Every team has a net player: The one with all the shots in practice and zero confidence in games. Can you prevent this?
The difference is pressure.
Most nets are run with the idea of hitting balls over everything else. There is little focus and little effort to add match level pressure. Game heads are far away as you have a knockabout.
The solution is simple.
Add more pressure and more focus to your practice sessions.
Forget batting technique
You can't ride two horses at once. Forget about technique because you can't develop technical skills under pressure.
Instead, understand your strengths, live with your weaknesses and focus instead on making the net as intense and high pressure as possible. Some even say more high pressure than games!
The goal is to put your skills under as much pressure as possible. That means ignoring technical errors (we all have them).
Naturally, if you are technically so poor you can't keep up, then take the pressure away and get a basic technique up to scratch first. For most of us, we can use skills - with limitations - so put them under stress and see how they stand up.
It will mean more failure.
It will not build confidence by stroking your ego with 15 minutes of elegant cover drives.
But it works.
Add failure consequences
Pressure is the sense that an outcome is more important than normal.
Stress comes when you feel your skills are not up to the level to deal with that importance.
In other words, to have a confident swagger you need to know for sure you can perform under pressure.
So, add importance to a simple outcome.
Say you want to score from more balls.
Under a no-pressure situation you would go in with a vague sense of trying to hit the ball well. Hopefully into the gaps, but who knows?
You can add pressure to batting by setting a scenario, with fields. Tell yourself you need 20 from four overs and ask the bowler for a field. Or set scoring zones.
You know where the gaps are and you know you need to hit them if you are going to score at five an over. If you get your target you get an extra five minutes in nets to do what you want.
If you fail, you get a shorter net time and have to clean up the gear after the session.
Suddenly a simple net has become a serious effort to do well.
Add in some running and you really see some pressure added!
Listen to yourself
So far we have looked at practical ways to add pressure. But just adding pressure isn't enough. You need to think about how you are dealing with it too.
Take time before and after each session to think about how you responded to pressure.
Did you see it as a chance to show off your skills and enjoyed it?
Did you worry it was going to show you up as a failure and an unskilled player?
People with a growth mindset tend to do better under pressure than those with a fixed mindset. You can read more about changing your mindset here. This is because pressure is not a bad thing to growth focused players.
Pressure is part of the challenge you need to rise to. If you face down a strong opponent who puts you under pressure and learn something, the fact you won or lost is just part of the process.
And the great thing about your mindset is you can change it.
Of course you need the skills and confidence to go with it, but by working hard, working smart and keeping your mind in the best place, you give yourself the best chance to bat as well in games as you do in the nets.