When I first started posting to this blog, the strapline I chose was “in search of innovation in cricket”. I believed (hoped) that it should be possible to find novel solutions to coaching and technical issues.
Over the years, it has become apparent that there are probably very few absolute answers. “It depends” seems to be the standing response from researchers and experienced coaches. Even when an answer is correct today, new research, new knowledge, might mean that by tomorrow that answer might no longer be true.
So perhaps the best I can hope to do is to learn how to ask better questions.
33 Five- and six-year old children (and 6 or 7 adults – coaches, teachers & teaching assistants), 16 balls, lots of throwing & catching, all in the space of two badminton courts.
I knew one of the other coaches saw danger in the chaos.
‘Could we get them to line up & take it in turns?’
’How about splitting them into two groups, and having only half of the working at the same time?’
But I saw lots of kids taking lots of catches (and dropping some), being aware of what was going on around them, having fun.
I like a (little) bit of chaos in practice. It encourages focus, on the task in front of the players.
Now, I hope it goes without saying that I am not advocating allowing an apparently chaotic situation to degenerate into a dangerous one. But in this case, with a responsible adult for every five children, I really didn’t want to have the kids lining up and taking turns — I wanted to get the whole group active and engaged. I wanted them to think that cricket was FUN!
And at the same time learning how to ‘play nicely’ with others around them.
Sometimes, a little chaos is a good thing!
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!