05 April 2005

Cricket skills for 5-6 year-olds

An expert offers practical suggestions on how to teach your child cricket skills at this early age.

At this stage the children are ready to learn about the basic rules and cricket related terminology should be used, remember to say it as it is said in the real game. Introduce the child to the slaz ball, which is slightly harder and heavier than a tennis ball and is more like the real thing.

What a five to six-year-old can do

  • Although they move with better balance and control, in most cases, still no developed eye-foot coordination
  • Early developers will start to shine at this stage. To prevent intimidation of others within the group, these players should move up to an older age group
  • Have a preference for using the left or right hand/foot

Cricket activities for children aged 5/6 years

Long barrier method of fielding
This is used when the fielder does not want to miss the ball in case it rolls over the boundary. The fielder runs to a position where he is in line with the oncoming ball. If he is running to his right-hand side he puts his right foot down and then his left knee, which should touch the heel of his right foot.

The lower left leg is then flat on the ground forming a long barrier which will stop the ball should the fielder miss it with his hands. Make sure that the left ankle is also flat on the ground so that the ball has no escape route.

The fielder then scoops the ball up and throws it to the wicket keeper using an overarm throw. At this stage accuracy and distance is more important.

Practical suggestion
Make this fun and by constructing a boundary of sorts, using a skipping rope or something similar. Challenge the child by encouraging him to reach and field the rolled ball before it crosses the boundary line. Should the ball cross the boundary before they field it, then you, the “batsman” gets 4 runs (this is game related).

Place the ball in the best hand, grasping it with the middle and fore fingers extended over ball (the ball faces backwards). Place the best foot square behind a line and the front foot pointing forward at a target. The other arm is slightly bent and points upwards so that the child can look over the shoulder of this arm at the target.

The bowling action is similar to that of a windmill where the front arm is pulled down past the outside of the front leg while the bowling arm (absolutely straight) is brought past the head shaving the ear en route and the ball is released in the direction of the wickets. The bowler keeps his eyes on the wickets throughout.

Practical suggestion
Make this fun and challenging by placing a target about eight meters in front of the child. See how many times out of 12 attempts he hits the wickets, in other words, see how many batsmen he can dismiss in two overs.

Make this more progressive by introducing a few approach steps and later a short run up before bowling.

Place the bat flat on ground and pick it up as one would an axe – retain that grip. Place the best foot square behind a line (the popping crease) while the front foot points forward in direction of the opposite wicket. The bat is swivelled back so that the toe of the bat points at the batsman’s own middle stump. The bat is horizontal to ground and the arms form a circle with the hands on the handle just below the belly button.

The best hand must grip tightly, while the other hand relaxes. During batting action the other elbow leads forward and up while the best hand pushes forward in the direction of ball. Bat in an upright vertical position throughout the forward stroke. At the end of this position, follow through with the other elbow pointing upwards and the toe of the bat in the direction that the ball has been hit. Arms maintain a circular position for a split second after the stroke.

Practical suggestion
Start the batting by placing a large plastic ball on a bean bag in the front and slightly towards the best side of the batsman. The batsman steps towards ball and places the other foot next to the ball and hits ball forward with a straight bat. Maintain the finishing position for the adult to check if it’s correct.

Later the adult can roll a big ball straight towards the batsman. The batsman watches carefully and steps next to ball, leans forward and drives the ball forward at a slight angle. This later progresses to actually throwing a tennis ball underarm to the batsman.

A fun idea is continuous cricket – a game in which a minimum of three people are needed. The batsman stands in front of wicket and the adult stands about four meters away and throws the ball underarm to the batsman. The batsman bats the ball and runs around a beacon that is set up about three meters away square to the batsman (behind him).

The fielder retrieves the ball and throws it back to the bowler as quickly as possible. As soon as the bowler receives the ball he bowls, regardless of whether the batsman is ready or not. If he hits the wicket, the batsman and fielder change positions. This is also called “tip-and-run” where the batsman has to run even if he only touches the ball. See how many runs are scored before being bowled or caught out.

Running between the wickets
In order to score a “run” cricketers have to run from the crease on one side of the pitch to the crease on the other side of the pitch.

Practical suggestion
As a warm up or fun running activity, the adult can place two beacons about eight meters apart. The adult can be the batsman on one side and the child the batsman on the other. When the adult shouts, “yes”, they run towards and past each other to the opposite wicket. Remind the child to stick to his side of the pitch as batsmen are never allowed to crash when scoring runs.

The players could score two or three runs at a time and see who gets back to their crease first. This teaches them how to run economically by turning sharply and just touching over the crease line with the bat as they turn for the next run.

To teach a child to catch low balls, you could play “leggy” with those who are five years and older. An adult and a child stand about three meters apart with feet wide apart. The adult tries to roll the ball through child’s legs and vice versa. Should the ball go through either one’s legs, the other scores a point. This is lots of fun when there are about four versus four players. Scoring can be done any way you choose.

How you can help

  • Sport provides us with a unique opportunity to positively influence and develop a variety of skills within the child – if done in the correct manner. A negative sporting experience could put a young child off playing sport indefinitely - so remember to make it a positive, challenging and memorable experience for them. They should not ever feel pressurised to achieve but rather motivated to give it their best shot.
  • Improve balance – practice hopping and skipping
  • Practice catching
  • Boost confidence – it is important to ensure a balance between learning and fun so that the child learns in a pleasant atmosphere. So, from time to time, let the child do things well within his/her capability

For younger children, it is recommended that they participate in a general but structured ball skills programme where they are exposed to a variety of sporting skills. Once children have tried and become more proficient at the basic sports skills, they naturally develop an affinity for one sport or another. It is at this stage where they can start attending specific sport sessions.

For more ideas or information on a structured sports programme for young children aged 3- 9 years please explore




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