Specifying information— what’s that all about, then?

I missed this podcast from @ShakeyWaits last year.

And, as a coach who has struggled with the concept of “specifying information” that was a bad miss, because Rob answers so many of my questions!

Key takeaways

We can’t always easily define specifying information for a complex task. Think of batting against a mystery spinner— where would you even start?

RPM? Release height? Speed? Pitch conditions? State of the ball? Prior knowledge of the bowler?

Instead, aim to provide a practice environment where the player can attune to the challenge of (subconsciously) identifying specifying information in real time — in simple(r) English, let the player learn what to look for by playing and looking.

Rob’s suggestions — let the practice environment do the talking!

Make sure the information that is provided is task (game) relevant & dynamic.

Vary the information (vary conditions) — in a “fixed” practice, the player can succeed without attending to real specifying info, knowing in advance that the bowling machine will deliver 75 mph half volleys, or bowling to hit a target laid out on the wicket.

(Nothing dreadfully wrong with either for building confidence, so long as the player quickly moves on to something more representative of the full game.)

Finally, amplify affordances using constraints — incentivise a particular behaviour, so that the player becomes attuned to looking for appropriate specifying information. Bonus runs for hitting a pre-designated target area — works for batters trying to manipulate the ball into open spaces, and for bowlers trying to prevent the ball from being hit there.

What might it mean to provide information, not cues, in practice?

There is a scary extension of this line of thinking (scary for a cricket coach working with young quick bowlers).

Rob actually formulated his first point as “Don’t use cues, provide information — let the environment do the talking!”

One of our practices is to have a bowler respond to a visual signal (normally one of two coloured cones) to bowl either a yorker or a bumper.

The intention is to challenge the bowler to develop the ability to vary length at the very last moment, partly to respond if a batter preempts a movement, partly to avoid any obvious “tells” in the run-up and pre-delivery

But the cue is a coloured cone, waved by a coach, standing either as the bowler’s end umpire or, perhaps, behind the net at the batter’s end.

Taking away that cue, we could put a batter in the net, and have them either advance down the pitch just before release, or rock onto the back foot.

Much more realistic information, demanding a response — aim for the batter’s toes if he is on the back foot early, pull the length back if he advances.

So, who is going to pad up against our u13 quicks, measured at 70mph and bowling from just 19 yards?


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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