Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mental Conditioning Classes - ML Jaisimha Academy

Had a short session with the MCC cricketers yesterday morning at the MLJ Academy. We addressed the sudden batting collapse by the women's cricket team. While we discussed it, the magic word came up - mental strength.

The core idea is to stay in a space where you feel mentally strong, when your energy is high and adaptable and yet focussed. The idea of the exercises is to keep you in good energy so you perform your best.

Basic Unit is Thought
We deconstructed mental strength.
Firstly the basic unit of - mental. We decided that it was a "thought". The way we think is the mental side. How well we can train our mind to help us with the way we think in situations makes up our mental strength.

Thought Audit - Distracted or Focused
We did a quick audit of thoughts. The boys closed their eyes and tried to notice their thoughts for a few minutes. Mostly it was all over the place. About why, about some sounds, about going home, about what to eat, what this was about. We decided that if we can keep our thoughts in one particular direction, or one one thing that was important to us, that would concentrate our thoughts and help us perform better or find solutions to the situations.

Staying in the Present - Practicing It For Best Response and Full Concentration
We spread this two minute thought map across a day and wondered how our thought process is over a day. It could be constantly worried about the past or fearful of the future. We brought this concept of staying in the present. We did a 'stay present' exercise by merely focusing on counting numbers without thoughts interfering. Most could not last for longer than 10. We understood that if we can stay present, all our thoughts are fully focused on what we are doing. If our thoughts are someplace else, our concentration is diluted and we cannot be at our best while doing that task.
Exercise: To practice the stay present exercise many times and thus increasing ability to stay present and focused.

We discussed the power of visualisation. From visualising winning a cup, a tournament, to wearing India colors, to performing well in a match, most sportspersons go through the match in their mind before the match is actually played. The key is to see it as clearly as one can, to see visuals, numbers,and even put up posters and boards. See what you want to achieve so your mind can make it come true. Then of course you must believe it will happen.
Exercise: To start visualising even a practice session. Plan what you will do before you step into the net, spend two or three minutes trying to visualise exactly how you will play and then go to the net.

We addressed beliefs. How we all have beliefs that are positive and negative. I am not good enough. I cannot handle pressure, I failed once when I was given responsibility, others are better than me. I am strong. I am hard working, I can do anything I set my mind to, I am resilient etc. The idea is that a belief is not the truth and simply something you believed to be true. It can be now changed by changing how you think about it and acting on it. Changing the negative beliefs into positive beliefs by changing the words so they empower you helps a lot in getting out of tough situations.
Exercise: Make a list of your positive and negative beliefs. Strengthen the powerful beliefs (I can do anything I set my mind to etc) and reword the negative ones so they help you. Repeat the reworded negative beliefs until you start believing in them. Tell it loud into the mirror, play it over the phone, say it to others. But say it until your mind believes the new belief.

The Mind Holds One Thought - Break Negative Chains of Thought
During a batting collapse or a stressful situation, you must understand that the mind holds only one thought at a time. If your thoughts are negative and you are stressed out,break the chain of thought. Sing, smile, take a break, talk to the other person, do something physical like tying a shoe lace, think of a visual...something to break the thought. Once the thought is broken try and stay in neutral. You can now focus on the process fully and not on the future or the past. The moment you feel negative thoughts and stress, practice breaking the chain and stay in neutral. If you can raise your energy higher by going positive but neutral is good enough.
Exercise: The next time you are under stress in any situation, first become aware. Stop the chain. Don't let it go further down. Sing. Break. Focus on process. Stay neutral and build from there.

Using Process to Beat Stress
The process to beat stress is to stay fully present. That means you are only doing what you are doing now - one ball at a time. Focus on the ball fully until you hit the ball. When you bring all your concentration into watching the ball your ind cannot get stressed. Then go back to singing or humming and when the ball is about to be bowled, bring all your focus back in.
Practice doing that.
If you can be in the moment, and survive ball upon ball, you will be a champion.

Strength comes from practice. Repeated practice over years. Start now.

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