Have you ever been in 'the zone' when playing cricket?
If you have you know how good it feels and how much better your performance is, but you may not know that you can get there at will with the right training and tactics.
What is the zone?
The zone is that time when you are just playing. You are completely engrossed in your performance, unaware of anything else. You have no worries or distractions and you are not even making conscious decisions.
You are in complete control of yourself and performing at your very best.
Getting into the zone
The zone is also known by psychologists as 'Flow'. It is the combination of two factors:
When these are working together you will find yourself performing at levels you never felt possible.
However, they can be hard to grasp as confidence is easily knocked and it's very simple to become distracted.
You can avoid these pitfalls by taking some simple steps:
- Drill, drill and drill again. Drills teach your body what it feels like to perform a skill well. Confidence comes in part from knowing you are able to perform a skill without thinking about it. By hitting, catching or bowling lots of balls you are teaching yourself what it feels like to do something properly. When it comes to the crunch in a game your self-programmed muscles will kick in and you play the drive, make the diving stop or bowl the yorker on auto-pilot.
- Practice under pressure. Nets are great practice, but to really get used to playing under match pressure you need to practice in the same way. It's very effective to set yourself targets while practising and even better to play practice games where you can build up a blueprint of how it feels to succeed under pressure situations that are as close as possible to real games. Pairs cricket, Timed cricket, Continuous cricket and wide nets are all ways to give everyone a go and still build up pressure. It can also be a lot more fun with a bit of competition to liven up practice.
- Practice in your head. We have all had a secret bowl or bat in the mirror at home but used right it can improve your flow. This technique is known as imagery: Seeing yourself succeed in competitive situations. It could be something as simple as imagining yourself raising your bat for your hundred as you walk out to the middle or writing a more complex log of all your successes â€“ real and imagined. It all contributes to the blueprint of success you need to build confidence.
- Calm yourself down. In the heat of the moment it's easy to lose focus (what psychologists call over-arousal). You can calm yourself down with a simple tension control technique. All you are doing is taking yourself out of the game situation for a moment to give you time to refocus. It can take a few goes to master, but when you have your concentration will be improved massively.
- Park your mistakes. We all make mistakes but an error will pull you out of the Zone fast. There is no time to think why it happened during a game so if you find yourself dwelling on it then 'park it' for analysis later and concentrate on the next ball as if you never made the error. This way you can forget about it for now, get yourself back into the Zone and work out how and why during training. If you have trouble with this it may help to physically throw the error away by wiping it on your whites.
- Rise above the sniping. Many players will try and put you off with a well placed comment or sledge. These can be difficult to ignore, especially if you find yourself agreeing with them. When this happens it is essential to avoid rising to the bait in the first place. Remember that you know your own game far better than anyone on the opposition does and they are simply looking for a way to break your concentration. Second, if you find yourself thinking they might have a point, use the stop technique to block the negative thought and refocus on the next ball as if nothing had been said. Remember that any self-analysis takes you out of the Zone.
- Bring your iPod. Music is very personal and highly motivating. Pick a song that makes you feel good and listen to it before going out to play. You know what music puts a spring in your step and makes you walk taller. Confidence from any source is still confidence.
Getting into flow takes work: Practice, preparation and self-awareness. That said, if you keep your state of mind as the number one priority when you are in the middle you will be more likely to get into the not-so-mythical 'zone'.
Want to get yourself into the zone at will? PitchVision Academy has a complete training course to build up your confidence, concentration and skyrocket your success.
© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008