Cricket and golf have a lot in common: sports that go on in the head as much as in the body.
For example, there is a story about a famous golfer who lost his form. He decided to seek one of the finest golf coaches in the world to sort out his technique.
The coach took the player to the driving range with a bucket of balls and asked him to show him his swing. The coach sat down on a chair and watched as the player hit a few balls.
"What do you think?" said the player, but the coach was silent.
So he carried on hitting ball after ball, the coach silently watching, the player getting more and more frustrated. What was wrong? Why was the coaching saying so little?
Eventually after more than an hour the player was hitting the ball as sweetly as he had ever done. The coach had still not spoken.
You see, the coach knew the problem was not technical. The player had had success at the highest level before. He just needed to get his groove back.
It was all in his head.
As cricketers we can learn from the coach and player.
Unless you are quite new to the game, you are bound to have had success. That means the role of practice is not to sort out technical errors (unless they are so glaring you can’t avoid them). It’s to get your head in the right place.
Do nets do that for you at the moment?
Do you practice the mental game as much as the physical one?
How to practice your mental game
As you know, the secret to mastery is deliberate practice. What practical steps can you take in you limited time to improve your mental
- Having self confidence. Fear of failure can be crippling but it is nothing more than a mindset. If you can get yourself out of it you will have more confidence. A simple method that works well is the stop technique. This allows you to put aside negative thoughts and focus on the positive elements. This allows you to put aside negative thoughts and focus on the positive elements. You can practice this all the time, not just in matches. Use the stop technique every day in your work and life until you find yourself naturally doing it.
- Visualising success. Amazingly, psychologists have proven that if you imagine success it becomes automatically more likely to happen. Our bodies and brains are linked inextricably and by ‘practicing’ success in our heads we learn how it feels in real life. Just by spending 20 minutes a day remembering past successes and imagining future ones we can see a significant performance improvement. If you are serious about getting better, this kind of practice could even be more important than netting or hitting the gym.
- Learning to relax. Tension in our minds leads to tension in our bodies. We screw up our faces when exerting ourselves and I’ll bet while reading this your shoulders have subconsciously become hunched up. Take a second to relax them. If you can take than relaxed feel onto the pitch you are directing all your energy onto batting, bowling or fielding rather than using some of it to stay over-tensed. Spending a few minutes a day to become consciously aware of tension in your body can make a huge difference.
- Dealing with pressure. Normal club nets have little of the realism of a match. We have all met the perfect net bowler or batsman who loses it in the middle. To avoid this, make practices realistic. Take away the nets, set run targets, have consequences for getting out (or getting hit) or play for something of value. Each little element that can ramp up the pressure in practice teaches you how to deal with it in the middle.
Each of these tricks is another tool you can use to develop mental strength. That can take you a long way, even if you are lacking the talent of others. And if you can combine talent with this then the sky is the limit.
What percentage of your practice time is mental?
photo credit: Dushi_P