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Hi there,

Ask any coach and they will tell you about the 5 Ps: Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance. It's not just alliteration gone mad. It's been proven to work.

But how do we go about turning our cricketing hopes and dreams into practical action steps? I delve into the worlds of psychology, productivity and management to find an answer in a two part series this week.

I even read some stuff by self help gurus on the topic. Now that's commitment!

This week's Ask the Coaches comes in audio so you can download it onto your ipod and listen anywhere. I cover strength training, run ups, omega 3, how skinny cricketers can add weight and the 10 laws of fast bowling. If you want your own questions answered click here.

There is also another great fielding drill and some cricket fitness tips for you to get your teeth into.

With this much packed in, I need at least 5 Ps to keep me on track.

Have a great weekend,

David Hinchliffe

How 'perfect day planning' can help your cricket (part 1)


Imagine what your perfect cricketing day would be like.

From the moment you wake to the time you close your eyes to sleep, everything goes completely to plan. What would it look like?

It's an exercise that not only feels good but has practical applications.

You are using what Tim Ferris calls 'dreamlining': the art of goal setting to reach your dreams. It's something every cricketer at any level can benefit from doing.

Research has shown that good goal setting dramatically increases your chances of achieving sporting success.

And that starts with imagining your perfect day.

Think about the house you live in, the types of decor, the food you eat, what you drink, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, how you prepare for the match, the type of game you have against what kind of opposition and what happens after play? In short, every tiny detail.

Write it all down somewhere you can refer back to it. It helps to leave room as other things pop into your head at a later date.

James Hamilton has used this method too. Ferris makes the dream include all the things you want to do no matter how unusual or one off they are. James builds on this technique by making the day as regular as possible.

If you really want to make the most of perfect day planning, it's important to do both.

A daunting task?

Most people can quickly come up with a list of hopes and dreams quite quickly but many still feel daunted by the task.

So they put it off and the dreams stay as dreams.

It's easy to understand. Goal setting is about putting your life down on paper. What if you miss something out? What if you change your mind? What if you fail in reaching those goals? What if others consider your dreams as silly or impossible? What if you can't afford it? What if something stops you?

That's a lot of worries. It's no wonder people don't bother with goal setting, but you can do it you take these principles on board:

  • Failure is essential. The route to success is not a smooth path. It's a winding road with ups and downs along the way. You will fail at times. You will lose track and let yourself and others down. Allowing yourself to fail in pursuit of your goal is important because, as James Hamilton says, that this is what humans do, even successful ones.
  • Action trumps inaction. Goal setting is partly about finding out what real life actions you need to take to achieve. Research into successful businessmen has shown they all are driven by taking action on their plans, even if it is the wrong action. It's more important to be doing something than nothing, to be moving forward than frozen by fear of failure.
  • There is never the perfect time to start. It's natural to imagine that the perfect plan needs the perfect start. In fact, the opposite is true. It's essential to start when conditions are not right because conditions are never right. There will be times when things are easier, but you can never know when this will be. As we know, action is always preferred so just get going.
  • You can change your mind. If you do start and things go wrong, you can start again any time you like. You can even drop the entire goal and change to something else if you want. It's hard to identify what you really want and you might make a mistake. Accept that will happen and start again, or start something else. You can always come back another time.
  • The best things in life are cheaper than you think. It's easy to imagine something like having the latest cricket bat will make you better at batting, but practice is far more important and free. Playing for an expensive to join Premier League club might be a lot less enjoyable than a wandering side with close friends. Don't be seduced by the expense of things and set your aims on the important stuff.
  • Life is not perfect. In real life, even your perfect day will include plenty of annoyances. You can't control traffic jams, other people's behaviour or stuff breaking which will always happen, sometimes at exactly the wrong moment. It's not a sign of failure; it's something everyone goes through. A goal is only worthwhile if it is worth having in spite of these things.
  • Your success is your responsibility. Despite all the previous caveats, one thing still remains true: It's your responsibility to reach your goals. You will mess up, get it wrong, face negative people and suffer roadblocks but you still need to act. It's easy to fall into the trap of blaming others. As consultant Brain Tracy says, focus on what you can do now.

In the second part of this series, we will discuss how you turn your dream day into reality by taking personal responsibility like this. Click here to go straight there.

