Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Mad Science

Eli 15.4 and I sometimes refer to what he's trying to do as "mad science", because we've had to use all kinds of unconventional approaches because we didn't have access to mainstream training equipment.

I think we may have reached peak mad scientist.

Thanks for your e-mail about trying to help Eli improve his sudden state information processing, as well as his transition from steady state to sudden state (Eli listened to me explain processing states in enthusiastic and lengthy detail and was singularly unimpressed. "That's called 'scrambling'," he said, laughing).

Kids these days. Get off my lawn.

You guys sent in some terrific e-mail, suggesting different approaches, but one stood out in particular. Hennie Van Loggerenberg sent in an e-mail about cricket, and the slip fielder.

What is the slip fielder, you might ask? Here's a description (thanks, "sportskeeda"):
A slip position lies in the area behind the batsman and besides the wicket keeper towards the off-side. It is not limited to just one fielder but there can be multiple slip fielders extending up to 5 or 6 at a time. The fielders at slip are named as the 1st slip, 2nd slip and so on starting from the one right most near the wicket-keeper for a right-handed batsman and the whole area comprising of the fielders in that region is known as the slip cordon.

The name of the slip region is supposedly derived from the time when the fielders started standing next to the keeper in the anticipation of any slip (mistake) from the batsmen. Hence, in due course, the fielding position itself was termed as the slip.

So slip fielders are behind the batsman and the wicket, and they are there to catch high-speed deflections off the batsman's bat. In baseball, that would be foul ball territory, and just imagine what it would be like to have fielders stationed in baseball behind and to the side of the catcher, trying to catch foul balls.

Slip fielder = Exceptional athleticism. Here's a video of some of the greatest slip catches ever.

Rude boy would say "scramblers".

Once Hennie mentioned this, it led me down a long Google rabbit hole of research into how slip fielders trained. It wasn't an exact match, but there were enough similarities to the kind of skills Eli needed that it was worth pursuing.

Eventually, that led me to a training device. This is Katchet:

Here's a description:
Katchet mirrors random deflections encountered when the ball deviates after hitting the bat or wicket.

Katchet has been designed to deflect the ball in an unpredictable yet realistic fashion.

It's simple. You throw the ball off the Katchet and it simulates deflections and spin. Infinite variability. Plus there's something new coming out shortly called the "KatchMax", which is supposed to be even more unpredictable.

Even better, you can get a plastic version of the wicket so that you can throw the ball off the Katchet and have it deflect off the stumps.

There's just one more element that's needed, and it would be to make the ball unseen coming off the Katchet, to simulate a shot where the goalie is screened and never sees the puck coming off the stick. So it's absolute, complete reaction, with no pre-knowledge of anything.

That's where the strip curtain comes in (I think--I'm still working on this).

A strip curtain is that curtain you see in refrigerated areas. Here's a picture:

Here's the idea: using white butcher paper on a PVC pipe frame (48" high, same as in hockey), I cut very thin strips (1/2" wide, for example) to create a strip curtain. Any kind of ball can be used with the Katchet, so I need to find a small ball (maybe a racquetball) that will go through the strip curtains with minimal loss of speed, but not so heavy that it would damage the curtain.

Eventually, a paper strip curtain is going to wear out, but there has to be an optimal balance in there somewhere.

So, young Eli The Aspiring Goalie looks at a white strip curtain and sees nothing. Suddenly, a small ball explodes through the curtain, moving in unpredictable ways, and he only has a split second to respond and catch it.

0% predictable. No sudden state information has any value at all.

This doesn't address the transition between states, but I think this would be very, very good for sudden state training. And it's versatile--the distance between the ball and the curtain, and the curtain and the athlete, can be constantly adjusted so that the training is disruptive as possible.

No comfort zone.

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