4 Biggest mistakes in Fielding (and how to fix them)

1. “It’s all about being energetic”

It’s not. Fielding is as much about staying still as it is about moving!

Being fast and agile will give you more potential to impact the game. But composure will determine whether you consistently take that catch or run out chance.

Without composure, the ball never sticks to your hand! It should be highlighted lots in training. You do not want the ball to burst through their hands (unstable base), or “colliding” with the ball (still sprinting as ball hits your hand).

DRILL FOR UNDERSTANDING: “Fast – Slow – Fast”

I use this drill to teach fielders when to rush, and when to take their time. Use FAST BOBBLE FEEDS – skid the ball into the players from a low start (kneel down to feed the balls)

  • “FAST”: ATTACK THE BALL in the 1-2 seconds available, try and close down the gap as much as they can
  • “SLOW” – When the ball is about to hit your hand, get steady! Your priority shifts from moving fast, to being as still as possible.
    The better you get at fielding, the less time you have to allow for getting yourself steady. But for an average young player, I usually say to begin this process 1 second before the ball reaches them.
  • “FAST” – When the ball is securely in the hand – and it MUST BE IN YOUR HAND FIRST!! – speed up again! Shift body in direction of target (NOT just arms) and release.
    Make sure that the player is rotating their body, and not “lunging” towards their throwing target.

If you see your players “over-reacting” to relatively simple stops, point it out! If you see them taking the “easy way out” (sitting back, to get more time), point it out!

 

2. “ALWAYS/NEVER ………”

Cricket is chaotic. No two situations are identical. The amount of time you have varies greatly, and the situation could change at any second.

Therefore, it is very difficult to give absolute rules. Fielders need to be EMPOWERED to make decisions. Hard throw/soft throw/under-arm/over-arm. And to do this effectively, they need to look up, and evaluate what is going on. 

My belief is that fielding coaching, much like batting, is about giving players all the options – types of movements and actions. It is up to them decide when and where to use each.

So many run outs are missed as a result of throwing too hard, to the stumps instead of to hand, to the wrong end. Fielders need information – in the form of looking up, or effective communication – to decide what to do. 

3. Ready = “walking in”

Players who walk every ball can still be “not ready”. This is because the walking in has to end in a “set”, or ready, position. If you don’t get set, even standing still would be better!

Look out for:

  • “STAR-FISH” POSE – that moment when the ball is hit hard at a player….who isn’t completely ready. Both arms and legs stretch out, as they scramble to put them in the right place
  • DROPPING TO KNEES – players who are still walking in as the ball is hit, will have their feet too close together. A low, hard shot will be impossible to stop, unless they fall to the floor. It SHOULDN’T be necessary
  • RUNNING FORWARDS….THEN WHERE THE BALL IS – when forced to react fast, some players start running forwards before they move left or right. In this split second, it becomes impossible to stop some balls. Reason: they are still walking in.
    A close fielder needs to be primed to move in ANY DIRECTION. That requires stillness as the bowler releases the ball.

Being “properly” ready means a SET POSITION:

– on toes,
-poised to spring in any direction (not just forwards!)
-weight loaded slightly forwards (balanced, but if you nudged the back of their head, they would start to topple)

Look closely at your teams when fielding. Are they “ready”? Or are they just “watching”?

4. Aiming = pointing arms at target

Lining your feet up, is more important than aiming.  Feet help get your whole body in the right angle. it is the difference between aiming at a target, versus just waving in its direction!

There is no point in telling players to “aim” over and over. Make sure they are aiming properly and fully. Look out for….

THROWING WHILE ON THE MOVE – if your players is still jogging after their throw, that throw will have no real force behind it….and is also likely to be wayward.

Work on “anchoring” the back foot. This helps a thrower stop their momentum, and throw their body weight towards the target. With practice it becomes possible to swivel on this foot, then push towards the target, all in one movement.

THROW FLYING OVER KEEPER’S HEAD – happens when players never point their body to the target. This poor angle results in a sling instead of a proper throw.

Work on a fast “swivel”, using their core muscles to fully rotate. 

CLICK HERE FOR SOME OF THE FIELDING DRILLS I USE

“Chaos Fielding”: a game for expecting the unexpected

It is difficult to replicate genuine pressure situations in training. However you can add extra layers: decisions to make, instructions to follow….or a few distractions and confusion. 

