Happy New Year! The drink is finished off, there only the unwanted coffee creams hiding amongst the discarded wrappers in the bottom of the chocolate box, everyone is back to school and work, it is cold, dark and wet but thankfully, the 2020 season draws nearer with every day.
Soon enough we will be back outside negotiating the first few balls on an emerald April wicket, avoiding fielding at backward point and discovering that we should maybe not have been bowling so many no balls in winter nets. We will be wondering why all those cover drives we hit indoors, that ‘definitely’ beat the field and crashed into the boundary boards, only make it into the deep for a long two.
So what have you promised yourself that you will do to create a better cricketing version of you in 2020? What cricketing resolutions have you made? I do not really go in for Latin much, and Roman Gods are not particularly a strong point of mine, but there is one appropriate God worth a mention this time of year. Janus, the Roman God of Doorways, Transitions Gates and New Beginnings depicts a figure of with two faces, one looking back and one looking forwards, representing looking to the past and to the future. It is his example we should take when planning our own transition to new beginnings for the 2020 season and making ourselves better cricketers for the year to come.
Begin by looking back over the last season and reflecting on what you did well, how and where you performed to add significant value to your team. Then recall the days that may not have quite gone to plan. When you consider the decisions you made, that in hindsight were not necessarily the right ones for the occasion, you begin to build up a picture of where you might want to make improvements to become a better player.
It is tempting to set yourself a big target that you expect to come to fruition magically at the start of the season. However, with one overall grand target, you are likely to find that you lose your way or become frustrated that you do not see the progress that you were hoping to see. Rather split up the journey into smaller more manageable goals and plan an achievable route to the main target. Your smaller goals will need to be considered, relevant and achievable, so that they contribute to the overall target. You will need to be able to complete the individual goals, giving you a sense of success and progress. Setting improbable, unlikely and irrelevant goals will lead to failure and disappointment. You will quickly lose interest in your progress plans and the overall target will not be realised.
There is always more likelihood of staying with a resolution when you are accountable to someone else. If you can plan your pre-season resolutions with a friend or a teammate, you will be less likely to give up as you will feel a responsibility to fulfil your part in helping your partner succeed, even if you are struggling with your own programme. Many of your pre-season goals will be about repetition, so having a partner to help you will be a big help. Not only will they be there to throw or catch the balls for you, but they will ensure that you are repeating the skill as you want to perform it. Often when we think we are practicing something well we may actually not be. If you have spent all winter training your body and muscles to remember a certain movement, only to find that you have trained it to do something the wrong way, you are in for a tricky season!
Your goals can be anything you like, but make them measurable and achievable. For example, as a batter, you may have one weekly goal as simply repeating your backlift a set number of times. If you do not have someone to check you are doing it right, perform it in front of a tall mirror so you can see for yourself. The next week might be your pre-delivery feet movement. High repetition trains the muscle memory. Check that your feet are in the right place, and after moving, your head is where you want it to be in relation to off stump. Your next session might be the down swing of the bat, again repeating a high number of times to train the muscle memory and make sure that you are not coming across the ball and the bat is under your eyes. These small goals when put together over the winter and then used in conjunction with your school or club net sessions will be of huge benefit to your overall target. When you find yourself in the net in a live batting situation, make sure that someone is still looking out for you to help you spot if you are not doing what you have been practicing!
Good luck and start ticking off those small goals!
A Leading Edge now have 3 books for sale on Amazon.co.uk. Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99). Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester. You can also buy The Ashes Illustrated and Dice Sports, fantastic books for sports fans!