The Psychology of Preparation

It needed a national record total from Pakistan batswoman Javeria Khan to lead her team to victory over Ireland last night but the experience gained by the Irish team competing at the T20 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies is invaluable.

Speaking to Cricket Ireland yesterday in advance of the game, Anne Marie Kennedy – the squad’s consultant sports psychologist – gave an insight into the squad’s mental preparations at the tournament.

“Since we got to Guyana I have been reiterating and reinforcing all the mental skills we have developed and have been working hard on over the past few months. To complement the psychological skills training, I have introduced mindfulness to the players not only as a performance enhancement tool but also to help them personally to regulate emotions, stay grounded and present,” said Kennedy.

“The application of mindfulness to athletes is scientifically proven to increase focus, attention regulation, clarity of thought, emotional control and the ability to stay in the present, all basic mental skills for any great athlete.”

“During our athletic mindfulness sessions the team get the ‘MVP Treatment’ – Meditation, Visualisation and Positive Self-Talk. After which each player is very focused on what they need to do and how they are going to do it. It’s a very empowering practice and one that they have taken on with great enthusiasm.”

“We know we have tough challenges ahead but we are committed to playing our own game, executing our own processes and putting in good performances.”

“I’m biased of course but I think it’s vital that a sports psychologist is involved. Performance is not just technical and physical. If you are not working on your mental preparation you are neglecting a huge piece of the pie.”

“You could be the most talented athlete in practice with the best technical skills and physical prowess but if you can’t regulate your emotions, manage distractions and setbacks, focus on the relevant cues and perform under pressure you will not be able to execute your skills to the best of your ability.”

“You cannot leave your mental skills to chance. Full credit to Head Coach Aaron Hamilton for his progressive mindset. He fully backs the sport psychology programme and has given me a lot very valuable contact time to develop our players. A lot of work done but still much more to do. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in Irish cricket.”

Australia have qualified for the semi finals of the tournament with a game to spare. Pakistan face them tomorrow with Ireland taking on New Zealand and any of the three other sides could yet sucre the second spot.