What fielders traditionally lack

  • PERIPHERAL VISION – knowing what is going around you. Picking up cues such as the running batters….not an easy task when your priority is to focus on the small moving ball!
    When done well, it is almost an instinct. While learning, encourage players to “look up” and evaluate the situation. Decisions need information!!
  • COMPOSURE – run out chances are often wasted before they have really begun. Not being ready, and fumbling the ball.
  • RESPONSE TO MISTAKES OR CHANGE – the situation is always shifting. The ball can bobble or we can simply slip up! And in these situations, a cool head is needed.
    However what our brain wants to do is instantly amend that mistake. We rush, and can make the mistake even worse.
  • WHY IS THIS – fielding drills are often formulaic. Take the famous “Triangle Drill” for example. The ball goes round and round in a predictable loop.Sometimes you need some imagination to take a coaching staple, and include the unexpected, or even something a little bit different!

 

The “Chaos” Fielding Drill: making things deliberately confusing!

This game really isn’t rocket science. But I use a few twists to this simple drill, to keep fielders on their toes. 

Priority is speed. Attacking the ball – a) saving time with technique, b) quick release, instead of brute force and overly hard throws –  and “recycling” – constantly ready for the next thing, not giving players extra time to recover.

Set up:

  • 2 STUMPS – a keeper’s and bowler’s end
  • 3 GROUPS – 1 x fielding, 2 x backing-up

chaos fielding setup

How it works:

  • LOW FAST FEEDS – skid the ball into the fielder at pace
  • FIELDER ATTACKS BALL – instead of waiting for it to come to them. Emphasis on speed and closing down gap
  • THROW TO STUMPS – coach shouts which end
  • NEXT BALL HIT STRAIGHT AWAY! – no time for dawdling

chaos fielding process

What happens next:

  • FIELDER RETURNS – to back of queue
  • CATCHER RETURNS BALL – puts in pile and returns to their queue
  • NON-CATCHER RETURNS TO CONE – runs out for the next ball
  • COACH CAN SHOUT “CHANGE STATIONS” – entire group then moves to station to the LEFT.

chaos fielding next

Making it trickier:

  • FIELDER HAS TO FOLLOW BALL – runs to whichever end they threw it. Joins back of queue
  • CATCHER RETURNS BALL – to the pile
  • CATCHER THEN REPLACES FIELDER – joins the back of the fielding queue

chaos fielding stage 2

EXTRA COACHING POINTS

  • IT IS CONFUSING ON PURPOSE! – the criss-crossing players are deliberate. With this game, I intend to promote each player’s awareness. Instead of fixating, or tunnel-vision, a fielder needs at least half an eye on the bigger picture.
    AGAIN, THIS IS VERY DIFFICULT, but it helps your fielding get to the next level
  • GET OUT OF THE WAY – know when you need to be involved, and when you need to give your teammates a clear view. This skill is transferable to general positioning, in terms of backing up.
  • GET EVERYTHING IN ORDER – for fielders this is: 1. attack the ball, 2. get steady, 3. turn, 4. throw!
    For the backing-up fielders it is: 1. get in position, 2. correct body position, 3. catch, 4. tap stumps.
    Under pressure, it is easy to try to rush each process….for example, starting the turn and throw before the catch is complete.
    With practice, fielders can go through each phase much quicker
  • QUICK RELEASE BETTER THAN A HARD THROW – the time saved is usually the same. The extra control is huge
  • TURN INSTEAD OF “LUNGE” – a player needs their whole body in line to throw consistently. This means “swiveling” your body is a useful skill. However, sometimes fielders throw their arm or leg towards the target, without balance.

Net Matches: ways to make your net sessions more realistic

Here are a few ways I use to instill a little realism in nets. 

Nets can meander unless you have a clear purpose. I am always keen to set some more specific goals. 

The “3-Strikes” Game

  • Normal nets
  • When the batter plays a wild slog, or commits a silly error, they LOSE 1 STRIKE
  • When the batter is dismissed, they LOSE 1 STRIKE
  • When the batter loses 3 strikes, they are OUT (and the next batter can start padding up).

Logic: players will make mistakes, but repeated errors – or “throwing in the towel” – are a problem.

I use this game to give batters a chance to recover from their mistakes, in a way that “out-and-you’re-out” nets do not. It is training after all, and players are working on one thing or another.

**It is important that strikes are only deducted for SILLINESS, and not for small mistakes (eg/ if the bowler produces a brilliant ball, the batter shouldn’t be penalized)**

Net match

There are any number of variations you can use for this. Sometimes, I even score a net match like a real game – set fields and award runs based on them!

