As you recall, before Christmas I set a personal aim of improving my accuracy with the Sidearm ball thrower. This article is a report on how I did over the last seven or so weeks, all tracked on PitchVision.
Before the results, let me remind you that I identified my skill of throwing the Sidearm as an area to improve. I set a goal of throwing 500 balls, tracking on PitchVision and seeing if that improved the key indicators of accuracy and pace.
Every chance I got, I popped to the indoor nets and threw, sometimes at batsmen and sometimes with no one.
It was fun when it went well and, more often, frustrating when I couldn't get the control I wanted. I cursed when the ball was too short (my most common issue) and shook my fist when it was too wide outside off stump (another problem). I was glad I had PitchVision to remind me of the good so I didn't focus too hard on the bad.
Do 600 balls increase accuracy?
The results were clear: a dramatic improvement in accuracy.
As you can see above, I threw 623 balls on PitchVision. Overall my accuracy improved from 35% up to 70%.
A word about "accuracy": As I was aiming to get the ball down the other end in a pace the batsman could play a shot, I set a huge target area. This area would be much smaller for real bowlers. I however, am not concerned with bowling half volley length, or wide long hops along with good length balls. These are all good for the batsman to pick line and length and shot selection, so nothing was wasted if it hit the target zone.
You can also see my pace improved by 7mph overall. I put this down to establishing a technique of a six pace walk in and using my front arm like a bowler so the batsman can get a feel for the action. When I started I tried a few different methods including "standing and throwing", but settled on this as a good way to up pace and accuracy when I got the hang of it. This method is still not the same as bowling, but it is much closer and allows the batsman to get a trigger move in and an idea of when the ball is coming out.
Most impressively, the last 100 balls saw me take an even bigger jump in accuracy, showing that 600 balls with the Sidarm seems to be about right for learning the ropes:
As you can see, accuracy in the last 100 balls is up to 89% and pace is up to nearly 65mph. I could never bowl that fast so I love that I can get a decent club pace with the coaching tool.
Conclusion, and what next?
So it's clear to me: 600 balls seems to be a good ball park figure for getting reasonably accurate with the Sidearm.
While your results may vary, I did this in less than 2 months. I urge you to bear this in mind when turning a skill up. It's not as tough as it seems if you put in the volume and track the results.
So what's next?
In the next phase, I will continue to throw more balls with the Sidearm and reduce the target area size overall. I still want to be able to bowl "bad balls" but I also want to reign in the very short, or very wide. I'll also start to track types of balls based on line and length. In the long run I want to be able to get a ball close to the spot I want, rather than make it a broadly accurate but random feed.
In my mind the way to do this is to continue to throw lots of balls with the Sidearm. As I write there are three months until the start of the season. A reasonable aim for this is 700 more balls, taking me over 1300 for the winter.
So, in summary,
- Volume is a good way to improve if you track your results.
- It took me about 600 balls to become usefully consistent.
- The progress was broadly steady between sessions, with a big "aha" moment after around 500 balls.
- Goals can be met (improved accuracy and pace) by focusing on a measurable target (500 balls).
- To further progress, set a new goal and target.