Photo credit:charlesfred

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How 'perfect day planning' can help your cricket (part 2)


In part one, we found out why planning the perfect day is so important. Today we discuss how to make it a reality.

When you have your perfect day on paper, what happens next?

You need to find out what the practical steps are to making your dreams a reality, and there is a simple process to doing this.

James Hamilton suggests starting by taking a look at your day and sorting out each goal into the following:

  1. Have now, or can get now.
  2. Able to achieve or get if you put your mind to it.
  3. Able to achieve or get with a lot of planning and application.
  4. Requires a change in the behaviour or attitudes of other people or is impossible.

The first two categories can be the hardest to identify. We tend to assume that our ideal day will be utterly unlike what we do now. We tend to rule out the things that satisfy us now as having any part in some kind of glowing future.

For example, if you want to become a more accurate bowler all you need is a ball, a net, some chalk to mark my target and a free hour or two to practice in. You can get close to your ideal without huge effort and expenditure once you learn how to identify what parts of your perfect day fit into those first two categories.

Category 3 is more like Tim Ferris' dreamlining: The big stuff like travel and career aims that might months or years to achieve. You might be looking to make it as a professional cricketer, or take more wickets in the league than anyone else.

Category 4 is trickier. Most people tend to rule out anything of a type that they haven't managed to achieve in the past. That does not mean it's impossible. You don't have to give up your dream just because it seems too difficult. Be careful not to count yourself out of anything that really would fulfil and satisfy you.

That said, you should be careful of anything that is dependent on the attitudes and behaviours of other people.

You are not fully in control of how your family, friends, team mates, coaches or colleagues treat you. All you are in control of is how you treat yourself. Any goal you have that needs you to hold other people’s strings is impossible.

Anything in category 4 needs to be discarded if it's genuinely impossible.

Time to get things done

Having removed anything you can't control, it's time to get everything else done. This is where the dreaming stops and you start to outline the real, practical and simple steps.

Far and away the best way of doing this can be found in a book called 'Getting Things Done' (GTD) by Management Consultant David Allen.

It's a well tried and proven system in the business world to improve productivity, but it can work just as well for you to make yourself better at cricket. A task is still a task if it is 'go to nets' or 'attend meeting'.

The strength of GTD is that it gives you a place to hold all the practical actions that is not in your brain. Trying to remember everything is bound to failure. How often, for example, do you remember to buy toilet roll when you are standing in the toilet roll aisle in the supermarket?

 As Allen say, we are great at having ideas but awful at holding them in our brains. So use a system instead.

So pick up your perfect day listed into the 4 categories, grab a fresh sheet of paper and do the following:

Start with anything that take one simple step (make a phone call, look at a website, cook breakfast) and can be done right now. Do it immediately.

Then take anything that is left that take one simple, clear next action (buy bat, go to nets) and put it in a list. If it's a time based action (like a meeting or a game) put it in some kind of calendar to remind you when it is. If you could do it any time write it on a list called "Next Actions". If you have more than 20 or so next actions you will probably want to subdivide the list into contexts like "Calls" for phone calls you need to make or "Errands" for shopping you need to do (put "buy toilet roll" on the errands list and refer to it when you are in the supermarket).

It's important to make sure that everything at this point is genuinely something you can actually physically do. For example, "Get car fixed" is not a next action unless you are a mechanic and are wearing your overalls. The next action in this case might be "phone garage", because that is something you can do.

You should be left with the things that will take a few more steps to complete. Allen calls these 'Projects'.  An example of a small project would be "Get car fixed" as above. A bigger, longer project might be to cement a place in the 1st XI. As a general rule, these projects should not take longer than a year to complete.

From this list of projects you now need to identify the next physical action for each one. Again, take care to really break it down. If you can't do it yourself with the tools you have at hand, it's not a next action.

Add these actions to your Next Action list or calendar from before. If you have more than 20 next actions, subdivide them by context again. Other examples of contexts you can use are "PC" (for example, "subscribe to PitchVision miCoach") and "Cricket Club".

You may find at this point there are some actions you have that rely on someone else to do something. If so, create a list called "Waiting For" and put all those actions in that list.

There may be some things you would like to do one day but don't want to commit to starting just yet. Put these in a list called "Someday/Maybe" and forget about them for now (you can always check back on that list later).

