player or favourite coaching guru here]”, and may or may not have much basis in fact.
What I found refreshing in the two biomechanics webinars was how both presenters avoided talking about “best” or “recommended” techniques. Instead, the emphasis was on movement patterns that were common across the most successful players (in their sample*).
The batting studies that Stuart discussed revealed several common components in the “hitting” model — looking just at techniques used to hit the ball as far as possible — and also at some technical differences between male and female batters.
And that gives the kids’ coach something to work with.
I won’t get the U7s playing “textbook” front-foot drives. Or range hitting.
But if I can get them to “step and leave the bat behind them” (extend their “X-factor” — watch the webinar!), or perhaps encourage them to hit with the front arm straight at contact (extended elbow on top arm), then I might just be helping them to find movement solutions that can develop into power hitting as they get older.
We do sometimes say, with the young ones — “hit the ball, first, then worry about how it looks”. No point playing a textbook-perfect forward defence if you miss the ball completely! Get bat on ball, consistently, then refine how you achieve that.
The insight from biomechanics studies just might identify coaching points that we can work towards, and help coaches to get young batters hitting and developing a transferable movement pattern that can, in time, become that gorgeous cover drive.
* There is a bias inherent in the sampling for many of the studies I have seen, certainly those part-funded by the ECB.
The “elite” or high performing group is very often defined by a group of players who were selected because they met a supposed “ideal” model technique, and who have been coached over time to move even closer to that model.
So the techniques displayed by the “elite” might be superior to those of “lesser” players. Or perhaps they just fitted more closely to the coaches’ concept of an ideal technique, which got them selected for elite groups, more coaching support, and exposure to tougher competition.
But where studies focus on differences within an elite group, they can identify the factors that contribute most to efficacy when using that technique.