This is part 4 of the "Getting the right attitude" series of posts, to go to part 1 click here.
Before he opened an innings, Geoff Boycott used to go into a mental cocoon in the dressing room.
He would rehearse his innings, thinking about the bounce of the wicket, the troublesome and easy bowlers and where runs will come seeing his innings unfold in his mind. (Source: MCC Masterclass)
Geoff may call this concentration or common sense, but like many high performing cricketers he is using a technique called imagery to enhance his game. And it is just as effective for club players too.
How imagery works in cricket
No matter what skill level your cricket is, your brain works in the same way as everyone else when it comes to imagery.
Just like a video recorder, your brain stores images as a process. That is to say, you dont store the actual images, just a special code to allow you to recall them again when you need them. The key thing is that, once stored, it doesnt matter to your brain if these images are real or imagined. This means you can remember success that has never happened or bring back old successes.
Your mind will treat these experiences as if they were happening in real time making you more likely to succeed in the current match or practice.
In short, you can trick yourself into playing better.
How to use imagery to improve your cricket
Just like the cover drive or bowling a googly, you can train yourself to use imagery effectively with practice. Here is how:
- Create a blueprint - If you have played cricket for a while, many skills become automated. You can bowl without thinking about the action, or catch a ball without worrying about hand position. However, to use imagery well you need to be aware of how doing something right actually feels. To do this, when you perform a skill correctly, take a moment to remember it in detail: the position of your body, the timing, the flow of movement, the way you feel and anything else.
- Recall - Once you are becoming aware of the way success looks and feels you can start to recall it outside of practice. Take some time on a day where you are not practicing to recall your success. This could be a very detailed memory of awhole game, through to something very simple like the feeling of a well timed drive through the covers.
- Control - Finally you can put these successful images/feelings into a match situation. On the morning of a match and before you are about to bowl or bat bring back the images and feelings in your mind as vividly as possible. Make them real.
You will notice that negative experiences are not worked on. Your aim is to put the bad out of your mind and recall the good as if it were actually happening. While this process takes some work, you should be able to get good results quickly and if you work at it you will improve your imagery skills even further, making your mind a powerful tool in your game.
Other tips on imagery
- To help with your imagery you can use a trigger. For example holding a bat when imagining shots or getting to 100.
- If possible, use a video to record your successes and edit it so you just see yourself performing perfectly. Use it as part of your routine of recalling success.
- In general, you should only use imagery to focus on success. However, you can use it to work through problems as well. You do this by thinking about the error, working out what need to change to prevent it and imagine yourself correcting the error next time.
Mental training can improve your game by up to 80% Find out how to have a mental net in the online coaching course "How To Use Mental Training to Boost Your Game" only at PitchVision Academy.