Now you should be armed with the following:

  • A calendar with time based items on it
  • A list of projects
  • A list of next actions (sorted by context if necessary)

You can now start completing those actions and projects, safe in the knowledge you are moving, action by action, towards your perfect day goals.

The GTD system is a bit more involved that what I have outlined here. If you are serious about reaching your goals in cricket (or in work, or the rest of life) I strongly suggest you buy the book. For a quick overview of GTD in general, click here.

Now I want to know your feedback. How are you planning on making your goals a reality and are you using the perfect day or GTD methods to help you? Leave a comment or drop me an email.

Photo credit: gin soak

(A big thank you to James Hamilton for helping me to tie GTD to goal setting, an article he sent me recently has been a very strong influence on these two articles.)

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4 Ways to practice when your club doesn't do nets

How are you supposed to improve your game when your club has no practice sessions? 

There are many club sides that do nothing but have a good game followed by a couple of pints afterwards. It's more common in English village cricket teams who have no pretentions to league success. 

What if you are stuck in a team like this despite you aims to improve?

Frustrating I'll bet.

It's something reader Daniel has contacted me about via Twitter. If you are going to enjoy your cricket more and succeed you owe it to yourself to find some way to practice when the formal version is missing. Here are 4 suggestions I came up with:

1. Find a practice buddy

You might not be able to get the whole team down for practice, but what about 1 or 2 others with a free hour to spare? It works well in the fitness world where training buddies motivate each other to work harder and more regularly.

You could find your buddy at work or school (nobody made it a rule that you need to play for the same club), a family member or even someone you find via a forum or local paper classified section.
If you are a bowler it's even easier. You just need a bag of balls and some space to bowl in. Dave seems to do a good job with just his young sons to help.
If you can muster up enough people you could even have a park, playground or beach cricket match. It all counts as practice to your brain, even if it's tape ball.
2. Visualise
Research into sport psychology has shown a clear link between thought and action. In other words, if you think about doing something (like scoring a hundred), you are more likely to do it. We don't exactly know why it works, but it does. It's such a powerful tool; there is one study out there that has proven that just thinking about doing bench presses three times a week will increase your strength!
It does take a bit of work to get used to though. You have to clear time and space to really visualise the success. However, doing this for 20 minutes a couple of times a week is equally as effective as having a net (possibly more so, depending how well a net is run).
3. Play more cricket
As I touched on before when talking about beach cricket, you are able to learn cricket skills in less formal environments too.

The summer evenings after work here are always having matches like these. Pub teams, midweek leagues, work teams or just a game down at the park all give an opportunity for you to play in a more open environment.

One or two of these matches a week can easily make up for a lack of practice and keep your eye in for the main event.
4. Go to another club
If your team does no practice, why not find one who does? You could move completely, or just tag along to other teams nets while still turning out for your own side at the weekend. It might be a bit cheeky but why be shy about it? It's just a game after all.
Braver souls might want to try even more drastic measures like joining the committee and convincing the club to start net sessions. But becoming a committee member can be more daunting than facing a fast bowler on a dodgy track.
What are your experiences? Does your club have regular nets and are they worthwhile? How to you make up the slack? Get me on twitter or leave a comment.

Photo credit: Eleventh Earl of Mar

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Fielding Drills: Catcher in the middle

Purpose: To practice flat catches and backing up at various distances

Description: Players line up as per the diagram in groups of three. The coach (c) hits the ball out to the nearest catcher. If the ball goes wide of the catcher the backup catchers must catch or stop the ball. Rotate players every third catch.

Variation: The nearest catcher can simulate bowling before the ball is hit back to them to recreate caught and bowled practice. High catches can also be added for variety.

Stop doing the same old workout and start feeling great on the pitch

There is a saying in the world of fitness gurus the world over:

Everything works, but for only so long.

It's not just modern exercise physiology either. Even the ancient Greeks knew the importance of mixing things up.


About PitchVision Academy

Welcome to this week's guide to playing and coaching better cricket.

I'm David Hinchliffe and I'm Director of the PitchVision Academy team. With this newsletter you are benefitting directly from over 25 Academy coaches. Our skills include international runs and wickets, first-class coaching, cutting-edge research and real-life playing experience.


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Issue: 8
Date: 2008-08-15