If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you want to improve yourself. The mere fact that you’re investing time to read this article tells me that you have a growth mindset and want to learn and get better which excites me. AS we begin a new year (and new decade), it’s always a great time to reset and re focus on what’s important in your life. If you’re like me, and want to make 2020 your best year ever, then here’s a few of my thoughts (and what I’ll be doing) on how we can do it…

Set Goals: Goal setting isn’t for everyone as it can become an added pressure and people often lose motivation when they aren’t looking like achieving their goals. I am a believer i goal setting though as I find that without a clear and defined goal that is challenging, I have nothing clear to work towards and can therefore just ‘drift’ through life.

Make a plan: Once you’ve got your goals set you need to make a plan. Goals without a plan are meaningless. Your goal is like your destination and your plan is the directions of how you’ll get there. Goals are great but the process of how you’ll achieve those goals is more important.

Work your arse off: Once you’ve set your goals and made a plan that’s not enough. The best plan in the world will never achieve anything if you don’t execute that plan. Making changes in your life happens through taking action and the people that achieve great things in life and are the most successful are the ones that work the hardest. Nothing great has ever been achieved without a lot of hard work. (Check out our article about why We Think it’s Never Been Easier To Be The Best)

Enjoy the process: If you’re solely focused on the outcome you’re missing out on the beauty of the process of getting there. One of the biggest game changes for me was when I stop trying to control the outcome and instead focused my energy and attention on getting my process and preparation as good as it can possibly be both with my cricket and in other aspects of my life.

Embrace the pain and struggles: In life there are many struggles and lots of pain (this can be physical pain or emotional pain). Any elite cricketer, high performing athlete, business person or parent will tell you that with success there is lots of pain and struggle. Whether it’s working out in the gym (physical pain) or setbacks on the field, to be the best you can be you need to understand that it’s all part of the process and therefore embrace the pain and setbacks as they are often the most character building.

Be prepared to fail: If you’re not prepared to fail you won’t win (in the longterm) on and off the field. On the filed, to perform at your best you need to play with freedom and this isn’t possible without accepting the fact that you may ‘fail’ doing it. Off the field, you’re going to fail a lot also but it’s through failures and mistakes that the greatest lessons are often learned. (Check out our article on how to Create a Winning Mindset)

Reflect/review and learn: I often say to the athletes that I mentor that having an experience (training session or playing a match) is one thing but if you don’t take time to reflect, review and learn from that experience you’re stunting your development. Make time for reflecting to learn what you did well and what you could have done better and need to continue to work on from your experiences. (Check out our article about How Self-reflection can be the change you’re looking for)

Ask questions: If you don’t ask questions, you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to learn and develop yourself. Asking questions of your friends, parents, teachers, colleagues, peers, teammates etc gives you an insight into their knowledge and how they see things which could be something that is crucial for your life and performance (Check out our article written by former Aussie batsman Chris Rogers on How to Learn and Bat Better)

Invest in yourself: If you’re not willing to invest in yourself (time, energy & money) you’re never going to reach your full potential. I once heard that the greatest investment we can ever make isn’t shares or property but in our own learning and up-skilling ourselves which is advice I live by. Whether it’s buying and reading a book, doing an online course or listening to podcasts, you should always be investing in yourself to become the best you can be.

Limit Expectation of others: This is something GaryVee talks a lot about and is something I’ve spent a lot of time on in recent years. Everyone around you is busy and living their own life. While we often think we know what’s going on in the lives of those closest to us, we rarely know everything. It’s human nature to think about yourself first and others second and living without expectations of others means you don’t get let down expecting something from someone. If you expect nothing, even from those closest to you, everything is a bonus and your relationships are often better.

Look for the good in every situation: Life can be brutal and there are always awful things going on in the world and around us. How you perceive things is a choice though and I highly encourage you to choose to see the good in every situation. Even in the dimmest of situations there are almost always positives if you choose to see them. As soon as you start living like this your outlook on life will change significantly.

Stop caring about others opinions: As soon as you stop valuing others opinions too much, you can start doing the things that are most meaningful and important to you. So many people do things to please others or look good to others when it’s to the detriment of their own life. In 2020 stop caring so much about others opinions (as long as you’re not breaking the law or doing something to harm others) and do things that make you happy.

Smile and laugh regularly: Smiling and laughing releases a chemical in your brain that makes you happy. Do your best to smile and laugh as regularly as possible as this will have a positive impact on how you feel and therefore your output/performance. Even when things seem bad or tough, if you’re able to step back from it, life is usually pretty good so try and enjoy it.

Sleep enough: This is obvious but often underrated by many people. Sleeping well and enough is crucial to your health and daily performance. Not sleeping enough over a long period has been linked to increases in health problems including an increase in cancer cells while not sleeping enough also effects our energy levels on a daily basis. Aim to make sleeping enough for you (everyone needs a different amount of sleep) a priority for 2020. (Read about How I Couldn’t Sleep The Night Before my List A Debut for Middlesex at Lord’s)

Eat smart: I chose to write eat smart instead of eat well because I love my food and drink and know that it’s ok to enjoy yourself, just be smart about it. Having a balanced diet is hugely important to performing at your best. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself but eat well 5/6 days a week. Eat for performance and fuel not just cause you have to.

