When your cricket team is batting, the role of the changing room and balcony is to ensure that the next batter goes into the wicket feeling focused, relaxed and positive.
This is irrespective of the challenge that he is walking into.
It is our job as coaches to protect that environment; to educate the players in appropriate winning language and behaviours because they facilitate excellent performances from your players in the toughest of circumstances.
Here are a few tips:
Keep the team together
Nothing infuriates me more than seeing players scattered around the ground, some playing boundary flag bowls whilst your team-mates are battling away in the middle for the team.
We should sit together as a group: discuss the game situation, what are the viable scoring options and talk positively throughout as this keeps focus, helps players to prepare effectively and also gives a message to the opposition that you’re a team to be reckoned with.
While at times, players need some space to reflect or prepare in their own way, the bulk of the team should be together.
I have a rule that says a minimum of 7 players should be together at any given point and normally there are more than that watching at any given point.
Face 10 balls
When the environment is right and the focus has been achieved you can promote the notion that it is the responsibility of the incoming batter to be 10 balls into their innings as they take strike.
By that I mean that they have already assessed the pitch conditions, challenges, field settings, bowler’s skills etc to the extent that they are mentally 10 balls into their innings as they stride to the crease.
There is nothing worse than putting yourself under pressure by working it out as you go along, ball by ball. Your strike rate is poor, the rate is going through the roof, your partner at the other end has been starved of strike so is becoming restless and the changing room gets nervous watching you.
The pressure is mounting.
Decision making becomes fuzzy and then you’re walking back after a horrendous shot. All of this can be avoided through protecting your environment on the balcony and installing solid mental processes with your players.
Build confidence in team-mates
I do whatever I can to limit the inane mickey-taking between team-mates. It may be meant in jest, but when was the last time someone made a joke or remark about you which boosted your self confidence or belief?
I remind the players that the worst thing you can ever do to a team-mate is to tear away at their belief.
It's everyone's role in the team to build team-mate belief. So, if one of your player’s individual belief drops then that will have a negative effect on the team performance. So boost and galvanise belief always: never erode it!
The other thing to remember is that the mickey-taker is generally the insecure and weak one trying to cover up their own failings by highlighting someone else's.
Chase down targets
One excellent game for the balcony or changing room when chasing a target down is to place 1 paper cup on a ledge or window sill for every 10 runs you are chasing down. Every time you accrue those 10 runs you knock a cup down until there are none left and the game is won.
This is a good method of breaking a total into manageable chunks. You get a sense of achievement in the changing room and in the middle with each knocked off cup. It becomes a focus that works.
Establish a positive balcony and changing room environment using these tactics and tips and watch your individual and batting team performances soar.