The best way to become a better cricketer is to train in an way that is comfortable, but also challenges you to improve.
Is it possible to achieve both these aims at the same time?
We are often told as cricketers to "get out of the comfort zone" when trying to improve: Push hard, give everything you have. It's the stuff of motivational posters from Nike. That said, I'm also willing to bet you have seen the best improvements when you have been comfortable, relaxed and confident.
Hers how you can set yourself up to work harder than ever while feeling happy about it.
Find your comfort line
Imagine you play for a team that are supportive, fun, honest and successful. How would you feel when you walk into that dressing room?
Relaxed? Happy? Confident? All of the above?
This is a comfortable environment, but no one is in the comfort zone. Everyone is pushing everyone else to do better. It's just that this is done is a way that feels right. You know everyone's role, you trust them to do everything they can to succeed. They same goes for every other player. You are the right side of the comfort line.
It's this kind of dressing room that breeds the best players and teams because of trust.
What if your team isn't like that, can you make it that way?
As long as everyone works together to build a common culture, then you can. Naturally, this will vary between teams, but things that make you comfortable could be,
- Player names on shirts or changing room pegs (or recognised places for everyone).
- Playing music before games, during nets and even during games.
- Creating a buddy system.
- Clearly defining everyone's roles.
- Recognising individual successes and taking failure as a team.
You know the culture is right when you look forward to training no matter what horrible drill the coach throws at you.
You are with your cricket mates; you are there for the conversation as much as the cricket; this is your cricket family.
Train outside the comfort zone
If the environment is a comfortable one, then the training should make you uncomfortable.
With a supportive bunch around you, it's easy to ramp up the pressure and the difficulty of nets. That's because mates don't let mates get off with "having a hit". Everything has a purpose and is part of a wider plan.
The fact is, good training is also tough training. It's physically and mentally demanding. It can be boring as heck sometime too. This kind of training works to improve your game, but it also requires deep reserves. That's why it's so much easier if all your team are supporting you through it too.
What does a beyond-the-comfort-zone session look like?
And beyond the drills, there is a culture that doesn't let people get away with cruising through a session. No one is barked out for taking a few catches then slogging in nets, but anyone who does it feels they are letting the team down by not having the right intensity.
And at the end of session, everyone slaps each other's back and says well done. Everyone has been pushed, played hard and gone away a little better.
So, you can be comfortable and still use discomfort to become a better cricketer.
How can you adjust your environment at the next session to match this paradox?