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Getting Your Head Right: Gold Medal Mindset

AOC’s resident performance coach Jeremy Snape looks at the lessons that can be learned from Team GB’s Olympic success and how they can be applied to the cricket field.

Following our golden summer of sport in the UK, many of us have been left wondering how we can keep the dying embers of the Olympic flame burning. We all knew it would be wonderful to host the ‘greatest show on earth’, but few of us could have imagined how it would capture the nation’s hearts and minds.

As the musical montages fade we have been left with indelible memories of how the medals were won. Often it was the story behind the success that captured our attention. In a world where instant gratification seems to be the norm, we witnessed first-hand the sacrifice and struggle needed to deliver on the biggest stage.

At Sporting Edge we have been fortunate enough to capture insights from some of the best athletes and coaches in world sport and share them with sports and business teams. For my latest column I wanted to see how we could relate these Olympic lessons to cricket, so here are my top tips to build into your game.

1. All the athletes started with an inspiring long-term dream but quickly realised that they needed a tangible target to aim for rather than a notional ‘win’. We can’t control whether we win but we can control a specific time, height or distance. In cricket being a ‘great’ player is a useless target, but setting specific goals like scoring 750 runs or taking 40-plus wickets in a league season can help to focus your mind.

2. Once we have set our targets we need to break them down. Gold medals are made up of over a thousand disciplined days, carrying out practice and preparation that align to your target. To deliver our goals of wickets or runs we will need to have divisional goals for fitness, concentration and technical skills. These become our daily focus, not the gold medal.

3. Olympians have spent years saying ‘no’ rather than saying ‘yes’. Sir Matthew Pinsent talks about a very simple question he and his crew asked themselves as they went through their daily or weekly schedules: ‘Is this making the boat go faster? If not, why are we doing it?’ This level of focus is a key driver of the winning mindset – most people like the idea of success but get distracted in the short-term and never gather momentum.

4. Coaches play a huge role in the high performance system and their ability to view your game objectively with equal measure of challenge and support is a vital cog in the machine. Surround yourself with people who challenge you to be better as we can all be victims of the comfort zone. Quality coaches fast track success, so find the best one and listen.

5. Your ability to manage high-pressure situations will define your career. Prepare yourself for these moments through match simulation and visualisation because you will be exposed if you don’t. Fear is a natural response to threat but if you can become more patient, more rational and more comfortable when in the heat of battle, you will win more than you lose.

6. Despite Usain Bolt’s nerves, he winked, swaggered and smiled as his competitors trembled. He knew that his preparation was complete, he was ready and it was time to relax and ‘let it happen’, not force it. The lesson for cricketers is not to develop a Viv Richards-like strut but to trust your preparation and enjoy the moment. Bolt knows that the harder you try, the slower you go.

7. One of my favourite Olympic memories was the women’s lightweight double sculls rower Katherine Copeland’s startled face as she realised she and her partner had crossed the line first. She and Sophie Hosking were so focused on their arm and leg rhythms that she had to look behind her to see if they had really won. She looked amazed and could be seen saying ‘We just won the Olympics?!’ There is a message here for anyone in the nervous 90s: let the applause for your century wake you from your focus on playing each ball as well as you can.

8. The final lesson from the Olympics is that nothing comes easy. Mo Farah told us of the choices he made in going to train with the Kenyans to raise his game. Take responsibility for your own game and let the best role models be your pacemakers.

Jeremy is a director of Sporting Edge, delivering high performance coaching to professional sports teams and businesses. You can follow him on Twitter @thesportingedge and find him on Facebook and LinkedIn

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