What Is Perfect Practice?
"Nobody practices harder"
How often do we hear that coming from the mouth of a losing captain on a televised match? It almost makes you think practicing hard leads to failure.
That's a bit harsh, but the fact remains that you are using the wrong adjective. Don't train hard, train right.
Practice, even at club level, is specific to individual cricketers. If you can work out what you need you can work out how to practice perfectly. As an illustration, let's look at three example players all with different needs and approaches:
The talented school cricketer
This young player has had some success but needs to build up the basics and is highly motivated. As a result, there is a lot of technical work going on. If they bat, they will spend a lot of time shaping shots with tennis ball drills.
Ideally you will practice as much - if not more - than you play. Although there will be a heavy technical element, they will also find time to do middle practice and other tactical work.
But be careful of the pitfalls.
This practice is repetitive and dull. Without proper motivation it's easy to wonder if it's worth the effort. You can see less talented but bigger players smash the ball around with the bat and bowl fast without decent technique.
Remember though that working on technique hard at a young age pays off when you reach your late teens and early twenties. Then you will have both technique and strength.
The hardened club cricketer
The second example player has experienced a lot of cricket at club level and knows their own game well.
As a result, the technical side takes lesser importance, focusing mainly on specific weaknesses or ironing out flaws. It's as simple as some pre-match or net drills part of the warm up: short and sharp.
Practice focuses on competitive elements and fitness. This keeps it interesting you while also building up your game awareness and overall ability to get through the game. Work on specific match situations using nets and middle practice rather than just "having a hit".
The unfulfilled potential
The final example is an experienced with a solid technique but has not had the success they expect.
Usually you can put this down to your mental approach to the game: The classic 'net player' who gets everything right in practice but are terribly inconsistent in real games.
Improving your mental game is the priority. Focus less on technique and netting than any other player. Instead, take every opportunity to play lower pressure matches to build confidence.
Basically, stay out of nets where you feel comfortable, and work on practicing in situations where you are out of your happy place, until it becomes you happy place! Combine this with mental tricks like visualisation and self-talk and you can get over the hump.
What about you?
You may recognize yourself in these three examples, or you may think you are totally different. Either way, you may have noticed that each players practice falls into three broad aims:
- Technique (skill drills)
- Physical (working on elements like speed, strength or mobility)
- Mental (practice games, tactical drills, psychological skills work)
Your job is to work out which elements needs higher priority and then plan your perfect practice around each one. All players will work on all three parts; it's just a matter of doing more or less of each one.
For example the school play may decide to split their training into 50% technical, 20% physical and 30% mental. The experienced club cricketer may be more a 10/40/50. Nothing is set in stone though. It's important to regularly review your needs based on your results in the middle, and to remember there is often crossover between elements. It's a Venn diagram not a cupboard with different drawers.
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