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Snape: Keep cool under pressure

Jeremy Snape is a former international cricketer who now works as a performance coach and psychologist to some of the world’s leading sports and business teams.

Cricket is a sport renowned for its mind games with ‘sledging’ and ‘chirping’ playing a central role in the battle between bat and ball. Several humorous examples from famous names spring to mind but if you are on the receiving end, the results can be far from funny.

When faced with such psychological warfare, it is important to remember the main reason why your opponent adopts these tactics: they want to disrupt your focus. This age old tactic is a sure-fire way to distract a player if they are not mentally capable of managing the situation.

Cricket offers a unique challenge in sport with the regular breaks between balls. These gaps can bring a thinking ‘vacuum’ which can either be filled by thoughts building confidence and commitment or by negative doubts and fears.

This is all part of the game and if you want to make it to the top, the techniques needed to manage the space between balls are as crucial as those during play.

To help you keep cool under pressure, here are a few tips for players and parents to consider this summer.

Five tips for players:

1. Be mentally prepared. If you expect these situations to arise, you are more likely to feel comfortable when they occur. Imagine yourself in pressurised situation, thinking clearly and communicating well with your batting partner.

2. Stay focussed. Your opponent is just trying to break your concentration, rather than listen to what they are saying, see it as a challenge to ignore them and watch their reaction. They will get bored before you!

3. Take it as a compliment. Reverse your opponents’ desired effect by seeing their jibes in a positive light. If they could get you out easily, they wouldn’t have to try and ‘chirp’ you out. They must see you as a threat – keep proving them right!

4. Be your own ‘helpful commentator’. Positive self-talk can have significant effects on your confidence, so if you do get distracted remind yourself of the positive aspects of your game. The voice in your is always 10 times louder than any opponent, so be helpful to yourself rather than listen to your red-faced opponent’s comments.

5. Think ‘WIN’. If you feel yourself becoming distracted, you have probably lost focus on the only thing which can impact the game – the next ball. To bring your thinking back under control ask yourself – *W*hat’s *I*mportant *N*ow.

Five tips for parents:

1. Create a pre-performance routine. Predictability in the lead up to a big match can have a positive impact on a player’s confidence. Creating a routine of preparation, food, travel timings and warm ups means that they can focus all their energy on the game ahead.

2. Prepare for battle. If we assume that the more competitive your child’s cricket becomes, the more they will be exposed to mind games, then its best to prepare for that early. Make it really clear that during a practice session ‘for the next minute or so’ you will try to distract them while batting. You can judge the level and content of the comments but the key is to return to normal support after the quick distraction test!

3. Reward positive reactions. Really praise your children for their positive responses to these tough situations. By pointing out the specific behaviours you saw such as walking away or strong body language will help them to become more resilient and focussed in the future.

4. Avoid negative interactions. If your child sees you, their leading role model – reacting negatively or in an unsporting manner, they are more likely to copy it. Handle any issues of conflict around the match professionally and discreetly showing an attitude worth catching.

5. Prepare – Do - Review. Witnessing your child getting ‘chirped’ can be distressing for any parent. Rather than diving into the emotion of the contest, talk to your child once the dust has settled to build their mental toughness. Just as we prepare for matches and play them it’s really important to review our results and thinking to keep the learning process moving forward.

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