T Cup

I think a phrase coined by Sir Clive Woodward – Thinking Clearly Under Pressure.  It stands to reason that this is necessary for success in any competitive situation.  If we consider the “comfort-stretch-panic” curve, with optimal learning occurring in the zone at the top of stretch, just before we reach panic, then it is fair to say we will be in a situation where we feel under pressure.  The nearer panic we reach, the greater the pressure.  I guess psychologists would call this arousal theory and talk about the “inverted U”.

In coaching situations we can (hopefully) control this arousal and keep learners in their optimum zone.  However, during match play the circumstances are beyond our control and it may be that we need to use failure, and the reflection thereon to gain benefit from situations where “panic” may have set in.

I was umpiring a junior cricket match during which panic occurred, but not really due to the game situation.  The batting side were in control of the game with a big score already, but overs still to go.  Due to the weaker nature of the opposition I had used the opportunity to allow players who often don’t get the chance to bat to do so.  Two such players were at the crease, and were batting well against a reasonable spell of bowling.  Both got a bit bogged down, but were totally untroubled and didn’t look like getting out.  No panic, but useful match practice.  As is useful, I was praising their shot selection and patience in waiting for appropriate opportunities ot attack, whilst trying to get them to consider how to still keep the scoreboard ticking when facing good bowling (ie aggressive running between the wickets).  As this process was ongoing (simply telling them would have been a wasted opportunity) some of the rest of the team and parents started offering advice from the sidelines.

“Whack it!”

“Give it a slog”

You get the idea.  The result?  One of the batters tipped into panic, tried to do what the team had been shouting, and got caught out.  The competitive situation had been comfortable, but the social experience (Cog Theory) was what brought about the panic.  The social cog stalled, bringing all the others to a standstill.  I was incredibly frustrated.  The player in question has been working really hard on his batting and was putting this into practice and the opportunity to continue this had been ended by un-necessary pressure.

Between innings I gathered the team together and asked a few reflective questions.

“Who is in the best situation to decide how to bat?”

“If faced with controlled bowling, how might we go about keeping runs coming?”

“What impact can we have from the sidelines upon those involved in the game?”

Some of the boys knew the answers (these lads weren’t shouting out) and shared them with the others.  Hopefully the batters were reassured, and, as this review took place in the earshot of parents, they may have learned something too.

Thinking clearly under pressure is obviously important, but if we can identify and remove un-necessary pressures the task must become easier.  Another cliche – control the controllables.  Did my approach work?  We wont know until the situation arises again.  I’m sure I will then blog!


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About the Author: Stephen Pritchard

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