Squares…with a twist

We have probably all played the catching game ‘squares’ (sometimes called ‘catching tennis’) – two opposing teams trying to throw a ball so that it bounces in the other side’s “square”, and defending by catching the ball before it bounces.

It is a very simple game to develop catching and throwing skills, and one that can be readily modified to challenge the skills of the players involved, by making the target squares larger or smaller, or closer together or further apart, by allowing one hand, one bounce catches, and by changing the type of ball.

But this simple game can easily break down if the initial throwing is poor – rules like “underarm only” and “over head height” seem to get forgotten very quickly.

So this simple variant, from Damo Wilson, is well worth trying.

Introduce a third team as the ‘net’, between the two competing teams.  Encourage the ‘net’ to block low throws; if they can catch the ball, they replace the throwers in playing the game.

In effect, a game of mass ‘piggy-in-the-middle’.

The quality of throws rapidly improved when we tried this, as did the level of competition (and engagement).

Well worth a try, especially if your ‘squares’ degenerates into a game of skittles!

The leg-side game — making the batsman think.

Nice variation on the leg-side game this morning, thanks to Oli Rae.

Batsman set up close to net on off-side, leg-side with targets at mid-on and square leg; random feed — short-of-a-length (for the pull stroke), bobble-feed on leg stump (on-drive).

Batters aware of leg-side options, but not able to set-up for pull or drive in advance of delivery.

  • Outcomes:  much improved striking by all members of the group.  They were able to predict the stroke, but had to retain their stance until the ball was delivered.
  • Additional learning: be aware of the gaps in the field, and target them when the opportunity arises.

Bowling — back to base

Had a fascinating evening last week, with Steffan Jones talking about the Governing Dynamics of Fast Bowling.

Anyone who follows Steffan on twitter, instagram or LinkedIn will know that he is dedicated to developing fast bowlers, and to developing the knowledge needed for coaches to develop fast bowlers.

It was an absorbing session — so much so, that we only got 15 minutes at the end to play with the wide array of “toys” that Stef had brought along to demonstrate some of the techniques he is using in his own coaching!

Key take-home for me on the night was the absolute necessity of making practice specific to the activity (bowling) and to the performer (bowler).

But for all the inspiration from Steffan’s presentation, it was a couple of almost off-hand comments that might have the greatest impact on my day-to-day coaching practice.

  • The bowler’s back foot must be pointing forwards when the ball is released.
  • Stef has beginners bowl from the “base” position with both their feet already aligned to the target.

Could it be that we have been teaching the basics of bowling incorrectly?

Continue reading Bowling — back to base