Putting terrible larger events aside for a moment, England's one day losing streak in India after winning 4 against South Africa got me to thinking about how teams get themselves out of a cricketing hole.
I'm sure your own side has had similar times.
I think of momentum as the mental energy of players and teams. We all have times of higher and lower mental energy. For example, when watching TV you feel very different than before the start for an important match.
There is a sport psychology term for it: arousal, but let's stick with momentum as that seems more suitable.
Momentum is directly influenced by the situation: You can be thinking positively or negatively depending on a number of factors. But this can shift quickly.
Let's look at an example of shifting momentum caused by changes in mental energy.
Example of shifting momentum: Club A vs. Club B
Club A win the toss and bat first. It's a 50 over limited overs one day game.
Club A are full of confidence. They know they are the favourites. They have high positive mental energy and very few negative thoughts. Club B are hopeful but know they are underdogs so a few negative thoughts are creeping in.
- 115-0 after 20 overs. Club are starting to think this will be an easy win and so they start to relax, lowering their positive energy. Club B feel they have blown it already, resigning to defeat they decide they will try and keep the gap as small as possible.
- 167-4 after 30 overs. Club A have lost a flurry of wickets to poor shots but their best player is still at the crease. They are still confident of posting a large score with no thought of defeat. Club be feel encouraged by forcing errors but still have negative thoughts of Club A regaining their grip on the game.
- 184 all out. Club A are concerned. They have been bowled out for a below par score. The captain refocuses they team at the break and their shift their energy back up for the second innings. There are no some negative thoughts as the team think they may not have enough runs. Club B are flying from such a great bowling performance. Negative thoughts have almost gone.
- 122-1 after 25 overs. Club A realise they are struggling to restrict scoring or take wickets. The captain lays into the team at the drinks break, firing the side up as much as he can. Club B feel in full control of the game with no negative thoughts.
- 186-2 Club B wins by 8 wickets. Club A feel very negative about throwing the match away. Club B are flying high on such a good win over a strong opposition and will carry that confidence into the next game.
What this tells us is that it's possible for the psychological momentum to shift during games. This has an very real influence on the players positive and negative energy levels. In our example, Club A had the momentum but they backed off giving Club B a chance. Club B had stopped focusing on winning which relaxed them into coming back. When Club A saw this happening they began to worry which hurt their game.
The list of influences on energy could be endless but examples could include:
- Form (yours and your oppositions)
- Umpiring Decisions
- Feedback (from coaches, parents, spectators or elsewhere)
- Pressure of the match or match situation
Often there is little you can do to reduce these pressures, but you can control your reaction to them.
Momentum can change in as quickly as an over when your star bowler pulls a hat-trick from nowhere. You can't rely on that though, so as a team it's a good idea to be aware of when momentum is slipping and what you can do to get it back.
Sit down as a team at some quiet time (before play if you like) and decide how you will respond to momentum shifting moments such as poor umpiring or a fine performance from the opposition. Discuss how your reaction to these things is important to getting momentum back.
Everyone will have different ways of reacting in the side, but as long as you stick with the principles of:
- Put negative thoughts aside (perhaps with the stop technique).
- Focus on playing as well as possible under the circumstances
I'll be honest; it won't always work because sometimes you will be outplayed. You are giving yourself a chance though.
You can practice shifting momentum on the training pitch too.
Identify your times of greatest stress again and then practice them as much as you can. For example, if your team crack under pressure them play lots of practice games and have pressure nets. If you feel out of form, play yourself back in with extra games or practices.
The bottom line is that as losing streak is as much about how you react to problems as it is about how you are playing. Sometimes extra practice will be enough to fix things; most of the time just being in control of your reaction is enough to end the streak.