Thivi Salwathura is a 12-year-old opening batsman who’s had one of his best seasons yet, scoring 570 runs and taking 29 wickets

At the start of the season, Salwathura felt the pressure of needing to score quickly, and found he was distracted by negative self thoughts.

“I felt that I was always thinking about the past; What I did in the last six balls? Am I quick enough? What do I look like? I found I wasn’t watching the ball carefully enough and it was affecting my performance,” he said.

For a young player, being able to identify the negative chatter as an inhibitor to greater results showed the need for self evaluation.

 

Take Your Game To The Next Level: Click Here To Find Your Nearest ACI Location

 

“At the start of the season my goals were to bat for longer, not lose concentration and get through the first 15 balls. I realised I needed a routine and that I need to be 100% in the moment,” he said.

Applying the same mental routine used in training and competitive matches meant that Salwathura improved his performances, and as a result was selected for his rep side.

“My season went pretty well. I got into the U12 rep team when I wasn't sure I would, and I actually made a couple of 40’s becoming the leading scorer for my team. I also batted for longer periods of time and took five wickets in an U15’s game,” he said.

 

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Training with the Australian Cricket Institute (ACI) also gave Salwathura more confidence throughout the year, saying that training harder meant he could achieve his goals.

“I enjoyed the ACI program because it was really competitive, and I was able to learn about what I can do better in game scenarios. The webinars with guests and international players were also hugely beneficial,” he said.

ACI Head Coaches Joel Hamilton and Nick Fitzpatrick have been nothing short of impressed by this young right arm off spinner and opening batsman, so much so, they say his ability to learn and action key strategies are beyond his years.

“Thivi has really surprised me with his attention to detail in developing his game plans and also how committed he is to learning and getting better. He has always strived to learn as much as possible while at our program, and his ability to take on feedback and implement it back into his game so quickly is a great tool for him to have at such a young age,” Hamilton said.

 

Take Your Game To The Next Level: Click Here To Find Your Nearest ACI Location

 

“The other aspect he’s really worked on is his mental game; creating a routine for him to spend his time in between balls more effectively, which has helped him clear his mind from nerves and any negative thoughts or emotions he is feeling. By doing this he’s really become much more clearer with his batting and bowling, and the consistency pays off, “Fitzpatrick said.

Staying focused in the lead up to next season is paramount for Salwathura’s preparation and decision making, advising other players to follow a routine and stay in the moment.

Author: Kara Bertoncini

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

“My child gets extremely nervous before he/she bats or bowls.”

“My child doesn’t have any confidence in their own ability.”

“My child takes failure really badly and gets very down on him/herself.”

“My child thinks really negatively.”

“My child put’s so much pressure on him/herself before a game.”

Let me assure you, you're not alone!

THE COMMON STRUGGLE

I’ve literally spoken to and had in depth conversations on the phone with over 250 parents in the last 35 days.

Parents wanting to know more about our programs and how the ACI operates, as well as to help me gain an understanding of exactly what their child is looking to improve by joining the ACI team.

In the process, I’ve gained a deep understanding of the current landscape in junior cricket.

Obviously each conversation has it’s own twists and goes off in it’s own direction, but I can tell you there’s an overwhelmingly common theme…

The one thing that comes up in nearly every conversation, the one thing that MOST parents say their child is struggling with and wants to improve?

The mental side of the game.

And my first question is…

How do we expect young players to know how to control their thoughts and emotions? Where do they learn how important the thoughts in their head are?

IS CRICKET MORE MENTAL OR MORE TECHNICAL

Cricket’s a funny game…

Unlike soccer, footy and rugby which are all fast paced, quite instinctive and don’t allow for much time spent thinking.

Cricket allows you to spend a lot of time inside you own head.

Waiting to bat or bowl, or even in between balls you have a set amount of time to think.

Yet we spend next to no time teaching junior players mental skills and how to use that time positively.

There’s always been the age old debate, how much of cricket is mental and how much is technical?

My personal belief is that it depends on the player and their skill level.

This might seem obvious but…

The better a player’s skills and technique are, the more I think it becomes mental.

The worse a players skills and technique are the more they need to focus on that.

But I think at a base level, all players need to be taught the basic mental skills.

