Would your club side be better with a couple of excellent spin bowlers? How about your Test team?
They are mysterious, a joy to watch and frustrating to play against. But spinners need careful attention if they are to be developed properly. It's easy for coaches and captains to crush the enthusiasm and confidence of a young player simply by misunderstanding how to handle them.
So before you head out to coach your next spin session, consider these 4 mistakes and keep yourself away from them.
1. Not teaching the skills
A lot of coaches don't go beyond the very basics of bowling spin. Perhaps a quick introduction to off spin and a hope that no-one asks about leg breaks.
A good coach will, at the very least, teach the ability to spin the ball both ways to all young players: Even those who bowl seam up or hate bowling. It can't hurt to have more than one string to your bow and you might uncover a talent.
Early in this process you will look for those who bowl with a spin type action naturally: Some young players will bowl from the back of the hand without encouragement. You will notice others with a smooth run up and pivot uncoached. These are the players to encourage further, but all should at least understand the feel of making the ball turn.
2. Putting potential spinners off
It is often the case that coaches will push a player towards bowling seam up at medium pace rather than spinning the ball. This makes sense in South Africa, New Zealand and England where the pitches, conditions and limited over format of games mean there is a short term gain to this approach.
While there is not much you can do about conditions that don't help spin, you can still do your best to bring spinners through. A young player who is given the confidence to turn the ball as much as possible can become a rare gem: a decent spinner.
When given the choice never put off a player who enjoys spinning the ball: Even if they are a decent seamer too.
3. Not monitoring progress
One of the most powerful tools a coach has is to show players how they are improving. You can show changes in accuracy and turn quite simply. Yet how many coaches test this?
Every now and then, test all your players for accuracy and amount of turn in the nets. This could be as simple as laying down a target on the ground in the nets and another behind the stumps. The more they hit the target the more accurate they are becoming.
You can also use the PitchVision system to track progress in turn, pace, accuracy and flight over time. Imagine how enthusiastic you can help a player become as they see your advice in better results.
4. Not working on the right mindset
At my club we have a young leg spinner who has given up despite an obvious talent. He has taken up some rather average medium pace bowling claiming he doesn't have the mentality of a spinner.
Spinners do need to have a strong mental game as they need to plan more for their wickets (spin strike rates are usually higher than seam). They also have the increased chance of being hit around which can crush confidence.
That means a good coach should start early with spinners helping them to master their art as quickly as possible. Often a coach can focus too much on the technical aspects of a spinners game and forget what is going on in his or her head. If you have a young spinner learning the game, take time to talk them through situations such as:
- How to experiment with line and length to a player to find their weak areas.
- Setting a field.
- Bowling on unhelpful wickets.
- Dealing with captains who can't handle spinners.
- What to do if someone goes on the attack.
- Using variations tactically (especially amount of spin, position on the crease and flight).
As coach you can also teach your spinners how to use positive imagery, set realistic goals and keep confidence high with simple mental training tricks.
The spinner will come across all these problems and more during a career. If their coach has helped them think it through beforehand they are less likely to be crushed under the pressure of the situation.
There you have it. 4 mistakes to avoid as a coach and you will drastically improve your chances of developed decent spinners in a world where spin is a dying skill. Only you can save it, one player at a time.
Image credit: scaglifr