For some, the beginning of May means the end of a long season, and for others the start of the new season. Some players may be in full flow and filled with excitement to put all the off season work to the test, others may be removing the cob webs off their pads in hope of a successful season. Durations and intensities of “off” and “pre” seasons have been subject to much debate by both professional and amateur players alike. These are a few key elements to consider to ensure an effective and productive off season.
We have all been there in the preseason – The coach armed with his new whistle commanding shuttle sprints and laps around the oval followed by some gym regime that resembles Brad Pitt in Fight Club and wondering when it will be over! Fatigued outcry from the players shouting “Please can we go hit some balls, bowl a couple down and catch a few in the slips rather.”
This however is the time to do the work. A quality individualized physical conditioning program can be the best way to make the most significant impact into your game-day performance in months to come. The important element here is to make sure the program begins with the correct intentions and that a common link is drawn to how it will benefit you in the season. Starting with a base fitness component is important to establish areas to be screened and as you move closer to the season, more functional training can take place which is skill specific. It may be a good idea for both coaches and players to enlist the help of an expert individual to help with the periodization of this program to get the players peaking at the correct time. It then takes the discipline and integrity to make sure it is completed well, this may be done with the team, a trainer or simply by yourself, but either way it must be done!
So often small errors in our thinking are the handbrake holding us back from great performance in the middle, but we seem to neglect these as part of preseason training. Tom Dawson-Squibb, well renowned Performance Coach offers some of his thoughts to get the best from the preseason.
- High Performance Rest – Take proper time out to recharge and connect with your love for the game again. The desire to work hard is great but to let your mind wonder can also be useful
- Quality Reflection – Quality comes from taking a set amount of time and answering specific questions
- Did I give myself the best chance of success?
- What did I let myself get away with?
- What would I do differently next year?
- Set Goals – Set some process and outcome goals for the new season
- Build the picture – Begin to train your brain by seeing your success the following season in specific areas. If it is to play the perfect on drive be crystal clear on the image. The more vivid, the more effective it will be.
In my experience of doing many player development reviews both on an individual and collective basis, I am always surprised at how often the finger is pointed at poor tactical decision making as the reason why the game was lost, the batter played a reckless shot or the bowler costly bowled the wrong ball. It seems remiss of us to not track the route of these errors in our quest towards continuous improvement. In many ways “game sense” is the most underrated skill that great cricketers possess. This takes a combination of experience, knowledge, guidance and mentorship which can take time but all in all sits in the space of understanding our craft as best possible. Reading books of past players can be a great investment into your time in the off season as well as seeking out opportunities to grow and learn from others where you get the chance especially in your specific field of skill.
There can be a tendency to completely overhaul and remodel techniques in the off season. Although this can be healthy thinking towards improvement it is often the subtle changes that have the greatest impact in performance.
Purifying the Technique
Technique increases the margin of error – simple as that. It allows a skill to be repeated more simply and consistently to avoid error and bolster chances of a successful intention. With that in mind, concentrating on your basics such as your setup and stance as well as your positions on the ball and bat swing can be the most powerful interventions that can be done in this period. I am often amazed at the drills that some of the best players in the world do day in and day out and their attention to detail on gaining a clean bat path and strong positions in setup and during the shot. By simplifying the drill you also simplify the technique which allows the best chance of transference to your game and gives you the volumes required to change an ingrained habit and groove perfection. The same applies for bowling – taking good care to refine your stock ball and work on your action in terms of alignment and balance are key, the importance again is on carving your action into repeatability and consistency.
Much like the Apple range of Iphones, there is always seems to be a software update and a hardware upgrade. The offseason is a great opportunity to upgrade your skills. Whether it would be variations of a new delivery or honing a new stroke, the time afforded to you by the break can be a great chance to acquire new skills and to add value to you as a player for the next season. Develop a training schedule which is consistent and have some measurable and checks in place to gauge improvement over time.
Last but not least – underestimate fielding at your peril! Too many games of cricket both at a professional and recreation level are decided by poor fielding. Be that dropped chances, missed run outs or costly misfields, this can be the quickest way to improve yourself and your team by paying attention to simple techniques of fielding and integrating good habits. Now you are on the way to the “S” version of yourself! “It’s a season for a reason” I hear the purist say in their defence of their archaic thinking on preparation for a new season. To them I say “Then create a reason to your pre-season”.[/upme_private]]