Have you ever thought about the many different ways that a person can move and position themselves ahead of taking a safe catch?
I was taught one way of high catching when I was a young player: The "Aussie" style catch with the hands reversed and the ball taken as high as possible with my hands in front of my face.
But I have only ever taken four catches in my life with this method.
I always messed up my footwork ahead of catching the ball!
This experience of difference between my taught method and my actual method has impacted upon my coaching of high catching over the years. As a result, I ask myself the following questions when watching each fielder's methods and before I intervene with coaching points.
High catching checklist
1. Do they catch the ball consistently?
- If so, what’s their method of choice?
- If not, then can we try a different method and see if that has a positive impact on catching performance?
2. Do they prefer to take the ball in front of the eyes, level with the eyes or beneath the eye level?
- Some players prefer the Aussie style because they can see their hands and the ball in front of themselves. This makes this type of catcher feel in control as they have a visual reference point for both the ball and their catching area.
- Some players prefer to let the ball drop further and take the ball as close to their eye line as possible. This is often taken in what some would call an English style with the palms facing directly to the sky.
- Some players like to let the ball drop further and make contact with it beneath their eyes and as close to their centre of gravity and tummy as possible. This "COG" style is where they feel most secure.
Movement and position differences
Each of these approaches has an impact on movement to the ball and the position that the catcher takes ahead of ball contact.
- Aussie Style: It's essential to get under the flight of the ball as early as possible. This helps judgement of ball flight and early preparation helps to get the hands high with fingers up ahead of ball contact. We often see a player rolling backwards when taking a catch. It's more preferable for this player to get too far under the ball rather than short of the flight of the ball as a result.
- English Style: The fielder will often stand off the flight of the ball by a pace as he/she wants the ball to fall in front of their body so that the hands can meet the ball at eye level. If this person was to get too far under the ball flight then the catching style of preference would be compromised leading to late repositioning and adjustments with the hands. This type of player would prefer to have to fall forward, rather than back so being a pace or two off the flight of the ball is more preferable to being too close.
- COG Style: Early preparation under the line of the ball, under the ball flight. We often see a player like this rolling backwards when taking a catch. Again, it’s more preferable for this player to get too far under the ball rather than short of the flight of the ball as a result.
Watch you players closely remembering that "The coach is the student; the player is the University".
If they catch the ball consistently with their chosen method then help them to master it.
If they are not consistent then try the other 2 methods and see which one fits them best. Learn about the individuals preferences and apply your flexible coaching points around each catcher.