Cricket and Mental Health

This week we have teamed up with Opening Up Cricket. We hope this is helpful.

Cricket can represent everyday life and like a captain has influence on certain factors of a match, we have control over certain aspects of our lives. Focus on what we can control and don’t worry about anything we can’t.
Before any match a captain (with coaching staff) will analyse the opposition team and pick out areas of their game that his or her team can capitalise on. From this, they will select their team, create a game plan and discuss tactics, therefore giving themselves the best chance of winning.

Another aspect of team planning is their nutrition. Teams also enhance their preparation by ensuring their nutrition is on point ahead of matches.

Opening Up Cricket Top Tip: Make drinking water a priority. It not only helps us physically but also aids concentration. See more about the relationship with food and mood here. Also, hear from BatFaster, Anuj Dal about the importance of diet on cricket performance . If we had a Lamborghini, wouldn’t fuel it with fizzy drinks, so why fuel our bodies with rubbish food?

Mindfulness

Many cricketers will calm their nervous prior to a match by meditation, visualisation and journaling. Meditation can be used as part of our routine to develop concentration and focus. It also helps us deal with setbacks by giving us more space between our thoughts and actions. Jos Buttler, Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood have all spoken recently about how they use Headspace to help look after their mental health and fitness.

Visualisation is used to mentally rehearse situations which can lead to reduced anxiety about performance whilst building confidence. The app Champion’s Mind can really help with this. Often cricketers will visualise their desired outcome of a game before it happens. This is a good way to firstly, understand exactly what they would like out of a situation and life. Secondly, if they don’t believe that it will happen then no one will. Thirdly, it may help paint a clear picture in their head about what tactics and actions they will take ahead of a game.

Journaling is a great tool to reflect and learn from our experiences. Many use it for goal setting- we are more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down. Journaling is great for problem solving too. Taking time to do this helps us deal with our thoughts and feelings by interacting with them rather than just trying to stop them. Apps like Day One and Grateful can help.

Planning ahead

As above, cricketers, captains and coaches put a lot of work in before a ball has even been bowled. Similarly, if we are worried about any situation in our lives, such as a work deadline, presentation or a family get together. Plan ahead, devise our tactics and give ourselves the best chance of excelling in any given situation.

Despite all the planning above, life isn’t always fair, there are things that may not go our way. In all forms of cricket, the conditions play a massive role in determining the outcome of a match. Winning the toss can play a huge role on winning or losing a game. Our  captain may lose the toss, resulting in us having to bowl in unfriendly conditions where it is hot, and the pitch is flat. Our bowling attack will do their best, but the opposition can still score 400 runs.

When its our turn to bat the weather has become overcast and the pitch may turn. Again, we try our best but may only manage to score 300 runs. Just by looking at the scores, it’s easy to think we haven’t performed as we trail by 100 runs. But this is not a fair reflection. Everyone has tried their best, but due to the conditions, the opposition  wins.

 This shows an example of things that are out of our control, but in the situation, team A have tried their best and persevered. Tomorrow is a new day. Opening Up Cricket Top Tip: Have perspective that we have good days and not so good ones. A way of building this is through the process of gratitude. Write down three things that have gone well and three things that we are grateful for each day. This can be done as part of our journaling technique and helps us keep a positive perspective to move forwards.

Embracing the ups and downs

As cricketers, we have all experienced spells where we are playing brilliantly without reward. This can be due to numerous factors which are out of our control such as poor umpiring decisions, dropped catches and adverse weather conditions. Ways to overcome these are by focusing on things that are within our control. Our captain can change tactics by switching the field, and rotating bowlers, this way, they can reset their minds, come back and bowl a better spell later on.  Opening Up Cricket Top Tip: Draw a circle and put all the things we can control in it and leave everything else outside. This is a visual reminder of what to focus on and can be recalled when our mind starts to drift.

Similarly, there will be days where the opposite happens, as bowlers we may struggle for any consistency and rhythm meaning we are not performing well. However, we may get a breakthrough with the ball. Remember, a pendulum always swings back. We need the downs to appreciate the ups. On another day, we might have quit early doors thus fully eliminating any chance of picking up a wicket.

As batters we have off days too, due to things out of our control as mentioned above. Especially, the weather.During adverse conditions we may dig in then the weather changes. Behind the clouds the sun is still shining. As the game goes on, we might find our rhythm, resulting in a big score being made. We wouldn’t kick down our stumps when things aren’t going our way? So in life, when things are tough, persevere, do the hard things consistently, build our rhythm and, this will lead to high scores being made. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Adapting to our environment

The world is constantly changing, so cricket has had to reinvent itself too. Because of this, the professionals have innovated as well.  T20 cricket emerged (some fans resisted) as a revolutionary new format to help grow the game. Now, T20 is arguably the greatest format in cricket. Through T20 cricket batsman have adapted their game, constantly looking for ways to improve. This can be seen through new shots like reverse sweeps and ramps. 30 years ago, the idea a batsman would try to flick a ball over their head would have been laughed at. Bowlers have had to adapt to this by creating new deliveries, such as wide yorkers and slower ball bouncers. Sometimes in life we have to grow. We will get growing pains, but it’s worth it in the long run. Opening Up Cricket Top Tip: Journaling and gratitude (as spoken about above) can help deal with change/uncertainty in your life.

The main factors that all of the above relates to is cricket and therefore exercise. It is scientifically proven that exercise alone can change or enhance our mood so that would be our number one tip for mental health awareness week. We are aware that many mental health conditions vary so this isn’t a one size fits all approach. What we have done, is create a narrative around how cricket can reflect what life throws at you and ways to cope with certain feelings and situations.

We’d like to thank Opening Up Cricket for their top tips throughout!

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