This is a post about bowling speed. I wanted to be clear because there has been a lot of cross-talk about fast bowling recently. This is my effort to simplify speed for the confused coach.
Why are you confused? Because it’s confusing! There’s a lot of people talking in a lot of ways.
Steffan Jones is doing crazy innovation between S&C and technical correction with school age bowlers and sharing his ideas as he goes. I think he would admit it’s pretty complex stuff!
Meanwhile, the Grandmaster of Pace, Ian Pont, has other ideas. His methods are slightly different and very much grounded in technique through drilling core positions.
Then there is the ECB. Coaching courses have long abandoned the idea of technique first. They barely touch on S&C. They focus on game-based learning and maximum fun over drills, toys and methods.
Each approach is different. There is some crossover but there are also disagreements.
It is confusing.
What if you just want to know how to coach some pace?
Here’s my effort to simplify and tell you what I find works with the players I work with on pace. It’s not set in stone. It’s not the ultimate secrets of speed. but it might give you a head start.
Commitment beats everything
By far the number one way to be a fast bowler is to commit to being a fast bowler.
Sounds simple, but 90% of the bowlers I coach don’t commit to speed. They may be committed to bowling and bowl a lot. They might be naturally nippy. They might get bounce, swing and seam movement.
Whoever they are, they do not commit to fast bowling.
Anyone can increase speed - yes, without losing accuracy before you raise an eyebrow - but pace doesn’t come from committing to bowling in nets and games. That’s only one small piece of the puzzle.
No. For real speed without comprise you need to focus on it more than just bowling and hoping. Do that first and the rest is implementation details.
Four tent pegs are best
Ian Pont came up with the four tent pegs model of coaching speed years ago and it’s marvellous in its simplicity. Study it.
Of course, understanding the best positions for pace is one thing, drilling to get it into muscle memory is quite another. That’s why it only works when you commit.
Throw medicine balls
With technical work going on, you can use medicine balls to help players generate more power from the same frame.
Med balls are great because they are cheap, portable, usable by all ages and bridge the gap between pure strength exercises and bowling a ball.
There’s a lot of science behind it but for the coach all you really need to do is pick a 1-2kg ball that bounces and a couple of drills from the internet. Don’t complicate it, just chuck that ball about!
Bowl OU balls
The next step on the path from S&C to bowling is “overweight underweight” balls. Basically, heavy and light cricket balls. They are between 250g and 100g where a standard ball is 156g. So it’s not like there is a huge difference but it works.
The science with these balls is less established. It’s shown to work in baseball and in athletics. In cricket, I see results with bowlers putting on up to 5mph in one session. Anecdotal but convincing.
They are hard to get hold of in the UK but worth the investment in an order from Somerset Sports. They are the only place I know that stock them.
Again, play about with using them. They are best suited to low volume (perhaps 15-30 balls in a session) and in conjunction with a willing bowler who wants to use them regularly.
Yes, we are back to commitment again!
There’s a lot of chat about how much bowlers should bowl. While it’s true that bowling is the best way to get strong to bowl, it’s also the best way to get injured. It’s tough to be a really fast bowler if you are knackered from a lot of bowling.
We all have to strike a balance.
Chances are you won’t be able to manage the number of overs of the bowlers you coach. If they are talented they will be playing in a number of teams. Even those who only play under one coach will rarely be bothered about “workload management”. They just want to play cricket.
Your best bet is to create self-awareness that bowling too much will slow them down eventually. It might be injury or fatigue but pace is fastest when they are fresh, strong and firing. Then do your bit: be mindful of not asking your bowlers to toil away in nets for two hours, three times a week.
Keep it simple
For me, bowling fast is a deep and exciting area of the game. You can delve as far as you want but if you want to keep it simple then you can do that too.
Have fun with it. Build technique with tent pegs, build strong bowlers with medicine balls and OU weighted balls and keep an eye on your workload. From under 10 to senior pros, this is the simplest way to go.