PRACTICE SERIES NO.1: PRACTICE… WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
By Jody Martins
Recently I sent out a survey and got some feedback from cricketers and my mind was blown by the response...
Cricketers from all around the world and varying from U15 to International players, completed the survey and gave me some valuable insight into the thinking of cricketers.
One of the several things that stood out for me in this research is that 75% of cricketers place practice high on the list of things to do to perform better. When asked what cricketers think they should do to improve their performance, comments like, ‘practice more’, ‘practice four times a week’, ‘make more time to practice’ were common answers. It seems cricketers believe that in order to perform better, they need to practice more.
Now, although it is true that more practice can make performance better; I believe that practice is at times misunderstood by cricketers. See, practice can be good or bad, it can be meaningless or meaningful, it can be planned or ad-hoc, it can be done by just going through the motions or by being planned and on purpose.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing some more articles on practice, covering some of the above-mentioned things and more. In this article, I want to speak a bit on what practice is about.
WHAT YOU PRACTICE… YOU BECOME BETTER AT…
Let’s say a bowler runs up and ‘falls away’ during his bowling action; he is not doing a ‘wrong thing’, he is merely masterfully showing a skill he has learned, i.e. ‘falling away’. Now ‘falling away’, can cause injury if it is severe and/ or can also impact the bowler’s ability to bowl a consistent line and length. Therefore, most coaches will ‘correct’ the action and help the bowler to ‘be more upright’. To achieve this, the bowler would have to practice their new upright bowling action consistently over a period of time. Every time the bowler falls away, they ‘re-practice’ the old way of doing the skill, they are just getting better at doing the skill in the ‘wrong/ old’ way. Every time they practice being ‘more upright’, they will be getting better at the ‘new’ way of doing the skill.
You can, when you practice, just go through the motions. I believe that during practice we should rather ask: Am I getting better at the things that will make me or my performance better? And if you are, then you can be certain that your practice is worthwhile.
Practice is about getting better every time you do it.
PRACTICING IS ABOUT PERFORMANCE…?
When stage actors practice in the lead up to the show, they do not stand on the stage just focusing on how they move their facial muscles or the mechanics of a dance move. They practice their complete performance, which will include facial muscles and dance moves and so much more! They are aware of their energy and state, emotions, frame of mind, intention etc. to deliver a performance that will capture their audience.
Cricketers, however practice where and how they move their bodies to hit a drive, a cut, they worry about where their heads are at, where their balance is, what the bat is doing, where their arm is at. I call this ‘technical thinking’.
Technical thinking… Is slow… Is conscious of controlling body movements… Is trying to control the outcome… Is self-conscious (as we judge our movements for correctness)… Is not performance.
If a cricketer is engaging with ‘technical thinking’ while they are out in the middle looking to perform, they will find themselves in their heads, struggling for flow and will have very little game awareness, which will severely affect their ability to positively impact the game. During a performance, we want cricketers to activate what I call ‘performance thinking’.
Performance thinking is fast (some might say ‘instinctive’). It trusts, it lets go, is focused on process, is engaged ‘with the moment’, is selfless (as the task is more important) and uses the technique a cricketer has developed.
Are you practicing your performance? The state you are in, the process you follow, the way you figure out your game plan? Can you get yourself present? Can you engage with the task at hand? Can you manage your emotions, and frame of mind?
By practicing your technique you get better at technique.
By practicing your performance you get better at performing.
Practice isn’t merely ‘rocking up’ and going through the motions, bowling a couple of balls, hitting a couple of balls just to feel good.
Practice is about training your mind and body to perform, not just to repeat techniques. This will require all of your technique and skills to flow, to be, and to do so in a way that will make you better at the things that will make you better.