Sunday, February 06, 2011

Teaching Kids Leg Break Bowling

I've titled this 'Teaching Kids Leg Break Bowling' to emphasise the point that it's not the coaches job to introduce variations. Terry Jenners take on it is that kids being kids will want to try variations and his advice is to show them if they ask, but impress on them that the reason that they're in the team bowling Leg Spin is because they're Leg Break bowlers and Leg Breaks take wickets and therefore they have to be able to bowl a Leg Break and do it well. That means full committment to the art of bowling Leg Breaks, with 95% of your practice needing to be focussed on your Leg Break. Jenner says, with regards the variations, that there are no rules as to when kids start bowling variations - some people specify ages saying 'You shouldn't bowl 'x' delivery before 'y' age, Jenner simply says that the kids can move on once they've got full command of their leg break e.g. control over line, length, speed and break variation. So the question therefore is - what do you teach kids if you are given the role of 'Legspin coach'?

My experience thus far is that there are loads of people that will bowl the ball and get it to break in the manner of a leg break, some just a little, others quite a bit and they do this through the cocking the wrist and for most part 'Rolling' the ball off the fingers and imparting spin. Usually they're quite chuffed with this and they'll practice against their mates and do quite well, but it's when they come to apply it in a match situation where they'll come unstuck. Bowling with your mates you don't tend to count the bad balls and you only remember the big turners and wickets, but once you bring your 'Leg Breaks' to a match situation there's a bloke there that records everything you do and a few others including your captain who are also doing pretty much the same thing. Suddenly all your aspirations to be Shane Warne are being scrutinised and suddenly all of the bad balls are staring you in the face and undermining your confidence and you go to pieces.

So, how do we go about getting our aspiring Leggies through this stage in order that they don't sell out to the far easier medium pace?

The answer seems to be, that you need to enhance what they've already got. On their own they've contrived to to release the ball from the hand producing rotations that give them their Leg Break. All you need to do then in order to maintain their enthusiasm is enhance the action that they have so that the ball breaks even further and more consistently and this can be done through the teaching them a few basic drills.

As suspected, the drill that is fundamentally important to leggies to use and re-visit again and again throughout their bowling career is the 'Stand Start' drill as seen on Youtube. This drill can be taught initially without bowling down a crease instead bowlers are encouraged to perform the drill bowling straight into a net in order that they don't see any initial detrimental outcome that gives the impression that what you're teaching them is producing worse balls than the action they already have. The aim of the drill bowling directly into a net, is that they can be coached in learning the action of exploding through the crease, rotating 180 degrees with the shoulder and hip, leading with a good strong high positioned rudder arm and following through. All done with a smooth and powerful action. If this drill is followed and the boys pick it up, the results when practiced on a wicket over a short period of time should be that they get the ball to turn far better along with an improvement in accuracy.

Today at the kids nets, I wasn't called into action as yet, but was pleased to see that another kid - George had seen the light and had come over from the 'Dark side' to bowl Leg Spin and was doing so quite well, I think he bowled out my older son Ben early in the session. Looking at George and Joe, my own son it's obvious that neither of them rotate enough and need to do the drill. Joe's been introduced to it before by me last summer, but he tends not to listen to me too much as I'm his Dad and he's not done the drill in the way that Jenner suggests with the use of the nets. Jenner also says that you need to practice this stand start drill for periods of up to an hour so that the action becomes second nature and you adopt it as the way that you bowl and muscle memory starts to lay down its template as your 'Natural' bowling action.

I don't expect it to be easy teaching the three boys that have shown an interest because there is definitely a prospect that there will be a perception that what I show them will initially if tried will cause a step backwards. So it will be a challenge. I'll report back if I get the chance to try this out and I'll let you know how I get on. I've also been advised to take notes and record how they do.

So today at nets it transpires that there's three kids now that want to bowl Leg Breaks - Joe, George and Frank

Check out my other blog here - this is all about Leg-spin bowling and nothing else. Double click on the image below.