I'm working this week with an incredible tutor group on the ECB Level IV Batting module at the National Cricket Performance Centre. Matthew Maynard, Tony Middleton (the Hampshire CCC Batting coach) and myself are heading up the course.
This morning, world leading performance coach, Dr Steve Bull interviewed ex-England player, Mark Ramprakash in one of the most powerful sessions I have experienced to date.
"Ramps" scored 114 First Class 100's and played 52 Test Matches in his glittering career. Recently, he has returned from a successful England Lions series win in Sri Lanka where he was lead batting coach. But one of the most interesting stats of Mark's career was that he was dropped on 10 separate occasions during a 52 test match career.
Ramprakash was touring the West Indies in 1998 and yet again found himself out of the team. He very nearly booked himself out of the Team Hotel to fly home because he had reached an all time low and his confidence was shot.
Ramps bumped into Steve Bull down at the pool and Bully started to work on some coping strategies to help Mark to increase his confidence. Ramprakash now talks about his Test Match career in this way: "My Pre-Steve Bull Test Career and my Post-Steve Bull Test Career"
So how did Steve help Ramprakash come back and take his career to new levels? What did they work on?
Visualisation is a confidence tool
The starting point was to work on some visualisation techniques. It was vital that Mark could see himself coping with all of the external and internal "noise" that was cluttering his mind and eroding his belief.
Ramprakash would visualise himself looking out from the pavilion at the venue for the next match, watching the previous wicket fall, hear the noise of the crowd, the horns, the music, see the crowd and picture himself walking confidently down the steps out on to the grass and towards the wicket.
He would take guard, take in the sights, sounds, smells and feelings and run through the first 30 balls of his innings against the likes of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh with absolute precision in his movements, his decision making, his leaves, shots and body language.
He would see it as he would normally experience it (through his own eyes which is called "internal visualisation"), and cope easily with the challenges that the bowlers can throw at him.
Ramprakash was selected for the 4th Test in Guyana and repeated this process in his head the night before the game. When the time came to bat he felt he could cope because "I had done it (in my head) before".
He had renewed confidence in his ability and scored 64* (out of 170) and 34 (out of 137) across his two innings.
Ramps ended up topping the series averages with 266 runs at 66.50 in his 3 matches.
In Neuro Linguistic Programming we talk about turning up the volume, the contrast, the colours and the feelings to make them as vivid as possible when we run through visualisation strategies, make it real.
This is exactly what Mark Ramprakash did to take him from the lowest ebb in his cricket career to the top of the England batting averages.
Can this inspirational story help you or one of your players to build confidence when they need it most?