I've always been a big believer in the mental side of the game, but after working under David Reid (Head Coach of Northcote CC in Melbourne) last season, I've gained an even greater understanding of it.

TWO TRUTHS ALL PLAYERS MUST BELIEVE

Here’s two truths that players need to believe before they can improve their mental game.

1. The thought’s inside your head have a direct impact on the way your body behaves and the way you execute your skills.

I want you to do a little exercise…

Think of a time where you were really upset, scared or worried about something.

Think about what thoughts were consuming you, how you felt, what effect it had on your body language, voice, mood, tone, attitude, energy and as a result how you acted and behaved that day.

My guess is it effected all of them and not in a positive way?

Now think of a time when you were really confident, positive, happy or excited about.

How did those thoughts and emotions effect the way you felt, sounded, looked and acted that day?

Positively right?

And it’s the exact same on the cricket field.

Now to my second point...

2. You are 100% in control of the thoughts inside your head.

Inside the ACI players only private Facebook group we run new challenges every week over the winter to introduce players to new and positive habits.

One of the challenges a few weeks ago was for players to write down every day, 3 things they were grateful for as soon as they woke up and 2 wins they had during the day before they went to bed.

The core lesson in that challenge?

You are 100% in control of what goes on inside your head.

I know I do, and most players and parents that participated in the challenge found it really easy to be intentional about what they were thinking about.

Once they believe those two truths, then it’s about working out exactly what techniques work best for them to allow them to control the thoughts in their head and exactly what thoughts have a positive effect on their game rather than a negative effect.

Now can you see how a simple shift in focus can have a domino like effect on your game?

Some of the tools that we teach players in our programs to help control their thoughts and emotions are…

  • Journaling - Helps players become aware of their thoughts and emotions and also to understand what thought processes work for them.
  • Positive Self Talk - Developing a set of phrases that get them switched on, focused and confident. Then learning to be aware of negative thoughts and replace them with their new power phrases.
  • Clear Plans - Helping them develop clear plans around their strengths.
  • Visualisation - Creates familiarity with feelings of success.
  • Breathing - Helps clear the mind and centre your thoughts.

CONFIDENCE

Every single player would love more of it.

Confidence is something I think most players believe is out of their control and comes and goes as it pleases.

Yes you can be training the house down, doing everything right and just not get the results on the field.

Of course that’s going to sap your confidence.

But I think in the majority of cases a players confidence can be directly traced back to how well they’ve prepared.

And what sets really good players apart is their ability to review their performance, reset whether good or bad, and start with a clean slate of confidence.

They then go about preparing for their next performance and doing everything they can and need to, to be 100% confident in their own ability the next time they take the field.

Most of the time a player lacks confidence on match day, it’s because they know within themselves that they haven’t done everything they could have done to perform at 100%

So next time your child seems like they’re lacking confidence, help them understand it’s completely in their control.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder and Coach

60 players…

4 nets…

Limited time…

15 kids per coach…

Coaches with preconceptions…

5 minutes to bat and bowl...

One chance to shine...

How on earth are you supposed to stand out at a junior rep trial?

Obviously it’s a tough assignment!

During my time at QLD Cricket I was involved as a selector/advisor at a lot of junior rep trials and I can tell you it’s also a very tough task for the coaches and selectors.

No matter how hard you try to go in with an open mind...

Very limited time to get through a lot of players and your eyes having to be in many places at once make it hard not to go in with some sort of idea of the team you want, making it very hard for players to stand out.

It’s often a hot topic…politics in junior cricket.

I think you’ll find that in any sport, any age, any level there’s some sort of politics. People tend to go with things they know and like. Not just in sport but life as well. And if a player’s been in the team and done a reasonable job, someone’s got to do something pretty special to jump the queue.

Aside from that, at the end of the day selections are always going to be a matter of opinion that are open to debate. There's no clear right or wrong.

In saying that, here’s our top 6 ways to stand out from the crowd at rep training.

1. BE EARLY

If you’re not early you’re late. Get to the ground with plenty of time to get your gear on, screen up, fill the water bottle and make yourself known. There’s nothing worse that a player rocking up just on time or even late, instant cross against the name and one that's very hard to come back from.

