Last week, we used constraints based practice to develop batting skills. It’s one of the tactics that I have used in a back foot phase.
Another funky method that develops skills at an accelerated rate is intention based games.
These are brilliant as they take the focus to developing some “how to achieve this” as opposed to taking a player further down their very own technical“pea soup river”.
This is a brilliant coaching strategy when you see a player becoming so immersed in their thinking they are becoming too conscious of what they are trying to do. This is preventing them from moving in a natural fashion and limits success.
Here are some examples of Intention based learning helping players to move more naturally and achieve more.
Sam and his cut shot
Sam has had a lengthy break from the game through injury. He has picked up most things back up quickly. Just like riding a bike. His cut shot was bothering him.
Sam was taking the ball so early He kept ballooning the ball at head height into the point or cover region.
We noticed that his weight distribution was pulling him away from the shot as he went into contact. He was slightly falling towards fine leg. This would impact upon his contact point, balance and control. We decided that the focus for the next few shots was to brace his back leg rather than squat into the shot in order to keep the hips and core engaged with the shot.
Sam hit the odd one well. The ball would then go down rather than at head height off of the bat.
The outcomes were still inconsistent.
Sam was battling with himself and becoming more and more frustrated. I had to shift something to remove the “pea soup” that was building in his head.
“Sam, Can you hit the ball into the netting panel running from the offside corner pole to the next pole along please? Hold onto this intention for the next 10 balls bud and see what happens?”
In cricket fielding positions, the panel was on a backward point to fine third man line.
Sam missed the first ball altogether and laughed. It was the first smile or laugh that he had shown for a while and when I asked him why he laughed,
“I missed the first ball, but I now realised that my body shape was completely different and if I kept trying to achieve the intention that you set then I would play the cut properly, with control and power”
The next nine balls were struck with power and timing, all of the balls hit the intended netting panel. Sam now hit the ball from a stable base and most importantly, let the ball travel far enough before making contact with it. His body weight had shifted and was contributing to the successful outcome.
The pea soup had lifted, he wasn’t thinking consciously about the constituent bits of his body any longer and his focus was purely on hitting the intended target. His body was self-organising to achieve a positive outcome.
Tom and hitting over the top
Tom was having a self-reliant batting session against Merlyn spin bowling machine. He was working on hitting the ball back over the off spinners head to force mid-on and mid-off back onto the boundary, and probably to hit the ball out of the park knowing him.
Tom was skewing the ball here and there, with little control without once hitting the ball down the ground. He was getting frustrated and he looked as if he was going to launch the bat into the side net in anger!
Time to step in!
“ Tom, Success is to hit the ball either side of the third horizontal pole in front of you. Have 10 balls and then tell me how you got on”
I turned away to work with another player but kept the Merlyn net in my peripheral vision for the next few minutes.
This gave Tom an intention focus, just like Sam above. The next 10 balls were all struck cleanly, his movement down the pitch became less frantic, his swing tempo reduced in speed and his bat face started to go through, rather than across the line of the ball.
- The first two balls went straight yet were a little too elevated, hitting before the intended horizontal metal pole target.
- ball 3 smashed centrally into the intended target.
The noise rang around the bubble.
- The next four balls all missed the pole but on the further side. I didn’t mind that as the trajectory of these shots was circa 40 degrees. A decent launch angle.
- Ball eight and 10 thudded into the pole.
Tom reported back that he was far more successful when he simply picked out a target and kept his mental process linked to that and nothing else.
This approach shouldn’t be alien to us. This is what batters do when they are performing at their best out in the middle. They see a series of gaps and then let their body self-organise to hit the ball between those gaps or over the fielders.
When a batter is playing at the top of their game how often do they hit fielders?
How often are they breaking their movements down into constituent parts so they can sequence them all together?
When you see a player doing this in practice and getting frustrated as a result then shift the focus to an intention based approach, get them to solve a problem.