Sportspersons, howsoever talented they may be, need to be mentally strong to maximize their performance on the field. And, to develop mental toughness they need to work on four areas that include concentration, commitment, control and confidence, writes Mubashir Hassan
The game of Cricket is evolving all the time adding more dimensions and facets, yet the toughness associated with game itself has stood as firm as “Rock of Gibraltar”. As a player either we adapt to the changing scenario of the sports and adopt the means to keep at pace with it or else we are outthought in the race for survival on twenty two yards.
Ever has it been that fitness has ended the prospective career of many players and sometimes the technical blemishes may contribute to the early exit of unlucky few but there are instances when even with limited talent many players have made an impact as indispensable members of the playing eleven. What makes these players special is their mental toughness, their ability to hold on where others may crumble under mounting pressure and cave in meekly.
No doubt, we have been working hard with our fitness and techniques but we often underplay the importance of mental toughness. This is the most neglected area of our game, which if worked on properly will do a world of good to our performance, and hence to the contribution that we make for our team.
The science of sport psychology has been working on this aspect for decades, and has come up with a flexible yet simple way the “Four-C Method” to give us a better understanding of this neglected area. Now let us understand what these four C’s stand for.
1. CONCENTRATION: Compared to other sports, cricket is a long and demanding game, which means there are more chances of losing our focus as there will be lot of distractions. Anything that takes us out of game even for a moment is potential threat to our performance. Therefore we need to recognize two things (a) what helps us to remain focused and (b) what distracts us from the game? Once identified we can spend 20 minutes a day working on our own methods of handling distractions which will infuse a concentration boost. As also improvement in fitness levels has been proven to improve concentration levels.
2. CONFIDENCE This ‘C’ is like a bank account, the more deposits we make the bigger our balance is. We just need to keep topping up our balance. Regular deliberate practice, using positive thinking to remember past success and imagine future success will boost our confidence especially on the field. Psychologists call this imagery. Positive thinking adds to the coffers of our confidence whether in Cricket or real life. Therefore irrespective of the outcome of the result of the game remain positive. You never know, you may end up pulling a victory from the jaws of defeat.
3. CONTROL This is a relative term in cricket. The fast bowler opening the bowling should be fired up. The batter at the other end should be ice cool. But although the ideal control level varies between players and personalities, there is still the opportunity to be too laid back, or too fired up. It is our job to work out where our best level of control lies, and then get there for optimum performance.
4. COMMITMENT: All the plans in the world may fail, if we don’t stick to them and this is perhaps why the commitment becomes most important element of our mental game. The secret of commitment varies from player to player as some are naturally better than others, but everyone can benefit from it. We may find sticking to a plan tough nut to crack as life gets in the way. But, when we work on the other C’s, we will discover a crossover effect to commitment.
In our part of the world, there is no dearth of talent, but players are mostly found wanting when it comes to their mental setup. Sports bodies-Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association in specific- need to make sure players are mentally strong enough to take up the challenge. For that to happen, a couple of coaching clinics, in the buildup to any season where players are mentally conditioning, should be held.
With inputs from NCA
Mubashir Hassan is a former first class cricketer and BCCI qualified coach associated with Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org