Cricket is awesome. More cricket is more awesome, right?
If you want to be a cricketer, there is a balance to be had between playing, practising and doing something else completely. We know from the top level that burnout is a very real issue.
And it can happen to you as well.
Here is how you can use the power of rest and recovery to become a more powerful player.
Read the signs
"Wait a minute", you might say, "I'm not a professional player. I don't get anywhere near enough time with cricket, let alone too much. I could never get enough of my passion."
I applaud you if you feel this way. And I'll just sprinkle a blob of realism on your dream ice cream: You can do too much. Perhaps you are a good player or coach who finds - thanks to club, school, representative and touring games - yourself involved in 4-5 games a week in summer plus training sessions. Maybe you have less games per week but you live in a country with a climate that allows year round cricket. There is no let up.
When you first start this process you can't get enough of it. You are driven and excited. You can't stop thinking about the game and enjoying the challenge.
As time goes on, the less enjoyable elements start to get to you. You pick up a niggling injury that is enough to hurt but not enough to stop. You sigh at yet another long journey to an away match and you get frustrated at others in the team who are unreliable.
Then one day, after a bad run of form and faced with a match that is less important, you find yourself thinking "you know, it wouldn't be the worst thing if it rained" before feeling guilty and burying the idea quickly.
You are still filled with passion for cricket, but the grind parts have got to you. It's brilliant, but it's not all milk and honey.
You keep going down this road for long enough and you find that you just have to stop. Nothing is fun any more. Even a good performance has no joy. You even hate the thought of playing.
Now I know you have not gone that far. If you are reading PitchVision Academy you are still in love with cricket. Yet how many people do you know who have been talented and suddenly stopped playing? Chances are you can think of at least one, if not more. It happens.
Fortunately, you have recognised the signs and can take control before you go that far. You can sense when your passion is waning naturally. Although, if you are not one to monitor such things, it's worth using a journal like DayOne to track your cricket on a more emotional level.
Create some space
For most of us, when we feel the pull of niggling injury, or mental strain it's simply a matter of creating enough space to be able to take a breather.
Cut back on your games and training a little and see how you respond. Is two games a week the sweet spot? Less? More? Experiment.
If you play a long season, build in a natural break. Take time at Christmas (in the Southern Hemisphere) or book a holiday during the summer when less important games are on. Instead of playing through a niggle, take a couple of matches off to focus on physical recovery. The team will survive. Your reputation as the one who cares most about the team will survive.
At the natural end of a competitive season, get a complete break from cricket. That sounds obvious, but I recently spoke to the Head Coach at a facility in the UK who gets players wanting coaching the week after the season ends! I think he will stay in business if everyone stops and takes 2-6 weeks away from nets.
What you do during this time is up to you. Introverts might want to catch up on their reading. Extroverts may have another sport to play. Assess if your break is more physical or mental and adjust your activity. Just keep it away from cricket.
Get better at quick recovery
Sometimes you can't make space. If you truly need to keep ploughing on in the face of a drop in motivation then you can do some things to recover more quickly.
Physically, you can take steps early to reduce the chance of injury. Don't wait for the niggle to begin, get your fitness in order and start preparing for the next match as soon as the last one finishes.
Mentally, as previously mentioned, journalling helps big time. There is a lot of power in simply writing down how you feel even if you do nothing with it. It forces you to think through how you feel and put it into words.
I know some people will read the last paragraph and scoff about "too many feels". That's fine. Do it anyway if you are feeling burned out. Keep it secret and if it doesn't work you never have to tell anyone you tried it you manly beast, you.
What happens is two things:
- You realise your problems are not as bad as you thought they were (they never are when you write them down).
- You spot trends over time and learn what to avoid doing, and what to do more.
Both of these lend them to much faster mental recovery. Combined with less chance of physical fatigue and you are a lot more of a powerfully passionate player. These thing work like a mini-break to give you chance to rally.
The ideal - of course - when you feel stressed, angry or fed up with cricket is to take a longer rest. Everyone has those moments and there is no shame in admitting it. A marathon runner has no shame in pacing herself enough to have a final sprint for the line. A cricket season is like a marathon in that respect and so pacing yourself will make you all the better as a player in the long run.