Nomaan sent in a great question to the Pitchvision Cricket Show last week. It revolved around his lack of confidence, increased anxiety levels and being unable to transfer his considerable practice skills into a match context.
Ultimately he had lost "that loving feeling" for the game.
Sam Lavery and I answered it well at the time but I wanted to see if there was anything I missed or another approach that could work for Nomaan.
The most user friendly of all sports psychology books is "Mind Gym" by Gary Mack. It's full of short stories and approaches that really get to the heart of the mental challenges within sport and general life. It's highly recommended.
My preferred approach when working with a performer reporting confidence and anxiety challenges is to use a "positive visualisation" technique.
Gary Mack writes about this in a great section in "Mind Gym" yet takes visualisation one step further which is really interesting.
I'm a huge fan of positive visualisation and encourage the players to turn up the colour, contrast, sounds and smells associated with the positive experiences that they are recollecting. It really works and would help Nomaan no end.
Similarly, Gary Mack tells his athletes to create their own highlights package in their mind. A mental video of them playing with no anxiety, no fear and no self-doubt.
Players who do this regularly report back feelings of confidence, demonstrate more positive body language in their subsequent movements often performing better and more consistently.
When they have completed this positive task then he asks them to tune in, just as deeply, to their worst performances or as Gary puts it, the game or event where you felt "at your weakest or most ineffective".
Again, Gary asks them to report back their feelings and confidence levels following the exercise.
So why does Mack do this?
Gary asks the athletes "what percentage of the difference in the two visualised performances was to do with your physical or technical skills?"
And then asks "what percentage as mental?"
Task: Try the visualisation process from a positive and then negative standpoint and answer these questions yourself.
Now if you are anything like me and the players I that work with then there will be a stark revelation here! Both technical and physical skills are relatively constant. It's the mental element that varies so drastically.
So why do we spend all of our time in the weights room and nets if the difference between good and bad is largely mental?
The next question is "would 5-10 mins of positive visualisation per day instead of those last 10 pointless TD's or last 6 bowl throughs make me a better player?"
"Probably" would be my answer!
The research supporting the use of mental skills training to facilitate positive change in performance is incredibly robust and strong.
Yet the incidence of players actually building mental skills training into their overall development programme is very low.
The best example that I have worked with is Ricky Ponting.
"Punter" would use positive visualisation as a technique alongside his performance diary to build robust confidence, reduce anxiety and to load his subconscious with positive affirmations and imagery ahead of falling sleep each night.
He would wake up feeling confident,focussed and in control of his destiny. What a nice feeling that would be leading into competition.
It's achievable for you, me and most certainly for Nomaan.
Is this something you can afford not to do?