Cricket Mental Training: Laws Of Mental Training
In this section of Cricket Mental Training we look at the Laws that underpin Mental Training, it is a concept that I have based on the foundations of physical conditioning.
I have not found them elsewhere, I think you will find though, that they are as specific to Cricket Mental Training as they are to Physical.
A little history first, when I first started studying cricket coaching I came across a wonderful book by Frank Dick called 'Sports Training Principles', I whole heartedly recommend it to cricket and sports coaches as a foundation study for coaching.
In Frank's book are the physical 'Laws of Training', in my search of Sports Psychology, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Sports Hypnosis for the answers to questions that the cricketer's minds would throw up, I realised that these 'Laws' are as applicable to the mind as they are to the body.
In fact, as there is no separation between the mind and the body, they are both extensions and expressions of the brain, this makes complete sense.
The Laws Of Mental Training
Points to Remember: The brain is a connection machine, it hard wires everything.
All brains are unique, no two are the same, they wire things in an individual, personal way.
The brain is a goal setting mechanism, it is designed to seek and achieve goals.
1.Specificity : The brain adapts to a specific stressor or stimulus, the stressor is where we place our attention mentally and physically, how long we place it there for (duration and frequency) and the type of emotion we attach to it.
e.g. Batter A has got out to the same bowler in the same way several times, by edging to the keeper.
He doesn't want it to happen again, yet he doesn't know how to not think about it.
He runs through the previous dismissals in his mind, over and over.
What he doesn't understand is that his subconscious mind doesn't know that he doesn't want it to happen again.
The subconscious mind doesn't know that the goal is to score runs against this bowler, the only information it is being fed is the previous negative performances.
His subconscious is wiring these negative experiences deeper and deeper into the brain.
This negative imagery, how to get out to this bowler, will run on automatic pilot next time he goes out to bat against this bowler.
Batter B has had the same problem against this bowler.
He though, chooses a new goal, he writes down what he wants to make happen. He designs a new, more effective strategy, makes minor technical adjustments and practices it.
He focuses on what he wants to make happen, rather than on what he doesn't want to happen.
He breaks this down into bite sized chunks, he then uses positive visualization and imagery and practices running this through in his mind.
He supplements this with simulating the strategy and technical changes in actual physical practice.
Double the focus of attention.
He does this twice a day.
2. Overload : As we pay more attention to the stressor, through focus and work (the thoughts and actions), the brain adapts relative to the heightening of the stressor.
For Batter A, he is paying attention to what he doesn't want to happen, he keeps runnning his negative visualization and imagery script.
In fact he is struggling to stop this negative 'mental movie' from running.
For Batter B, his 'overload' ( paying attention to specific thoughts) is running through his positive visualization and imagery script twice a day for ten minutes.
3. Adaptation :
Adapatation is the physical change that is made in the brain by paying attention to a stressor/ stimulus (a thought or a movement) on a regular basis.
This is called plasticity or neural plasticity, it is the plastic ability of the brain to re-wire itself.
This is a relatively recent discovery, the amazing thing is that it is not age related, the brain continues to create new wiring and programs so long as it is stimulated.
For cricketers, you can keep updating your game plans and learning for better performance throughout your careers.
This new wiring begins to show after 24 hours, the more the attention is focused on the stimulus/stressor the deeper the connections are made.
4 . Reversibility:
Reversibility happens when the amount of attention we pay to a thought is reduced over time.
The adaptation brought about by the training load (how often/ frequency) will gradually weaken as we pay less attention to it, this is known as neural pruning.
Keeping the brain fit and functioning optimally is a case of 'Use it or Lose it', the neural wiring needs to have its circuits fired regularly to keep them working effectively.
Brain Training: The ideas presented here have been understood intuitively by sports psychologists and coaches interested in mental training. They may not have perhaps looked at them through the lens of 'The Laws of Training' before. These ideas are now backed up by Neuroscience, for a great read and exercises for training your brain try the wonderful book by Dr. R. Kawashima called, not surprisingly, 'Train Your Brain'.
He backs up the ideas presented here with brain science from research in his lab, with impressive results.
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