EXAMPLES

  • 2 V 2 MATCH
    – 3 wickets per pair
    – Set amount of time for innings
    – If pair 1 is bowled out early, pair 2 gets their remaining time to bat

EXTRAS

  • connor matchPitch Map
    – Measure where each bowler is landing their balls, to which batters
    – You can see whether patterns emerge. Is your team bowling too short? Where are most the balls going? Does this change at different stages of an innings?
  • Impact Points
    – This is my invented method to find out which balls a player is attacking, deflecting, defending or missing/edging/getting out to
    – It helps a coach to see patterns in a player’s approach, and figure out the reason behind weaknesses
    For more information, CLICK HERE
  • farazWagon wheels
    – Monitor where each batter is hitting the ball
    – Are there areas that each batter is playing shots to, or avoiding hitting shots to?

USEFUL APPS

We use NX Cricket, for it’s useful breakdown of stats – including wagon wheels, “Manhattans”, run rate charts and personal data.

CLICK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE MATCH ANALYSIS

 

OTHER GAMES

“Side-To-Side” Fielding Drill – teaching players to cover the most ground

I use this activity to help demonstrate to young players that they can always get a bit closer to the ball than they think!

It is important that players know how to cover the most ground possible….without resorting to a dive or tumble. The key to this is learning to get into a full sprint as soon as possible.

fielding side-to-side

DON’T LOOK AT THE BALL!

The reason that many coaches miss the causes of fielding errors….they are watching the ball not the player!

This drill is not all about whether the player stops or catches the ball. It is about who can move the quickest and the furthest.

COACHING POINTS

  • SWIVEL – turning your feet quickly, so that instead of shuffling, the fielder can sprint to the ball
  • UPPER BODY FACING THE BALL – as the legs move quickly sideways, it is important that your upper body is facing forwards. Use your arms for balance
  • GETTING DOWN AT THE RIGHT TIME – get as close to the ball as you can, before you start to reach for the ball. Reaching out with your arms, or stooping too early, slows you down (meaning crucial distance lost)!

Bowling Grouping Challenge

The Bowling “Grouping” Challenge is a bowling game I use to encourage bowling consistency. I can also use it to bring up concepts such as the “best area” to bowl.

How it works

  • Teams work together: best in group of 2-4
  • 1 wicket keeper per group (rotates every minute)
  • Each group has 6-8 cones

PART 1

  • FIRST 6-8 BALLS – players put a cone down where each ball pitches/lands

bowling grouping challenge 1

PART 2

  • When all the cones have been put down, the team has a chance to “improve” their cluster
  • IF BOWLER BOWLS A GOOD BALL – the team can pick up their worst cone, and replace it
  • IF BOWLER BOWLS A BAD BALL – the team can leave the cones alone

bowling grouping challenge 2

WINNING TEAM

  • Whoever has the tightest cluster of cones
  • Whoever’s cluster of cones in in the best area (most accurate)

Bowling “4-Ways”: helping bowlers focus on one thing at a time

There is a lot going on with a bowling action! So how do we coach it without bombarding our players with information?!

With such a bewildering list of potential flaws, it is easy to “lurch” from statement to statement – “get your arm higher” one ball, “keep your chin up” the next.  But in order to improve consistently, player’s need consistent feedback.

This “4-Ways” Bowling Session is one way of keeping a consistent message. It also prompts your players to think on their feet – moving from “what” went wrong” to “why”.

HOW IT WORKS

Divide your group up into 4 teams. Each team rotates around the 4 activities below (about 10-15mins on each).

BOWLING LENGTHBOWLING LINEBOWLING TARGETBOWLING FOLLOW THROUGH

1. BOWLING LENGTH

  • Target Area: from “good length” (about 5-6m from the wickets), to the batting crease (“yorker” length)
  • Coaching Theme: height and balance. Making sure your bowlers a) get up tall, and b) stay tall through their action
  • Get Them Thinking: what MAKES the ball come out “too early” or “too late”. These statements mean nothing on their own….releasing the ball isn’t a conscious thing!

2. BOWLING LINE

  • Target Area: between middle stump and “5th/6th stump (2 or 3 imaginary stumps outside)
  • Coaching Theme: run-up and the correct angles. Making sure bowlers are concentrating their effort to the target
  • Get Them Thinking: what makes the ball go straight, left or right? To many young bowlers have no idea how to diagnose these flaws

3. BOWLING TARGET

  • Target Area: Bull’s Eye, Small & Large Targets (more points the closer to the Bull’s Eye)
  • Coaching Theme: Focus on where to “pitch” (bounce) the ball. Do they have a firm eye on the EXACT target from start to finish?
  • Get them Thinking: a) Am I looking at the right target (spot on the pitch)? b) Am I always looking at that spot?

