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Cricketer Ben Stokes on developing his mental fitness

Cricketer Ben Stokes on developing his mental fitness
Cricketer Ben Stokes on developing his mental fitness

Recently announced ICC Cricketer of the Year and England captain, Ben Stokes, has opened up on how he acquired the winning mindset that has helped him change the fortunes of the England’s Test Cricket side as well as his own career and personal life on the latest episode of Red Bull’s Mind Set Win podcast.

To hear the full Ben Stokes interview on Red Bull’s Mind Set Win, head to redbull.com/se-en/podcast-shows/mind-set-win

Ben Stokes on his Dad’s influence on his mentality:

My dad was a professional sportsman himself, and played rugby league in New Zealand so a very tough man. I spent a lot of time around my dad as my mum was away working and he was coach of the professional teams as well.

Just being around a professional environment with my dad coaching 15 players definitely rubbed off on me. I just remember watching my dad run the players to the ground with certain drills and everything has to be perfect for you guys to leave the training ground. It’s just rubbed off on me without me realising. I was taking all that in. I never leave a training session until I’m completely happy that I’ve made sure I’ve done everything to the best of my ability and I’ve not left anything in training. You'll never see me have a net in the morning which most batters do because I've done all that preparation.

On his relentless competitive attitude:

When I’m in the competition, when I’m up against someone, I almost would rather have to stop rather than be told to stop. For example, I was bowling a really long spell against the West Indies and I couldn't get this guy out and he kept saying “keep going, keep going” and I said “listen mate, I can bowl a hell of a lot longer than how long you can bat for”. This guy could have batted for 2 hours and I would've said that I’m going to keep bowling until this guy is out. When I really get into the zone and into the battle of my sport, I just sort of feel I could go, go, go, go.

On how his assault trial in 2018 changed his approach to speaking about mental health:

I was almost putting emotions and feelings into a glass bottle. The glass bottle got too full and exploded and then everything got a bit too much for me at that time. Looking back it was a buildup of almost compressing emotions or feelings and not being comfortable in speaking about them to anybody.

I was by myself in a hotel room where the team were staying, it was very early in the morning and things started happening that had never happened to me before. It’s very hard to look back on that specific moment but what I do know and I’ll openly say is that I wasn’t very good at talking to people before that fateful day. Whereas I'm a lot better now at doing that and I'm a lot more open to speaking to the right people who I feel comfortable to speaking about. It’s not just as simple as wake up and crack on every single day.

It’s not just your professional life that it can take hold of or your personal life. It's definitely both. Some people feel it affects their personal life before whereas for me I felt like it was affecting my role as what i had to do as my job which was go out and play cricket.

As important as the physical side of the sport, the mental side is huge. You always need to be in the right frame of mind to go out there and perform under huge amounts of pressure, especially as you do at the international level. There’s not 1 moment where you’re not under pressure, you need to be in the right physical and mental place to hopefully do your job.

The steps I took were to open up to people who are very close to me and then I went out and seeked help from a professional. The gentleman I ended up speaking to came as highly recommended so I had a lot of long, really good face-to-face chats with him. It was great to be able to go in and speak to someone for a couple of hours and he actually got it. He could understand it and then explain to me what was going on by listening to the things i was telling him because although it's great being

able to open up to people who are close to you just for them to listen, but it’s even better to be able to do the same thing with someone who can almost explain everything to you so you get an understanding of what’s going on.

On how he is factoring mental health support into his England captaincy:

Within our team, I've been very keen to make sure that we have performance psychologists and clinical psychologists available to everybody. So when I’m away, I know that if I do ever need to go and speak to either of those two who are performance or clinical based, they’re available. And that’s not just for me, that’s for everybody else as well. It’s worked really, really well and it makes me just feel comfortable as well knowing that we’ve got those people on hand within the team now.