TIP: If you are going to be late, please make sure you or your parents notify whoever you need to early enough. It’s a sign of respect and they’ll appreciate it.

2. BE INDEPENDENT

Once you arrive make sure you’re independent. That starts with getting your own bag out of the car and carrying it yourself. It should absolutely never happen but when I see a parent carrying a players bag for them that’s the ball game, no coming back. Your parent’s won’t be there to carry your bag at the carnival.

3. INTRODUCE YOURSELF

An extension of #2. This one isn’t a necessity but going up to confidently introduce yourself to every coach and selector on the day makes for a great first impression and you’ll be in their mind throughout the day then. Don't over play it and look like a suck up, but this is a good one.

 

4. PLAY YOUR NATURAL GAME

DO NOT try to be something you’re not. I think a lot of players think they need to be the most powerful hitter of the ball, fastest bowler and biggest turner. If you go away from your natural game, you’ll look stupid. This is where understanding your strengths and weaknesses is so critical, a learning process that we take all of our junior academy players through. Stick to your game, if it’s not good enough then seek feedback on how you can improve it to a level so that it is.

5. POSITIVE INTENT

There’s other ways to stand out. Always show positive intent in whatever you do. If you’re bowling appeal when you think it’s out, celebrate when you get a wicket. Don’t carry on and go overboard but compete as if you would in a game, that shows enthusiasm and competitiveness which coaches love.

If you’re batting with a partner call loudly and positively. If you’re batting on your own, drop a few balls close to your feet, call loudly and take off as if you’re going for a single. That show’s coaches that you’re thinking about how you’d bat in a game, not just mindlessly hitting balls.

I know not everyone is loud and boisterous but you’ve got to find an alter ego when you cross the white line.

Note: I’ve got a great PDF about creating your own alter ego in sport. If you’d like it hit me up on FB chat. I’ll comment below this article so you can access my profile.

6. THANK THE COACHES

You've turned up early, shown your independence and introduced yourself confidently to the coaches. Stuck to YOUR game and done so with a positive intent in everything you did. Well done. Now it’s time to confidently thank the coaches for the session and walk away knowing you’ve done EVERYTHING you can do to make that team.

If it happens great! If not, it’s not the end of the world (or anywhere near it).

Junior rep carnivals are great fun, allow you to meet new mates and learn a lot. But playing junior rep cricket does not mean you’re going to ‘make it’ as a cricketer.

I’ve seen so many players come from no rep cricket to be very good senior crickets and visa versa, plenty of young guns fall away.

No matter what always seek feedback on how you can continually get better.

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick - ACI Co Founder and Coach

Our purpose at the Australian Cricket Institute is to develop not only good players but also good people and complete cricketers with good habits, behaviours and skills on and off the field.

To become better on the field you must become better off the field.

Easy said, but how do we go about doing that?

By using an approach that we’ve developed called the ‘4 Pillars Of Success’

After years of being involved in the trenches as both coaches and players…

Studying elite players, exactly what they do and why they do it.

Coaching young players, watching them develop and studying why some develop faster than others…

We’ve simplified success in cricket down to focusing on four pillars.

And we’ve discovered that those who actively work on improving all four pillars more often than not see higher levels of success than those that don’t.

Let’s take a look at what the 4 pillars are and how you can improve in each area to start seeing massive results on and off the field.

The four pillars: Technical, Physical, Mental and Tactical.

Let’s take a deeper look into each pillar…

PILLAR #1: TECHNICAL

Probably the most obvious pillar and the one that most people spend the majority of their time developing. Most players, coaches and coaching programs spend time developing ONLY this pillar, which is a mistake and you’ll learn why.

What is the technical pillar?

It’s your skills and your technique. Hitting balls, catching balls, bowling balls.

Out swing, in swing, wrist position, high front arm, elbow up, foot to the ball - all the things you’ve heard before.

All hugely important.

You must have good skills and a technique that works to be successful in cricket.

But for two reasons…

1. Because a lot of coaches underestimate the learning power of children and how much information they can actually absorb.

2. Because most coaches only know the technical pillar. They fail to educate themselves, up skill and practice what they preach in the other 3 pillars (don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, but it’s necessary).

