The No-Mumbo-Jumbo Common Sense Guide to NLP for Cricket | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

The No-Mumbo-Jumbo Common Sense Guide to NLP for Cricket

Who has the time or need for Neuro-Lingusitic Programming? It's much better to just go and hit cricket balls.

 If you think the above is true, then read this article because today we are going to cut through the psycho-babble and give you the truth.

NLP is able to boost your cricket without having to light a joss stick or meditate in the downward facing dog position.

Recently I caught up with a top NLP practitioner, Richard Wrighton, who has worked with cricketers at every level. Although his knowledge of playing bouncers and bowling yorkers was poor, he has helped players - and their coaches - to improve their skills.

What's the secret?

I'll tell you upfront: The secret to NLP is that it is not a wishy-washy new age concept. It's simple advanced common sense.

Chances are that you will be doing a lot of NLP without even knowing it. Not because you are a natural, but because you are mindful of your cricket and you know that the mental game contributes directly to your skills on the pitch.

Here are the ways NLP will help you.

Reduced anxiety through a feeling of control

Who hasn't worried about getting out first ball while waiting to bat?

Who hasn't been a bit lead-footed in their first few balls as a result of fear of getting out?

It's natural, but it doesn't have to be crippling. With NLP you learn to recognise when you are having unhelpful thoughts and feelings. You can recognise when these thoughts and feelings are turning into negative actions (like bad footwork).

Once you are aware, you can remove them from your thinking and replace them with more useful thoughts.

Imagine you are standing at the top of your mark, ready to bowl. Suddenly a thought pops into your head:

"I hope I don't bowl a bad ball"

NLP teaches use that language is all powerful. Negative thoughts lead to unwanted actions. In other words, if you think about a bad ball, you are more likely to bowl one.

So guess what happens if you flip it around and think:

"Last week I bowled brilliantly from the first ball. This week is going to be exactly the same."

You are drawing from a positive past experience to bowl well in the future. The key here is to use something positive and honest. You can't fool yourself. Draw on real life positives and your confidence will be robust.

So, check yourself and decide what you are thinking and feeling at any moment. Avoid negative trigger words like

  • Try. This is code for "probably fail".
  • But. This undermines the positives.
  • Why. This often is accusing in tone: "why did you slog?".
  • Don't. Always switch it to a positive.

As you learn to "reframe" and recognise the negatives and replace them with robust positives, your feeling of control shoots up and your anxiety falls.

Taking responsibility directly improves skills

Richard went on to tell me that NLP also reveals that you are responsible for your own behaviour. Think about the practical applications of that idea.

In training, we know through both common sense and peer-reviewed studies that more practice improves skills. Yet it is the most psychologically "tough" and passionate players who train the most.

In other words, you train more if you love it more. Even when the practice tough and boring and it seems like you are going nowhere. That is NLP in the wild, because NLP teaches you to develop the grit you need to put in 10,000 gruelling hours.

For example, two players in a team are both of similar standard. Both players go to training every week. One week it rains and training is cancelled. The first player takes a break because it's late in the season and he has been playing a lot of cricket. He feels in form anyway. The second player feels in form too. He knows that when you are in form you should train harder. So he phones around some of the team and arranges to get to the ground early on Saturday for a training session.

The only difference is the frame of mind: The first guy used an excuse, the second guy took responsibility.

This frame also applies to reviewing your performances. If you are the type to take responsibility then you look at every game as a chance to improve. All failure is a piece of feedback. All success is a chance to build confidence.

It's advanced common sense - and therefore good NLP practice - to review.

And that's really the cornerstone: Words are power.

The words we use to talk to ourselves - and others who we coach or captain - dictates our feelings, thoughts and actions. If you understand that fact, you understand NLP and you can use it to take action.

Whether you choose to "get into" NLP or just cherry pick the best bits (like I have here) there is a way to use it to help you in your quest for runs and wickets.

And there is no more powerful currency in cricket than that.

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Quite often batsmen or bowlers have a phrase they say over and over to themselves just before the ball is delivered.

I've heard the theory that it doesn't really matter what is said, the important thing is to say something, anything, because simply have a phrase going round stops random potentially disruptive thoughts popping into your head instead, like "might as well just have a slog?" or "that ball looks very hard and painful".

Would you agree?