4. “BOWL-AND-FOLLOW” GAME

  • Target Area: get players bowling to keeper’s hands
  • Coaching Theme: momentum! Moving forwards in a smooth and constant way, from start to finish!
  • Get Them Thinking: is my bowling action smooth? Or am I jerky (stop-start)? Any change in effort, pace or intensity should be gradual.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

SOME MORE ANALYSIS

1. BOWLING LENGTH

  • BOWLING LENGTHTOO EARLY: the ball must have slid out of the hand as it is coming over. This could be because of
    – Leaning to the side – which means the fingers are no longer behind the ball
    – Wrist position – everything could be right, but a “floppy” wrist could undo it all!
    – Poor gather – look to see if your bowler is preparing their arms correctly. If the arms are out to the side, their action will be more of a “sling”
  • TOO LATE: nearly always because a bowler is falling down
    – Legs collapsing – look for bent knee. This will make it impossible for a bowler to stay tall
     – Back bending – look at the run-up, for signs of “stooping”
    – Arms lifting to sky – what goes up, must come down! Make sure that a player’s arms are up AND IN FRONT OF THEM. Not vertically upwards, and dragging their body to the floor
    – Legs stopping – keep the legs driving “throught the crease”. Look to see if a bowler’s knees are high, so they have support for their body each step.

 

2. BOWLING LINE

  • BOWLING LINELEG-SIDE (ASSUMING RH BATTER & BOWLER): usually this is caused by a bowler’s arm dropping down
    – Use shoulders more – you need your shoulder working to get your bowling arm higher. Are your bowlers’ shoulders “engaged”?
    – Poor aiming – if your aiming arm is lazy, your body can “open up”. This will mean you can’t drive your arm properly to the target
    – Not “completing” the action – if the bowling arm is slowing arm, is begins to droop. Result = balls fall to the leg-side. Make sure your bowling arm carries on until it is pointing behind you.
    – Delivery stride – if the last step is across your body, is blocks you from bowling the ball to the target
  • OFF-SIDE: caused by a twisting body, that pulls the ball to this direction
    – Delivery stride – get your front foot and leg pointing to the target. The body needs this leg for support. Without it, you will fall away to the side
    – Twisting shoulders – your shoulders need to move in a “vertical plane” (eg/ right arm up and over, left arm down and under). When they move in a “horizontal plane” (eg/ twisting round”), the bowling action becomes more of a discus throw.

 

3. BOWLING TARGET

  • RUN-UP – is my run-up balanced, allowing my head (the heaviest part of the body) to be stable
    – Stooping – sometimes a bowling action is ruined from the first step of the run-up!
    – Poor running style – look out for knees and heels. Are they staying in line?
  • JUMP – am I stable “in-flight”? or am “falling” into my bowling action?
    – Arms and legs “inside the vehicle”! –
  • FOLLOW-THROUGH – am I able to see where the ball hits the pitch? Could i pinpoint exactly where it landed? If I can’t, then why (have I fallen or leant to the side)?

4. “BOWL-AND-FOLLOW” GAME

  • DECELERATING – a bowler is more likely to bowl a ball that drops short or “sits up” to be hit
  • SUDDEN BURST OF EFFORT – straining to hard for speed.
  • LEGS – each step needs to be a similar length and at a similar “rate”.  Check to see if your bowlers are moving smoothly from one step to another, not “putting the brakes on” (pause between steps, often caused by lunging forwards), or “shuffling” (series of short steps, that lose the momentum you built up).

Three years with the Legends and Masters – cricket coaching with 4-year olds

Too true. Take note, all coaches who shirk working with the “younger ones”.
When done well and properly, beginners coaching is so much more than the derogatory term “babysitting”.

The Teesra

Back in 2014, I started coaching at the MCC Cricket Academy, and was assigned to support a coach delivering a “Little Legends” session for a group of 3-5 year olds.

Not really cricket, I thought – more 45 minutes of childcare, with a cricketing theme, perhaps, but not really cricket coaching.

I found out later that some of my new colleagues had directly requested not to be scheduled to work with the Little Legends, and I could understand why. But as the new coach, I didn’t think I could get away with opting out.

Three years later, I find myself leading the delivery for 5 weekly sessions for 5s and under. And the more I do, the more I appreciatethe valueof coaching the very young players in theAcademy’s Little Legends and Mini Masters programmes.

What changed?

I remembered one of the first pieces of advice I was given when I…

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