Perfectionism in Cricket

Sports Psychology Tips: Perfectionism in Cricket

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Trying to be perfect is a common challenge and can be overcome

Are you a batsman or bowler who often feels great in the nets but struggles to bring that form into matches? Could it be that you are a perfectionist?

Cricketers who can get caught up in chasing perfection can demand a lot from themselves, often way too much.  Then they go on to often get obsessed with performing to levels that are unreachable.   They place high and rigid expectations on themselves, which go on to cause doubt and indecision, and sometimes performance anxiety. 

These cricketers often do well when they train but as soon as a match comes along, their performances suffer.  Some get really angry with themselves or anxious when they perform, others even go so far as dreading match days. 

Perfectionist cricketers can also fall into the trap of placing too much focus on other people, when they are in the middle batting or bowling.  They worry about what they look like.  They feel that their every move is being judged by friends, team-mates, coaches, parents, administrators or scouts.   As well as spending a lot of time mindreading and worrying about what other people are thinking about them.  With young cricketers, this is hugely common and often leads to big confidence swings and “highs and lows.”

Having supported a number of cricketers, I’ve noticed 7 common challenges the perfectionist struggles with:

  1. They are slow to move on from errors.
  2. Poor form impacts on their mood at home.  
  3. They go quiet, often sulking, cutting themselves off from the rest of the team.
  4. They can be very harsh and critical of themselves.
  5. Indecision and doubt can be an issue under pressure.
  6. In the nets, they can get caught up trying to be too perfect with their technique losing sight of the task in hand.
  7. Staying present is hard for the perfectionist, as they either get caught out thinking about past mistakes or errors or thinking too far ahead and worrying about “what if” situations.

Perfectionism can be a good thing too!

What does a Mentally Tough cricketer look like to you? Too me I think of someone who:

  • Is highly driven.
  • Enjoys trying things and learning new skills.
  • Takes action, when they say they’re going to do something, they follow through with it.
  • Wants to keep improving.

I’m sure you’ll agree, these are great characteristics to have, which makes cricketers who have perfectionist tendencies great to work with as a cricket coach or psychologist working in cricket.  

These types of cricketers, simply need a helping hand, someone to keep things simple and practical to reduce the pressure that they place on themselves.  Below are some ideas:

3 Ways to help a Cricketer with Perfectionist Tendencies

          1. Accept that when you are batting, bowling or fielding that you are going to make some mistakes, you are human not a robot!  The key is how you respond from the mistakes.  If you are able to put mistakes behind you faster than your opponents, you will give yourself a better chance of scoring more runs, taking more wickets or catching the next opportunity that comes your way.  Give yourself, a 10 second window before the next shot or delivery, no matter what and think about your mindset and strategy for the next ball.  If you can improve this aspect of your cricket, you will be one of the first selections on the team sheet and a favourite for the captain or coach.

          2. To be a successful batsman, bowler, wicketkeeper or fielder you need to be able to have strategies up your sleeve to stay present.  When the past is done, it is done.  It can’t be changed! 

Carrying over mistakes from ball to ball, over to over, match to match is much like watching a horror movie in your head.  You end up hypnotising yourself into believing the same thing will happen again, so you end up being tense and indecisive.

It’s difficult to erase bad memories, not impossible as you’ll hear in this podcast episode.

However, you can most definitely do something about it yourself by being in the present moment.  To do so I encourage you to ask yourself some better questions such as.  “What is the next task?” “What is my job?” or “How do I need to be to perform the next task well?”  

This will spark a reaction in you, which is everything and something you can control.  It’s your choice to dwell on an error, let your head drop or you can decide to remain calm and decisive.  

If you struggle with staying calm and fall into the trap of responding negatively, it’s not going to help you or your team, not one bit!  Negative responses create negative emotions that will stay with you for a while.  You’ll likely then get distracted, overthink, second guess yourself, overcomplicate your game, tighten up and even freeze in the middle.

Try to react in a “calm, cool and confident” manner, each and every time that you make an error.

          3. Why not come up with a buzzword or phrase to help yourself when you make a mistake. Your mantra if you like when you make an error.  For a month, the time it is argued to take to change habits, I challenge you to come up with this mantra and write it on your arm or on a sheet of paper which you put in your pocket or kit bag.

Some thing along the lines of: “Let’s bounce back, move on to the next ball.”  Or “I’m Mr Bouncebackability, it’s time to take up the challenge.”

It has to be personal to you and provoke a positive reaction, be that calm or energised whatever works best for you.  Training yourself to accept that in cricket mistakes are going to happen and that you can move on quickly if possible.  By monitoring your progress, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of succeeding and playing your cricket with a smile on your face.  As well as, importantly taking more wickets or catches and scoring more heavily with the bat in hand.

If you enjoyed this article.  You may also be interested in downloading THE FOCUSED ATHLETE CHECKLIST which highlights different ideas that cricketers can use to integrate mental skills training into their daily routines and habits.  By doing so, it will allow them to give themselves the best chance of being the best that they can be.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, team-mates, parents or coaches.  You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Global Sports Psychologist located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally.  

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub.  With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly.  

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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