Stay Hydrated: Being hydrated, like sleeping enough is hugely underrated by many people (often including myself). When dehydrated our concentration and ability to focus diminishes significantly. Our body is largely made up of water so if you want to fuel it to it’s full capability you need to stay hydrated. Create good habits like having a water bottle with you at all times and consume a decent amount of water as soon as you wake up (you will feel less tired afterwards).

Cherish every moment: We only get one life so make the most of it! Time is our most precious resource and it’s scarce. We can never have 2019 back or any day that’s passed so make the most of each and every day and really cherish every moment as often as you can. For it will soon be just a memory.

2020 could be your best year ever but only if you’re ready and willing to take charge of it! I’m certainly planning on making it my best year ever and I would love it to be yours also!

Tom Scollay batting for Middlesex

About the writer: I founded Cricket Mentoring in August 2016 with the goal of helping cricketers all over the world become the best they can be – on and off the field. As a former professional cricketer with Middlesex CCC (2010-2012) I’ve played with and against some of the world’s best players and worked with some elite coaches. I’m a Cricket Australia Level 2 coach and through my own personal experiences, practice and a hunger to always learn, I’ve developed and continue to refine my principles and philosophies on the great game. I believe there’s 6 pillars to peak performance (Technical, Tactical, Mental, Emotional, Physical, Lifestyle) and most athletes only focus on one or a few things. All of our content (articles, videos, podcast) covers the 6 pillars and has been created to assist cricketers understand what it takes to achieve great things in the game.

CHECK OUT MY VLOG

Do you want an insight into the life of a player/ coach/ someone plugging away to get better every day? Check out my Vlog where I take you behind the scenes of Cricket Mentoring and my life. See me train, play & coach and travel around the world, plus a whole lot more… It is raw and real as I aim to help you with your own game in a fun and interesting way. [Bonus: Get access to the insights of International players]

About the author : Tom Scollay

One Comment

  1. fireman2472 February 26, 2020 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    thanks this article was very useful and has taught me that cricket is not all about the physical side of things it is also mental, emotion and the players lifestyle. thanks Tom

    Albert

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Chris 'Bucky' Rogers batting for Somerset in one of his 554 First-class innings

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I once spoke to a former professional player who became a coach in the professional ranks and asked him whether he would change his technique during the season during his playing career. He responded in the negative.

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About the writer: Chris 'Bucky' Rogers isn't your typical cricketer. Having toiled away in First-class cricket for over 15 years, he was finally rewarded for years of dominance opening the batting in both Australia & England with selection in the Australian Test team for the 2013 Ashes in England. He went on to play 25 Test matches for Australia where he scored 2,015 runs @ 42.87 including 5 x 100s. With the amazing First-class record of 25,470 runs & 76 centuries, he has now retired from playing and transitioned into coaching, where he currently is the batting coach for Somerset CCC. 

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He said working on technique is for preseason and once he started playing, all that mattered was watching the ball.

That, I’ve discovered, is a very traditional response, handed down from father to son.

I had to stop myself from groaning out loud. “How short-sighted” I wanted to reply. I’m sure he’s not alone and these days, coaches are reluctant to challenge technical issues in young players, preferring the students to figure it out themselves. Perhaps they fear intervention will only create more problems.

NO PRE-SEASON?

What if a player never has a pre-season as, like me, he plays continuously on both sides of the world, where the seasons overlap?

Just once did I have a pre-season in Australia – and that I remember mostly for the agony of running the sand-hills at City Beach in Perth, rather than any working on technique.

Instead I was chasing an endless summer by playing 12 months of the year in England as well as home. “What is a pre-season?” was my standard jibe at teammates.

That meant technical experimentation had to be done on the job – so the standard answer to not work on your game for six months of the year seems like a waste of time and opportunity to me.

Often as a young batsman, you’ll have days when you pick up a bat and it feels like it is a natural extension of your body and other days when it feels like you’re hefting around a railway sleeper.

DAYS WHEN THINGS WEREN'T WORKING

Numerous days in grade cricket and even opening the batting for Western Australia, my swing would feel so awkward I would be trying to adjust almost every ball. I might try picking the bat up higher in my swing, other times move my hands forward in my stance and even change the width of my stance. These were just a very few of many.

In fact what would really confuse me is, somehow I’d last until the lunch break feeling like I couldn’t hit one off the square and then come out after a 40 minute sit down and feel like I was Brian Lara … well not quite but you get the drift.

What it taught me though was to keep trying to get better. I would often think to myself, and now sprout this to every kid possible, one step back to go two steps forward. Working with my dad who was my coach, I’d try all sorts of technical changes and usually, after a while, something would click and it would all fall into place. It would be like hitting at a brick wall and then all of a sudden one thing works and the rest fall over like dominoes.

PROBLEM SOLVING - DON'T GET OUT THE SAME WAY

One of the great advantages of playing in four innings matches is the chance to problem solve as a batsman between the first and second innings. I disliked … no, I hated getting out the same way or to the same bowler in the second innings as I did in the first.

