Every month our Head Coach, Lydia Greenway, will be writing about all things cricket! She will be discussing aspects of the game relevant to parents, coaches and players of all ages and abilities, as well as giving tips to players to help improve their game! Lydia will also be writing about topics from our lovely followers! So if you have any aspects of the game you would like to hear about, as well as any coaching tips you would like more information on, just get in touch, we would love to hear from you!
How tough is it to become mentally tough?
Mental toughness is a word often thrown around within the world of sport, but actually, what is it and how do players become mentally tough? In my opinion, mental toughness isn’t something people are born with, it is very much a learned characteristic.
Cricket is a sport people claim to be more mental than it is physical, and I am very much in this camp too. You could be the most skillful and physically fit player in the world, but if you aren’t mentally tough you’re not going to make it.
So, how can YOU develop your mental toughness?
Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
No one really likes being out of their comfort zone, but if you are going to develop as a player you have to be willing to feel uncomfortable. For example, are you one of those players who always sets the bowling machine up on half volleys just outside off stump?! If so, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Whack it up a few miles an hour and test yourself on the short ball, or at least put it on a good length and challenge yourself to score off it. It will be surprising how after a few sessions of this you will start to feel more comfortable.
Trying something new and challenging will always make you feel uncomfortable, however, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel. Developing this type of attitude towards being out of your comfort zone will also help develop resilience.
Never be satisfied
If you look at any standard of cricket anywhere around the world, when a player scores 100, how often do they follow it up the next game with another 100? Not that often, my bet is that they are still re-living their 100 from their previous game! It takes a very special player to perform week in week out over long periods of time, and these are the players who are never satisfied. They constantly challenge themselves to be better regardless of who they’re playing or what they’ve done the game before. Regardless of how well you are playing, or how much success you’ve had, always challenge yourself to want more. Setting yourself goals will help develop this type of mentality and attitude.
Being in high pressured situations often exposes peoples mental toughness levels, but at the same time it can be the biggest learning curve a player can experience. This is only if you know how to learn from it. For a lot of batters, you often see them get out because they “had a rush of blood to their head”, and there is no doubt that the best players in the world still experience rushes of blood to the head. However, the trick is knowing what triggers them and how you can stop yourself from reacting to them in a way that doesn’t involve charging down the wicket to get stumped!
Mentally tough players will often recognise what causes this rush of blood to the head. For example, they might have faced a few dot balls when they need to score. Being able to recognise these triggers followed by having a plan to deal with this pressure can help. Some of the best players in the worlds plan would be to get up the other end by working a single, and for different types of bowlers they would know exactly where they would score that single. As soon as they do this, they can then collect their thoughts and reassess the situation and their approach at the non strikers end.
I hope these tips help you, and for those looking to really develop their mental toughness, here is a great book which comes highly recommended. It has been used by many of the top athletes around the world and was certainly something which helped me throughout my career.