The majority of juniors will only ever be exposed to the technical pillar unless they reach a really high level in youth cricket, only then will they be exposed to the other 3 pillars.

That’s too late.

Why not start developing all four pillars as early as possible? That’s how you create quality athletes on and off the field.

I believe we don’t give young players enough credit and often dismiss concepts as being “over their head”.

Why can’t a 12 year old learn how to effectively visualise and to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts while they’re out in the middle?

Or that replacing bad carbohydrates and sugars with fresh food and protein is going to give them more energy, make them stronger and healthier and help them think with clarity and concentrate for longer?

I can tell you from working first hand with thousands of young players that children listen to, retain and apply what you teach them a lot better than adults.

They’re a blank slate waiting to learn.

Let’s not underestimate them.

[Rant over]

Now how do we go about helping a player improve technically?

Four things…

SELF REFLECTION

A huuuuge focus in our programs. The faster a player can gain an understanding of their game, their strengths and their weaknesses, the faster they will develop.

To gain an understanding of their game they actually have to spend time thinking about it.

The way we do it is by asking two simple questions after every session.

1.What did you do well that session?

2.What do you think you need to improve on out of that session and how are you going to do that?

SPECIFIC PLANS

From that self reflection we then help players create specific plans on how they’re going to improve that part of their game.

E.G. “I was hitting my drives in the air a lot because my weight was back and I was too early in my shots.”

Ok how are you going to specifically improve on that?

“I’m going to get to training early every day this week and spend 15 minutes on the bowling machine doing the circle drill and focus on getting my weight forward and hitting the ball as late as possible.”

REPETITION

Drills are key to repetition. And repetition is key to skill development.

We create environments where players can work on specifics for long periods of time.

The standard 10 minute bat in the nets at club training doesn’t allow that so players have to get repetition in in their own time.

OUTCOME BASED LEARNING

Too many coaches get caught up in the ‘how’ (elbow here, front foot here, head there) rather than the ‘what’ (the result).

Players are going to have different techniques and ways of getting the result, which in the end is all that matters.

A coaches job is to help a player discover what works best for them.

If you give them an outcome, they’ll figure out how to get the result in the best way that works for them.

We create drills, environments, scenarios that allow players to focus on the result.

If they’re getting results and their technique is sustainable (not causing any harm to their body), that’s all that matters to us.

If your child would like to improve technically over the winter, our academies can help them do that…

Ok, onto the next pillar...

PILLAR #2: PHYSICAL

Why is the physical pillar so important?

Because to execute your skills and maintain concentration for a long period of time you need to have endurance, strength, power, flexibility, agility, speed and energy.

To develop those skills and attributes you need to follow effective strength and conditioning, stretching and nutrition programs.

Here’s a few simple tips on how you can improve (or help your child improve) physically…

FITNESS

- Focus on the engine - legs, gluten and core.

- Break your year into blocks and focus on specific outcomes. E.g. Strength, power, endurance, speed maintenance.

- Do work that’s going to improve your cricket, not make you look good.

INJURY PREVENTION

- Stretch regularly

- Cricket specific training

- Make warming up a habit before training and playing (dynamic)

- Recover properly (stretch, walk/jog, water therapy, right nutrition, water)

NUTRITION

- Eat fresh

- Prepare your own food

- Hydrate - min 2L a day

- Avoid nasties like sugars, complex carbs, bad fats. (commercial sports drinks suck!)

If your child needs help getting themselves physically prepared…

PILLAR #3: MENTAL

The thoughts in your head play a HUGE role in the actions your body takes and the way that you execute your skills.

Nerves, fear, pressure.

None of them are real.

They’re all emotions created by the thoughts in our head. Which we’re 100% in control of once we understand how to be.

I think it’s often overlooked how much of a role our mental skills play in cricket.

There’s so many components within the mental pillar, but the one thing that will make the biggest difference to a players game is self talk.

What you’re telling yourself the night before a game, the morning of a game and during a game whether you’re batting, bowling or fielding.

So many players are riddled with negative self talk…

“What if I get a duck tomorrow?”

“I’m playing that batsman who smacked me all around the park last time”

“This guys’s too quick for me”

“The wicket is a shocker”

“What if I get out now”

“What if I go for 8 this over and let the team down”

“The run rate is getting too high.”

