Cricket Mental Training: Quiet Mind For Optimal Performance
One of the key goals of Mental Training for cricket is to develop a Quiet Mind for Optimal Performance.
A calm, quiet mind with mind-body balance allows you as a cricketer to enter your zone state of optimal performance.
The state that we discussed in earlier pages about brain synchrony is where we have balance between the right and the left brain, both working together with the right degree of arousal for performance.
It is important to define the type of quiet mind we are looking at, this is not our normal state of everyday relaxation.
Mental Training for Cricket focuses on developing a Quiet Mind that is ready, focused and calm, with minimal internal chatter.
The quietness in the mind comes from wiring in a calm, positive mindset, automatically triggered by both environmental cues ( e.g. the cricket ground, the nets and practice ground) and consciously selected cues - an action like marking your guard, a trigger word, focusing in a particular place to consciously control your attention for quiet the mind.
Confidence in your preparation assists this, the internal chatter of the left brain is dampened through feeling safe and secure in the knowledge of excellent preparation.
Quiet Mind is a ready mind, where your calmness allows you to view specific matches and previously anxiety producing situations, with new positive perspectives.
Automatic responses to previously anxious situations are now positive, challenged and energised, allowing you to focus clearly, make good decisions and follow through to complete on your goals.
A cricketer who exemplifies this is ,strong>Sachin Tendulkar,, for the unitiated, when you have an opportunity to watch Sachin bat, either live or on TV, notice how still he is at the crease.
This stillness is a reflection in his body of the quietness in his mind.
The stillness also allows the mind to focus in on the ball, without having to manage extra, unneccesary distractions from the body.
Like Ricky Ponting, the only real movement in the crease is the tapping of the bat, which is a rhythm movement that helps to initiate movement into the stroke.
From a bowling perspective, two bowlers stand out for me, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, both had the ability to control their focus and their emotions to get into the optimal performance state and stay there.
Interestingly, like the batters, their heads were always very still in their run ups, there were no extraneous body movements in their bowling actions, both had very simple actions which were easily repeatable.
McGraths' game plan was very simple, find the optimal length on any wicket, around off stump and sit there, suffocating the batter with pressure.
Shane Warne wasn't much different, exploring the batters confidence, focus and skills with variations along the same theme.
Find the optimal length relative to the batters strengths and then toy with them, like a cat with a mouse. They would inevitably succumb, if not to the skill of the delivery, then to Warne's understanding of the batters need to score and their psychological frailties
All of this, for these elite performers is brain driven, it is all connected.
Their breathing is typically quiet, the body language is strong and confident and they communicate their sense of purpose.
Quiet Mind and Mental Toughness
The Sports Psychology concept of Mental Toughness is really about being able to keep your focus and hold your skills together under pressure.
Quiet Mind is the center of this, in keeping your mind quiet you can focus without distraction, you can execute your skills without muscle tension caused by anxiety.
Too much stress in our cricket and lives impacts negatively on our performance, in the short term it leads to a distracted focus and busy mind, in the long term it can lead to illness and injury.
Quite often a cricketer will get injured when their system is overloaded with stressors, their subconscious mind looks for a way to opt out and injury can follow. This may seem illogical, yet the subconscious will find a way to look after the cricketer, if it believes it is in their best interest.
The right balance of stress is essential to optimal performance, getting the balance right is key in mind-body activation for match situations.
Learning to consciously control where you direct your mind and what you pay attention to is the first step in mental training, discovering that you have a choice in selecting your internal state is incredibly empowering, not only for your cricket, but for the rest of your life.
When you learn to relax your mind, the brain follows, it discharges built up static and allows you to refocus your attention, come back to the next ball to be faced and the next delivery to be bowled.
It improves your emotional control, clarity of thought and to stay present and on track with your goals.
This is the Secret to Cricket Mastery.
Now that we have a sense of what Quiet Mind is about, how do we open the door to this state?
Performance Breathing Skills is the first step into the zone of Optimal Performance.
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