The most mentally tough athletes posses the "the 7 C's".
One of the regular questions that we get on the PitchVision Cricket Show concerns the development of mental skills: batting under pressure, dealing with failure and much more.
It's my belief that before you look to develop an attribute, then its crucial to understand what it is your trying to develop. So I turn to an expert. Gary Mack is a fantastic Sports Psychologist from the USA and writes brilliantly and simply.
It's Gary that talks with passion about the 7 C's. And I want to explain how they can help the young players that you coach improve their game.
Mentally tough cricketers will find a way to win in most situations: They use bad breaks or bad luck as a driving force for harder work, increased determination or heightened focus.
Normal people use a bad break as a reason to give up.
Paul Collingwood is a great example of someone's competitive drive bringing the best performances out of him when under the biggest pressure.
Challenge our players about this by asking "What do you do when something goes wrong in your cricket?" Help them learn which choice to make that works for them.
"Every time I see myself stepping out on the golf course, I see myself as favourite". Tiger Woods
Does this translate into how your players feel at the end of your mark or walking out to bat?
If not, then using visualisation to create images in your mind of your successful performances, with the colours and sounds turned up will help to build your confidence ahead of performance.
Pelé - one of the greatest footballers of all time - used to lie on the floor in the changing room before every game. He would close his eyes picturing his finest moments making them as real and bright as possible. The only difference game on game was that he would scrub the opponents from those historical games out of the picture and substitute that days opponents into the mental DVD in his head.
Pelé would see his best performance destroying the upcoming opposition.
Now, that's great confidence prep!
How can we learn from Pelés' example?
Ultimately, the biggest battle is not against the ball, nor our opponent. It is against ourselves. Those who manage themselves better often achieve more.
Nick Compton (Somerset and England batter) is a big advocate of being in charge of his emotions ahead of every innings and every ball that he faces. He has developed calming techniques that he uses ahead of batting and whilst in the middle.
His question to young players is
"are you (emotionally) ready to bat?"
I taught Graeme Smith very little in his time at Somerset, he taught me far more! Yet one of the things that his Somerset team worked on ahead of their T20 Cup winning year in 2005 was "belly breathing".
We focused on using this breathing technique to calm ourselves after a hard run 2 or 3 so that we could control the body and mind ahead of the next crucial delivery.
It worked a treat.
Teach your players to breathe into their stomach rather than chest cavity. Place your hand on your tummy so you can see it rise and fall. Notice what sensations you have running through your body, calmness and control are restored.
Belly breathing is a skill; the more you practice the better you will get at it and the quicker the effect in the middle when emotional and physical control is required.
Click here for part 2.