As a fielding coach, I would get so excited when some of the players take their practice on the training ground into match play.
Sometimes, this excitement comes as a result of a novice player picking the ball up one handed on the run and narrowly missing a run out chance all the way up to sitting in awe watching the recent outstanding boundary dismissal orchestrated by Ben Laughlin and Jake Weatherald for the Adelaide Strikers vs the Renegades in the BBL.
Often, those watching on TV will not be aware of the unseen hard work that goes into creating the incredible feats of fielding prowess. In a recent session with Tom, we were exploring run out options which come after a fielder makes an excellent diving stop.
We talked about the difference between an attacking pop up throw (diving and landing to your throwing side) and a defensive pop up throw (diving and landing on your non-throwing side).
Tom mentioned that he was happier landing on his chest and thighs when diving to his right (his throwing side) yet that he tended to roll when he dives to his left hand side. This difference between the two landing mechanisms is very normal indeed. For me as a coach, if a player is consistently successful with two different landing methods on either side then I can live with that. Paul Collingwood was no different to Tom in this respect.
We did some work on making the transition from ground to throw a more effective one on Tom’s attacking side.
To do this, Tom started in a prone position which simulates the end of the dive position. His arms are outstretch to maximise the time, range and area which he used to absorb the impact of the ground on landing.
From there, Tom pulls his hands underneath himself and then pushes against the floor to lift his body from the ground. This is effectively a press up. So all that work in the gym or at home using body weight exercises is worth it after all eh!
The more powerful the push off of the ground, the better you can align the body towards the intended throwing target. In our case, we positioned a top of off-stump bowling target in each of the two throwing nets on the pool shelf.
Tom pushes himself into a 3-point contact with the ground. back knee – back foot – front foot. Which creates a solid base for us to throw from and allows for good ball velocity despite the lack of forward momentum being created towards the target as we would have if we were on our feet.
Results: As you can see from the accompanying video, Tom has a good level of accuracy across his 8 throws, hitting 6 times, missing narrowly once and dragging the other one to miss by quite a distance.
Interestingly, not all fielders pop up to their knees on their attacking side. Both Kevin Pietersen and Anderw Flintoff preferred to push themselves up onto their feet with incredibly powerful pushes into the floor. So not everyone does it the same way. Again, measuring success (as we did above with Tom) is a good way of establishing if the players preferred way is in fact the best way. In terms of accuracy, both KP and Fred were right to go with their method.
Tom takes 0.66 of a second to go from prone position to release point on his attacking side. This is calculated by counting the number of frames from start of push movement to point of release and dividing that by the frame rate of the camera. By popping up to his feet, Tom keeps the ball close to the ground which therefore, enhances his release speed. Both KP and Fred made the ball travel up way above the ground, both increasing the release time.
In the inner ring, we know that release speed allied with accuracy is king. If I knew that back in 2009 then I would have explored the potential option to have a pop up to feet and a pop up to knee with both players. This will have given them options for different situations when fielding in the inner circle.
Other key technical points which lead to Tom’s successful outcomes include the way he used his front elbow to point towards the target and how he drives the throwing action with a powerful non-throwing arm pull into his body. Once the throwing arm stops next to the body, it kickstarts the rotation of the body and drives the throwing arm through towards release.
His stability is excellent with his 3-point ground contact. I like the way that he gets an early visual connection with his target, a significant key to his eventual outcomes.
Tom also has a great reach towards his target in follow through which helps to dissipate force.
This drill can be done on the grass, on a mat (as we did on the pool shelf the other day), with throwing nets as on the video or against a wall with a chalked target area. This drill does not need a coach to be present so the player can work self-reliantly. All you need to do is send the player a link to Tom’s awesome demonstration or show them on your phone.
Its great fun to do in practice and with a few progressions.
diving onto a static ball from your feet
a coach or teammate feeding you a ball from the front
an open drill where the ball can come straight at you for a normal stop/catch or wider to initiate a dive.
You will find that your fielders can start to pull off fielding movements like this in a game as a well as practice. It is wonderful when a plan comes together!
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