You are the coach. What do you do?
An 8 year old walks into a junior session for the first time and gets into a batting stance with his feet wide apart and his knees flexed.
There is a temptation to adjust the stance into a more conventional narrower stance as seen in MCC manuals from years gone by.
But is that right?
I know that I have done exactly that in the past, but ask yourself the question: Why does that player stand like that?
There is a good chance that the player finds his wider stance more comfortable, natural and balanced giving him a position to spring out and whack the ball with power!
So is it right for us to take these attributes away from the batter when it feels like the natural thing for him to do?
Good coaches observe; great coaches notice
So what do we notice in a natural young talent who prefers a wider stance with flexed knees?
Firstly, that the heels have a strong contact with the ground.
Players like this tend to "push off from the ground" rather than "lean into" shots using their head and front shoulder. Most manuals, and most coaches, encourage everyone to do the latter.
But some people initiate movement differently to the ball.
Secondly, you may notice that players like this hit with their chin up at point of contact rather than the conventional chin down (with top of the head on view to the bowler from the front).
"Chin up" players have a lower visual field (naturally angled down towards the ground) and therefore, do not need to dip their head to keep their eye on the ball coming into contact.
Incidentally, this is the complete opposite to my visual field where I need to play with my chin down in order to see the ball come into contact whether I'm catching or hitting.
Where is the evidence?
It's the same across all sports. In soccer Ronaldo and Messi lead with their head with the ball at their feet. Tevez and Beckham push off from the ground
What differences do you notice with their head positions when in control of the ball?
Which direction are their eyes appearing to look in?
I know what you are saying.
"I want cricket proof, Garas."
Look at this picture of Kevin Pietersen driving the ball off of the front foot (taken from Keep Calm and Smash It):
Then compare his head position and direction of his eyes with the point of contact positions of Andrew Strauss or Ricky Ponting.
what differences do you notice?
What stances do the two pairs of batters take prior to ball release?
KP has a wide base with flexed knees and pushes off to move. His chin is up at contact.
Straussy and Punter have narrower stances, less flexion in their knees and lean into the ball to move with the chin down at contact.
So, here is the 8 year old standing in his natural stance.
What do you do now?