After several hundred posts I thought it was time you got an introduction. Or, more specifically; Some of the ideas and people behind the practical tips on this site that make you a better player. If you understand these pillars, you understand the system I use and that's essential to your success.
1. Everyone can get better
Everyone who plays cricket has the potential to be better tomorrow than they are today. You might be 8 or 80, male or female, fat or skinny, talented or useless. We all have a genetic potential and most of us never get near it. My job is to take what you have and show you ways to make that better. You may never play professionally but with some application of proven methods you can move up standards. It's down to you to use the methods. They are all here on the site for you. Whether you play for fun, for ambition or for the challenge you will be closer to your aims if you are playing better. And you can play better.
2. Skill is the top of the pyramid
Physical therapist and strength coach Gray Cook says that sport skill (cricket included) is the culmination of other elements: the ability to move and the ability to apply force to those movements. In other words, strength, mobility and stability. To me that means fitness training is absolutely essential to developing skill in cricket. There are many ways to train and usually limited time to do so, but without doing something to improve those three fitness elements it will be impossible for anyone to get better. As Alwyn Cosgrove says, any sport where men can outperform women proves additional strength and power is an advantage. And with all the skill in the world, if you gas early in the match because you are unfit you will be no good to anyone. Skill and technical work is still the most important part of a cricketers preparation, but without regular, progressive fitness training you will not have the base of the pyramid to build from.
3. Self improvement is a 24 hour task
You have to look after yourself if you want to be a better cricketer. Vern Gambetta refers to this as being a 24 hour athlete and it applies just as much to you. It's more like being a 24 hour human. I'm not saying you should live like a monk though. Simple stuff like getting enough sleep, learning how to manage stress in everyday life and eating right all add up to an investment in your performance on the pitch and your health in the rest of your life. We all need to have fun too. I love a good night out or a pizza as much as anyone, but it's all about finding a balance to help you feel better and play better.
4. Practice needs to be regular and deliberate
Malcolm Gladwell wrote about how people who are considered genius in their field always have years of deliberate practice behind them. In theory, anyone could achieve a high level of competence just through regular, consistent practice. Knowing this is powerful. It gives everyone the chance to improve no matter how bad they think they are. The trick is in the second word: deliberate. To get the most from your practice it needs to be laser directed towards your goal. In cricket terms that means adding pressure to your practice, adding new skills in the best learning environment and ensuring your fitness work has function (something Coach Dos is very good at explaining). It means considering the relevance of any practice you do and asking if you can do it better. Each time you increase your focus you increase your chance of success. On the other hand, the more you thoughtlessly go through the motions because it is what you have always done the less control you have over your form.
5. Support is the missing element in club cricket
Senior club cricket lacks a decent support system and it's making us bad cricketers. You just have to look at the success of built support systems like Weight Watchers or even Alcoholics Anonymous to see the power of proper coaching and support on changing our behaviour. That's why I preach the importance of senior coaching, captains with exceptional leadership skills and organised practice in clubs. These things make a difference: They make you a better player by giving you something we usually lack in the club game: Accountability. It's also why I have seen a strong response to my online coaching trials. I think people miss that support when they move out of the structured coaching environment we had as young players.
6. First, do no harm
I'm not sure if strength coach Michael Boyle coined the above phrase, but I first heard it from him. It simply means the first job of anyone involved in improving performance is to make sure you are not making things worse. For example, if you see a fast bowler with a mixed action, as a coach you may want to correct it to prevent injury. However, in correcting the problem you end up with a bowler who has lost all rhythm and pace you have made things worse, even if the intentions were good. You can also apply this to fitness training. Keep things simple. Learn the correct technique for exercises to avoid injury. Identify your weak areas and learn how to make them strong. Vern Gambetta's advice is always listen to your body, it's an incredible machine.
7. The devil is in the detail
Your personal productivity has a direct influence on your cricket, especially as a club player. The more organised you are, the better use you make of the time you have to train and play. But you can't just organise your cricket and let the rest be chaos. If the rest of your life is all over the place it will encroach on play time. It's hard to be organised and it take a lot of practice. Many people can do it instinctively, but most need some kind of a system. I use 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen to help me keep track of my ideas, jobs and projects. You might want to use something else, but do use something or your game is bound to suffer. Being organised also gives you the freedom to measure success. Everything from your batting average to your best lift can be recorded and tracked over time and that will show you what works and what doesn't.
8. Relax, have fun, be confident
It's a cliche to say that cricket is 80% mental, but it's also true. If you are relaxed and confident you are in the right place to succeed. It's a feeling that can't be faked but, according to Roy Palmer, it can be created with the right techniques. It's not some magic psychological trick. Just the application of well directed work (what Jeremy Snape calls deposits in the bank of confidence), blocking out of errors, listening to the tension in your body and visualising success. When you find yourself in that place (and we have all ended up there by accident or design at some point) you know the feeling. You can do anything. Most importantly, you are enjoying yourself. And having fun is what it's really all about, right?
Special thanks: Ian Pont, Gray Cook, Alwyn Cosgrove, Michael Vaughan, Vern Gambetta, Michael Boyle, David Allen, Stephen J. Bull, Scott Fleming, Jo Doust, Malcolm Gladwell, Mehdi, The ECB Coaches Association, Robert Dos Remedios, Mike Brearley, Jeremy Snape, Dr. John Berardi, Roy Palmer, E.M. Rose, Graham Gooch, Tim Ferriss and John Sayce. Some famous, some not so famous but all people whose influence helped me build this philosophy.
photo credit: irishcricket
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