Here’s a simple test of your chances of becoming a cricketer: ask yourself why you train and play.
It’s a simple question that reveals a lot: “Why do I play cricket?”
It’s revealing because it shows you where you mind goes when you think of cricket. And where your mind goes, your body tends to follow. In modern coach speak, we call it mindset.
Let’s examine some common thoughts.
I want to be a cricketer
There are a few variations on this mindset. Things like,
- I want to prove how good I am
- I want to score a lot of runs
- I want to take a lot of wickets
- I want to do well under pressure
- I want to be a man
- I want to win trophies
These are all amazing reasons to play cricket. Yet they also point to a certain mindset. A mindset based on proving your ability as it stands. A mindset that is based on your own ego.
In this way of thinking, you assume that you are a brilliant player and you simply need to prove it.
Perhaps you are naturally superb with top level athleticism, world-class hand eye coordination and a tactical nous that comes instinctively. Perhaps you are not. Either way, every game - even every training session - is proof of either your epic skill or epic failure.
When you are on top, you are unstoppable. You carry the team and you laugh at pressure.
When don’t perform, you are crushed. You have shown the world your embarrassing lack of talent. You feel ashamed, anxious to prove yourself and even consider giving up as you are not good enough.
Cricket defines you almost entirely by your success or failure on the field.
I want to have fun
Another big reason to play cricket is to enjoy it. There are many ways this feeling of achievement is talked about,
- I want to enjoy time with my mates
- I want to feel part of something important
- I want to improve my skills
- I want to be in a team
- I want to learn something
- I want to try a new challenge
The underlying thought of all these reasons is improvement: You believe that with effort and perseverance, you can get better at the game.
In fact, you believe it so strongly that getting better is the entire point.
You don’t like to fail or lose, but failure or loss is not a disaster to you. Instead, it becomes proof you need to work harder until you can get it right or win. You are in it together with your team-mates, pushing each other on to greater achievements by helping each other through failures.
You enjoy this challenge even more than you enjoy winning games for your team.
Are both true?
You might recognise yourself as clearly one or the other mindset. Or maybe you are thinking you can pick reasons from both sides.
Maybe your have a burning ambition to be a cricketer, but you also love to improve your skills.
Perhaps you love being a selfless team player but also are desperate to win a trophy.
Go back and think about your underlying reason.
What is the most important thing? What is at the very bottom of the pile?
- Do you play and train to prove your skills?
- Do you play and train to improve your skills?
The world of psychology calls the first a fixed mindset and the second a growth mindset.
Why mindset matters
You can be a superb cricketer with either a fixed or growth mindset. John McEnroe famously had a fixed mindset and is a tennis legend. Sir Ian Botham - an English great - often showed signs of living a fixed mindset cricket life.
So why does it even matter?
Research by Carol Dweck has shown that there is a startling difference in your chance of success between mindsets. Through her research in education, she has proven that people in fixed mindsets improve less, give up more quickly and and miss more opportunities to succeed.
Great talent - like that of Botham and McEnroe - can overcome such handicaps, but are you sure your talent is so great that you can live with a fixed mindset restriction?
If the answer is yes, then carry on.
But if the answer is even “I’m not sure”, then why not give yourself a better chance and switch to a growth mindset?
After all, you have nothing to lose.
If you do want to switch, read on.
The challenge of growth
Adopting a growth mindset is a challenge. Even those with the most secure growth mindsets find themselves caught up in the ego of a fixed mindset from time to time.
Have you ever made a mistake in the middle, got out in a foolish way when the team needed you most and hidden from everyone in the changing rooms from anger and shame?
Have you ever stood at the top of your mark and thought “I hope I don’t bowl a bad ball”?
have you ever gone to nets to “just hit balls”?
These are fixed mindset moments. Every time you focus on proving yourself, you are not focusing on improving yourself.
Don’t judge yourself harshly though; simply recognise what you are doing (focusing on proving yourself) and reframe the thought to focusing on improving.
If you feel pressure in a big moment, focus on how well you have prepared and how you will come out of it better whether you succeed or fail (because you learned something).
If you turn up to nets hoping you wont show yourself up against the big boys, switch to thinking about what you can specifically work on to improve your chances against them.
If you get out at a key moment to a stupid shot, book extra training and get to work as soon as you can to iron out the flaw. Then walk up to your teammates, tell them you take responsibility for the mistake and switch to supporting the players who are out in the middle doing the job instead of you.
Sometimes you will forget about this. Ego is a powerful thing. But keep working on it, because when you focus on improving you never fail, you either succeed or you learn.
So, what is the culture in your team? Are you proving or improving? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.