All thought’s that create those little gremlins we call nerves, fear and pressure.

How do we turn those emotions into positive ones?

Confidence, excitement and conviction.

By turning negative self talk into positive self talk.

“I’ve trained hard and feel great so I’m confident of getting 50+ tomorrow”

“I’m bowling really well now so I’m looking forward to another challenge with that gun batsman.”

“I’ve faced faster bowling on the machine, this guy’s going to be easy”

“I’ve trained on a wicket like this so I’ve got the perfect plan”

“Concentrate and watch the ball, I’m seeing it really well”

“This guy’s stronger on the leg side so I’m going to bowl wide of off and go for less that 5”

“We’ve still got this 42 balls left which is a lot of scoring opportunities, wait until it’s in your zone”

Our thoughts control our emotions and our emotions control our actions.

5 simple things you can practice to improve mentally…

 JOURNALLING

Similar to self reflection it gets you to stop and actually think about your thought’s, feelings and emotions.

Write them down every day and think about what caused them.

POSITIVE SELF TALK

Easier said than done but get into the habit of being aware of when negative self talk is creeping in.

Acknowledge it. Put a stop to it and replace it with something positive.

Like all things it take practice, the more you do it the more it will become habit.

VISUALISATION

Whatever the mind see’s it will believe.

Visualisation also creates familiarity, the feeling of having been there before and thing’s we’re familiar with we’re comfortable with.

It’s a whole new topic so I won’t go into it but learn how to visualise.

STRENGTH BASED PLANS

Whether you’re batting, bowling or fielding, create plans around your strengths.

Walking out with a clear plan will fill you with so much more confidence than having no plan at all.

To create strength based plans you need to have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

This is where self reflection and journalling comes in.

Can you see how it’s all staring to tie in?

BREATHING

If all else fails and you still can’t control your negative thoughts, revert to focusing on your breathing.

Long and slow in….long and slow out. (If you want the exact technique email me: nick@australiancricketinstitute.com)

Focusing on your breathing clears your mind and centres your thoughts.

If you would like us to coach your child and teach them a set of mental skills that will help them on and off the field for the rest of their lives…

PILLAR #4: TACTICAL

If you don’t know when and how to use them, having the skills will only get you so far.

Having the ability to read the conditions, the opposition, the situation of the game and being able to develop a plan to best suit that particular scenario is a skill.

It’s a skill call tactical ability and game awareness.

And the best players in the world have plenty of it.

Here’s how we help players develop tactical and game awareness.

SCENARIOS

Every net session we run is a scenario.

Whether it be runs, wickets, run rate, singles, boundaries…we give the batsmen and bowlers a target.

We get the bowlers to set fields and we have the coaches go away with the batting and bowling group and facilitate them creating plans for that particular scenario.

We get comments from players like “I actually found myself in that situation in a game and felt like I’d been there and done it before.”

Tick.

CONVERSATIONS

I’ll revert back to self reflection and the example above. We encourage players to tell us, not us telling them.

What they plan to do.

What they did well or not so well and why that was so.

Conversations promote learning.

EXPERIENCE

Often times the quickest way to develop game awareness is though experience.

Play as much as you can and watch as much cricket as you can.

And when you watch take note of what the captain is doing in the field, the way the batsmen are approaching the game and think about why they’re doing it.

SENIOR PLAYERS

Watch them, follow them, train with them and ask them questions.

As I Said above, game awareness develops with experience which senior players have got.

Whether a senior player to you is 16 or 35, find someone you respect and learn from them.

There’a a lot of information to digest there but can you see how each pillar ties in with the next and the four of them work together like a well oiled machine?

Neglect one pillar and the other three won’t operate as they should.

Hopefully that gives you a good understanding of our philosophy at the Australian Cricket Institute and you can see how all four pillars compliment each other.

If you’d like more information about our face to face coaching programs that we offer for girls and boys aged 12-19…

Author: Nick Fitzpatrick

Australian Cricket Institute Co Founder and Head Coach

 

So you’ve just finished your cricket season…now what?

How did you go?

Killed it…great!

Or maybe not so well, maybe your finishing the season with feelings of frustration after not being picked in the grade you wanted, not scoring enough runs or not taking enough wickets.

