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?
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.
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