What is the purpose of the follow-through?
I ask it a lot, particularly from a batting perspective. Some of the answers are brilliantly inaccurate but tell me that we, as coaches, have done a poor job of explaining the follow through despite the frequency of use in coaching dialogue.
So let’s put this into a front foot drive context. What explanations do I hear on a day to day basis?
Follow through in a front foot drive
“it helps me to produce power” & “it keeps us aligned with the target” are two of the common explanations coming back from players I interview. Whilst there is some relevance in these statements, the primary function of the follow through is to decelerate the body and bat after contact with the ball.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some brilliant Gary Kirsten coaching language when he is working with batters,
“Hit the ball on the downswing, not in the follow through”.
This is a great bit of advice and language to promote the merits of playing the ball late and letting the ball come all the way onto you when playing a straight drive or a forward defensive shot.
It is particularly applicable to early season batting when the pitches aren’t always going to be quick and the ball tends to stay in the wicket.
My U14 team know all about this. We basically lobbed up soft catches into the inner ring in the first three weeks of the summer. The boys counteracted this by practising with more intent and controlling their contacts more effectively.
The results in terms of control have been outstanding. Their output - runs, balls played and strike rate - are on the rise and largely, this has been down them connecting with Gary’s coaching language.
The other reason why their strike rate has improved has been that the downswing carries far more bat speed into contact than the follow through.
Every drive has more punch in it as the bat is near or at its top speed at point of contact whereas, a few weeks ago, many of the contacts were being made whilst the bat was rapidly decelerating.
How can I be so sure of this?
We measure it.
For the past 3 weeks, we have had players batting with a sensor on the end of their bat handle. It’s basically an accelerometer and altimeter combined.
The sensor provides magnificent stats feedback on hand speed and bat speed. Then it can graph those stats on a timeline and we can see how bat speed and hand speed correlate to affect the contact outcome.
Here is an example of Kanvir striking the ball when the bat is travelling at its maximum speed. See how the peak of bat pace corresponds with the impact point. Also notice how quickly the bat decelerates once the bat has reached its maximum speed.
Contrast this to a graph of another player who has a tendency to make contact with the ball early when playing a front foot drive. Notice how the bat speed at contact is decelerating and the impact point is seen during the follow through ("finish phase" as it’s called on the app) of the shot.
A decelerating bat going through impact reduces the speed that the ball comes off the bat. The early contact is also more likely to lead to the batter lacking control at impact and the ball could go airborne when the intention was to hit it along the ground.
So Gary's brilliant coaching point isn't just about control. It's also important in the brave new world of batting where "power" is the new currency.
That's got to be music to most batters ears and maybe a "new" way to get to young batters to wait for the ball on all surfaces.