Wonderfully, the weather had held long enough for us to do some impromptu fielding outside this week.
The importance of getting outside and holding a real cricket ball on a real pitch is vital to me. You cannot do it too early. I know other coaches who have players willingly outside on tennis courts and hockey pitches in January, so March training is hardly an achievement!
But it is important to get as much fielding as you can in before the season. Rain will get in the way a few times I am sure, yet we have a full month to "blow away the cobwebs" get a few technical things in and try to hone catching, throwing and stopping skills.
Firstly, it's about volume. Harden up the hands, get a feel for your best ways of moving, build confidence that you can still do it.
Second, it's about technique. Learn methods that work for you and try new things thing that might make you look stupid in the short term but have a good pay off.
One example of this is the blind side pick up and throw. When the ball goes to your weaker hand it is very hard to pick up and throw down the stumps. Even the best in the world only manage it one in three goes. The tendency with club guys is to never practice it as failure rate is huge. However, working on it a bit will see an improvement. If someone does it once in the whole season, surely that's worth the effort. It's fear of failure that stops us, not desire to improve.
Third, it's about fitness. Not just getting the heart rate up either, but getting shoulders and core stronger.
Overall, they real key to fielding practice is the same as batting and bowling practice: Go in with an intention. This might be a specific, measureable and realistic goal. This might be the idea to experiment with something new. Whatever it is, focus on a single intention.
Naturally, you want to cover all the basics. However it's easy in a group setting to do a few easy drills, the default to loads of high catching. That's fine if you want to improve high catching, but if you dropped five catches in the ring last week, surely you should focus on that.
I'll b delivering that message every time we get outside.