Introducing swing; what is “coaching”?

Interesting re-post from @ImSporticus, just before Christmas.

It got me thinking about how I would coach someone to swing a cricket ball.

And the programme I came up with included a bit of direct instruction, a lot self-guided discovery, maybe some feedback, a demo & a drill to scaffold learning.

Rather more to it than “hold the ball like this, follow-through like this”.

This post started as a (lengthy) reply to the tweet from @ImSporticus. If you follow @theteesra, you might have seen all this already.

Where would I start?

Probably not with the infographic.

“Here is a theoretical explanation of why a cricket ball swings. If I teach you this, and you learn it, you will have learnt a theoretical explanation of why a cricket ball swings.”

But not what you need to do to bowl a cricket ball and make it swing.

That requires a different type of learning, and a different type of teaching.

Not sure how the learning works, yet, but let’s call the teaching “coaching” (although I know there are different definitions of what coaching actually is).

I would start with some simple instructions — “seam/shine position makes a ball swing; try to bowl the ball so the seam position stays constant.”

Then send the bowler away with a half-tape ball, and let him have a try.

More words at this stage would only confuse a first attempt.

Having seen bowlers deliver out-swing from a chest-on action, in-swing from side-on, and out- and in-swing, on-demand or randomly, with no discernible change in action, I wouldn’t try to prescribe a particular style.

It’s seam position that defines swing. So the advice is to do whatever you need to do to control the seam.

Maybe some words about grip: “don’t squash the ball — fingertips, if you can.”

If it still isn’t working, we might talk about wrist/hand position immediately before and at release.

You can’t really influence the swing of the ball after you have let go of it, but it might help to “keep the wrist firm throughout release — just before, at the very moment, and just after” — to discourage any “twisting”, cutting or spinning.

But verbal instruction breaks down, here. The word “firm” implies stiff, or locked, when what is really wanted is a dynamic “flick” towards the target, with no “twisting”.

So it might be easier to demo this part; better still, drill it.

Perhaps the “throwing basics” drills — lock the forearm, propel ball with wrist & finger flick only.

Then advance to “flick to control seam position”.

Then try to transfer that to ball release out of a full bowling action.

But always coming back to bowling, and finding ways to maintain seam position.

Oh, I forgot the most important bit of advice.

Look after the ball!

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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