First things first, whether you had a good or bad season, before you take a little break away from the game and go play other sports or just give your body a rest (both of which we recommend), you need to go through the process of reviewing your season.

Most players don’t and won’t do it but self-reflection is one of the greatest ways gain an understanding of your game and ultimately become a better player.

Maybe you had some goals set, (to take x amount of wickets, or score x amount of runs).  The biggest thing to remember is just because you may not have ticked of those exact numbers or results, your results may have been a little better than you think!

Self reflection is a lot more difficult and confronting if you’ve had a poor season but it’s even more important then.

Photo Above: Brisbane ACI Junior Academy players self reflecting with Chris Lynn

Here’s a 3 step process to go through for your end of season review.

Look At Your Stats. Compare Them To Last Season And Your Goals.

Most of the time stats are a fairly good reflection on how your season has gone. If you had ambitions to become a more consistent player, then here is the true nuts and bolts of it.  Stats don’t lie.

Did you achieve your goals from the start of the season? And how have you gone compared to last season?

Take note of any improvements that you may have made, whether that is strike rate/more wickets/economy rates etc.

Take notes of any areas that you’ve not achieved your goals or have gone backwards from last season.

Once you’ve compared your stats take the time to ask yourself and think about why you improved in the areas you did and why you declined in the areas you did.

It’s really important to understand that sometimes your goals may not be achieved. There are a lot of uncontrollable's in cricket, it could be due to injury, bad form, weather, opportunity.

But there’s a lot of things you can control.

Work ethic, training habits, preparation, diet, fitness.

So be honest with yourself when you’re reviewing your stats and why they are the way they are.

The reality is sometimes things aren’t going to go your way, but still look at the positives. You may not have hit 1000 runs or taken 40 wickets but there will be areas of your game that have improved, and that alone is still worth noting.

TIP: Don’t gloss over area’s that have declined (a lot of players do). Note these as they will be a vital part of your plan going into preseason!

Feedback From Your Coach/Captain/Teammates.

Ask a couple of players, coaches or your captain that you look up to, respect and trust to catch up for a chat and give you some honest feedback.

A great way to get reliable feedback from someone who you have been working with all year is to write out some questions before you meet with them so that they have a clear picture of exactly what you’re seeking feedback on and allows them to give really specific answers.

Send the questions to them before you meet to give them time to think about it and give you detailed answers.

Here are some examples of questions you could ask.

What has been my most reliable trait/skill this season in your opinion?

What have I really improved on?

What areas do I need to work on?

How did you view my season as a whole?

Is there anything specific that our team is looking out for that I may be able to work on and fill the void for next season?

Do you see my role changing next year?

Some of these are great examples of getting information from coach or captain. If you haven’t had an end of season review I thoroughly suggest that you set in a time to recap with  at least your coach.

If it’s not a normal process for your club/team, your coach will be happy that you’re taking the initiative towards improving your game.

It’s really important to take notes or get your coach to email you some points about how you believe your season has gone. Having these written down means you will not forget what was said in the review, and will make it easier to then set goals and set your preseason up accordingly in the coming months.

Collate All The Information You Have Received And Agree On a Plan Of Attack.

Okay so you’ve looked through your stats, got some feedback and been really honest with yourself about why you went well in some areas and not so well in others.

Now it’s time to put a plan in place with the help of your coach and that plan starts now!

How long you’re going to have away from the game.

What you’re going to do in the off season.

When you’re going to start preseason.

And exactly what you’re going to do during the off season and preseason to improve all four pillars of your game, Technical, Mental, Physical and Tactical.

You should have a very clear picture of the areas you really need to work on as well as your strengths that you want to double down on.

Create a clear and specific plan to have to primed for round one later on this year.

Let me just finish by saying this…IT’S NOT EASY

But success, bar for a few rare exceptions, doesn’t come easy.

You need to understand that it’s not going to happen overnight but if you really want it, good habits like reviewing, planning and executing performed consistently over a long period of time will get you great results.

Well done on a great season, enjoy the break and it’ll all be upon us again soon!

Authors: Nick Fitzpatrick and Joel Hamilton - ACI Co Founders and Coaches.