The Thompson Reaction Drill | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

The Thompson Reaction Drill

This drill of the week is great fun, a super reaction and decision making drill and we like to use it as part of a warm up to get the hands, eyes and “grey matter” prepared for the intensity of a coaching session or a match.

Whilst reaction drills aren’t new, (I can remember doing them with Alan Knott back in the 1990’s as part of England wicket keeping group) Matthew Thompson (One of our coaches) has bought some revised versions into the Millfield Programme in recent months.

Matthew is leaving us to take up a Talent Development Manager role with Cricket Wales after doing a good job with us over the past 14 months. Matthew is one of life’s great “games and drills” designers.

Most of Matt’s games don’t make a great deal of sense to me as a stubborn and boring old coach; yet the pupils seem to engage and enjoy the multifaceted and ever changing rules and objectives. Their engagement is far more important than mine so it doesn’t really matter if I can’t keep up!

The associated video shows how much the pupils enjoy the drills and embrace the challenge that creates around them. The great thing about this drill is that it incorporates decision making under pressure.

Matt randomly and rapidly delivers a variety of balls into the catcher from behind a cricket bag. The player can’t see which ball is coming next in the sequence, they have to identify the ball, catch it and then choose which of the 3 boxes (or buckets) they place the respective ball.

Skills developed include:

  • Reactions
  • Peripheral vision
  • Identifying detail/association with task
  • Decision making
  • Fine motor skills
  • Dealing with pressure
  • Speed
  • Movement patterning
  • Spatial awareness
  • Catching

and many, many more

Drill Set up:

Matt set up 3 boxes/buckets & has a variety of different balls to throw. There are 20+ balls per round. Matt insisted on one handed catching ONLY

  1. Middle Box/Bucket: Tapeballs (tennis ball which has electrical tape bound around it to make it firmer and more realistic to catch. We use these balls in our tapeball programme at school)
  2. Right Box/Bucket: normal tennis balls
  3. Left Box/Bucket: Any other ball (incrediball, cricket ball, sand filled Ball)

We have to make quick decisions about whether to leave, defend or attack on each ball. We make decisions ahead of calling with “Yes, No and Wait”. Front foot to back foot. Straight bat or cross bat.

As with all the decisions listed above, we have found that players who have repeated this kind of drill at the start of each session become more adept at their decision making and also more precise with their Ball placement when dropping the balls into the respective box/bucket. The more you practice in a deliberate fashion the better you get I suppose.

Drill progressions

  • Pace: Increase the velocity of the throw as the player develops their skills.
  • Frequency: increase the frequency of throw to challenge the fielders developing skills.
  • Distance: reduce distance to further challenge the player.
  • Different ball weights and sizes: develop fine motor skill adaptability with different ball dimensions and weights.
  • Word Association: As if that drill doesn’t look or feel challenging enough, Matt also throws in some extra distraction in the form of word association. For example, when the player identifies a randomly fed golf ball is coming towards them they must shout a word.Matt asked one lad to say “Badger!” When he saw the golf ball and another to shout out his favourite cricketers name when the golf ball was thrown.
  • Dodge: get out of the way of a specific ball rather than catching it.

In the meantime, thanks Matt for providing our programme with your drills and games legacy. I am sure that the Cricketers in Wales will enjoy your innovative training methods as much as the boys and girls at Millfield School. See you soon bud.

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