After getting out I would sit down and figure out a way to combat the bowler who dismissed me first time around. It might not have just been a mental change but quite possibly a technical one.

Stuart Clark once dismissed me for a duck with a perfect ball that pitched on off stump line and nipped away but instead of just accepting he’d bowled me a jaffa, I checked out the footage and saw my hands were not coming down straight in my swing pattern and caused everything - my hands and bat - to go towards mid on. So my bat actually was inside the line, hence the ball found my outside edge.

Second innings, my focus was trying to get my hands to go towards mid-off while playing with the inside half of my bat to counter the away movement. Yes I know this is a bit more than ‘Batting 101’ but I only started to understand my own batting by constantly tinkering – even to the extent of working out what doesn’t work, to find out what does.

PLAYING TO COACHING

As I moved from player to become a coach, a surprise first-up piece of advice from other coaches was to be careful about the level of input you try to pass on. Yes, that makes sense and it would be ignorant to not listen to advice from people who have spent a long time coaching. However, it will need to be balanced against my long-held belief that the best players in the world never stop seeking improvement.

My first club-coaching role came via former Australian player and teammate Bob Quiney to help out at his beloved St Kilda Cricket Club, where the players have an average age younger than ever and a thirst for learning.

I was wary of saying too much early, but when one player said, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do Buck”, my tinkering instincts took over.

“One step back to go two steps forward”, I reasoned.

The first player asked me how to play slow medium pace bowlers as he had nicked off to one the previous Saturday. I told him to be positive and proactive. Walk at the bowler or walk into his line … a la Steve Smith … and whip him through the leg side if the bowler went for the stumps. The next Saturday he was in the same position and ended up, he said, with too much going through his mind and being neither proactive nor defensive. He nicked off again. But he had learnt from his mistake and knew what he’d do the next time and since has had some success.

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 Bucky passing on some knowledge during a batting masterclass for Cricket Mentoring in Perth

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INDOOR NETS SYNDROME

Another had what I call ‘indoor nets syndrome’ and had developed a swing where he just jabbed at balls that would race off his bat on the true synthetic surface, but had difficulty with the natural variation of turf wickets. His hands would go towards the leg side in his swing but the ball would slice to cover or more likely the slips. I was wary of trying to reshape his whole swing but then thought “Why not?” I’ll show him what I think works and he can figure the end result out for himself”. He was quite difficult to adjust and we even experimented with grip changes, not something I’d usually recommend.

After an hour’s work he was starting to get the basic principles and enjoying it. He had a far better understanding of a swing after trying something new and that can only benefit him. He can always go back to what he was doing but at least he’d tinkered and thought about it. Afterwards he seemed genuinely excited at the change and the understanding.

Yet there have been plenty of times where my coaching hasn’t worked. I tried to help Peter Siddle with his batting but made it worse. Eventually he figured a few things out himself and is still getting better – so maybe my “one-step-backwards” theory helped!

CHANGE TAKES TIME

With most things, change takes time to feel natural and this principle needs to be stressed and I’m wary of trying to change players into playing like me but sometimes certain things need to be tried.  I’m amazed when I see any tall player stand with his feet close together in his stance when Kevin Pietersen is ‘Example A’ of how to succeed as a tall batsman.

I firmly believe all the best players in the world are tinkerers and never stop trying to improve. Just ask Marcus Trescothick, who at age 41 was still telling everyone how he’s trying to fix things. That and his saying that ‘form hides in mysterious places’ were my two favourite things I got from him.

At the moment the county season has just started and he’s still working on his game plan against different kind of bowling. You’d think he’d have it all sorted by now but no, he’s using every opportunity to improve as we all should.

SUCCEEDING AT THE AGE OF 38

When asking me to write this article, Scolls (Tom Scollay) asked that I write a little about my own journey and how I managed to play well in the 2015 Ashes at age 38.

Like Trescothick, I had a thirst for perfection. Grit and determination was only a part of it. So many years of 12-months-playing of four-day cricket meant I had a very good understanding of my own game, with all its strengths and weaknesses, and to have some success against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Steve Finn in bowler-friendly conditions was only possible with an in depth, intimate knowledge of my swing and my game.

For different bowlers and conditions, I would have different triggers. On the wickets that provided more bounce and seam I would have a back and across trigger while at other times, particularly against Anderson’s swing, I would push forward to try and cover the movement.

This skill only comes from trial and error and experimentation and willingness to learn. If every time I tried something, had initial failure and not persevered, my game would have been very one dimensional and limited.

Growing up I often watched in awe some of the bigger kids who seemed to make batting look easy but then fell away when they had to play against adults who matched them in size and strength. I believe it was because these kids had got it so easy early on, that they hadn’t learned to work at their game to try to understand it better.

ALL THE BEST ARE ALWAYS CHASING IMPROVEMENT

Of course, there are plenty of examples to disprove the mould but of all the best batsmen I have seen, the one consistent attribute they possess is a desire to never be satisfied and to chase improvement.

They tinker to learn … and then comes improvement.

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