Weather often keeps us training indoors, but why not think outside the box this year, or perhaps more aptly, think outside the sports hall?
There's still a lot that can be achieved from getting out, even in the wet.
Reignite the throwing arms and catching hands
Indoors, the range of throwing and catching drills are limited. So get outside and start switching on those shoulder muscles with basic throwing drills over realistic distances.
Just 10 minutes of throwing in pairs should allow 50 throws each. This is plenty of time to begin to reignite that shoulder strength, power, and technique required the moment that first games is underway. Start from 10m apart and progress out towards the kind of distances we expect to need from a boundary rider.
Not only are you developing your players throwing, but you are also starting to allow those soft winter hands to develop a bank of catches over extended distances with increasing power. And of course, there is nothing better than the feel of being outside again after a long winter!
I always like to run my basic throwing drills to and from the edge of the square. Hopefully if we stay just off the square we wont get told off by Bob, our ever so knowledgeable, but slightly crazy groundsman, but equally we're already recreating a match specific event throwing back in towards the wicket.
You can easily get 10 players spread around the edge of the square safely, throwing and receiving catches to their partners who are at various distances from the boundary. I also like to set the players on the edge of the square up with a stump, again to familiarise themselves with taking a return throw and executing a run out.
Do something amazing: Dive to save the game
My priority is not staying on our feet and taking clean throws/catches from the edge of the ring, in fact its quite the opposite.
My main reason for being out in the wet grass is to create a dynamic fielding unit.
I want everyone of my players to feel confident that they can do something amazing in the field. In fact one of our motto's is to:
“do something amazing today”.
Just like any other aspect of the game, making a diving stop in the final over of a cup final is what we're aiming for, but getting to that skill is something that requires small steps. So when it comes to fielding, it means every player must have the confidence, to go with the speed, and the technique, to throw their body on the line, quite literally.
So when we go outside, we spend time learning to dive.
I start by getting the players to familiarise themselves with being on the floor. After we've all had a 6"5 fast bowler in our team who hasn't picked up a ball for 15 years without stopping it with his feet first. So getting him to dive at this stage is nothing short of a pipe dream; simple slow crawling drills (hands and feet only, no knee's) on the soft ground are a great way to do this, and while it may be physically demanding (another sneaky benefit), it also shows the players that it's not so scary down there as they may have once thought.
Next are the crawling races. Here I introduce a few low (ish) hurdles for them to go underneath, turning it into an obstacle course. Hurdles about 2 feet off the ground should easily be low enough to encourage them to get up some speed on their hands and feet, and then slide their way safely under before they start again.
Next comes the important transfer, the obstacle course with 2-3 hurdles each, turns from a crawling race, to a running race, however they still need to slide under the hurdles, and this is where we start to develop the need to dive and slide.
Some players will take to this instantly and some will take a little more time to develop their confidence, however once they're all happy leaving their feet and hitting the deck, or sliding along the surface of it as would be a better description, feel free to change the obstacle course to mirror any movements you may see on the field; sprinting, zig zag runs, diving in different directions, even diving over hurdles as opposed to just sliding under them to further develop their confidence off their feet.
Once you're out in the wet you'll think of lots of different ways which you can challenge your players, and each time you do you'll be giving them that little bit of extra confidence they need to do what I always ask of them:
Go and do something amazing!