England coach Peter Moores answers an aspiring coach’s query every month.
“My team are performing well in fielding practice but in games we keep missing run-outs and most of all, dropping catches. What can I do?”
COMPLACENCY OR NERVES?
Bad fielding usually comes from two issues: the players are either lacking in concentration and so aren’t ready when a chance comes to them, or are feeling under pressure and getting nervous. The first thing you need to do is decide what the problem is: complacency or nerves?
DRILL HOME THE IMPORTANCE OF FIELDING
If the players are complacent, you need to highlight to them how important fielding is. Ultimately it’s probably going to be the difference between whether you win or lose a game. The easiest thing to do to help reduce complacency is to start measuring fielding in practice. This is good because it makes the players focus on their fielding as much as their batting or bowling. So at the end of a fielding session, tell each player how many runs their fielding either saved or conceded and what their catching percentage was.
PRACTISE AT GAME-SPEED
If the problem is nerves, you will still need to measure fielding – because that is important – but you need to be more careful in how you give the feedback as you don’t want to put them under even more pressure. You’re trying to build belief so the only way to do that is have them do the practice at the pace of a game. They will gradually improve and then when it comes to a game and there is pressure on to save two runs or take an all-important catch, they will have a lot more confidence in their ability. If you only do practice at half-pace, they’re not going to be building the right confidence or skill level to take into the game.
BREAK DOWN THE SKILL
Coaching is all about helping players develop new skills and then seeing how they perform that skill under pressure. With fielding, start with some one-to-one skills work whereby the player can see what you are trying to achieve. You then want to simplify the skill so it can be done at a faster pace, which is what you would need in the game. Finally you need to put pressure on the skill to see if it will survive and this is where practising at the intensity of a match is important because the more you have done that, the greater the chances the skill will survive in the pressure of a game.
MAKE IT COMPETITIVE
The best way to create high intensity is to make fielding competitive and this also makes it fun. It’s important that you make fielding practice fun because you don’t realise you’re working quite so hard when you’re having fun. And there are a million and one things you can do to make fielding competitive. For example, you could have two guys against each other: they start at a cone and have to field the ball before it crosses a line. If they stop it before the line they get a point and the first to 10 wins. It’ll all help when you get out on the pitch for a game.