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Scripting the winning formula
- Top-notch Australian sports psychologist wasn’t eclipsed by legendary compatriots Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee

Calcutta: With Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee among the speakers at the recent MRF Pace Foundation coaches’ seminar, in Chennai, only an outstanding presentation would have made the invitees really ‘notice’ Sandy Gordon.

As it turned out, the most-in-demand sports psychologist did enough to ensure his legendary compatriots didn’t monopolise the limelight.

Indeed, if implemented, the Perth-based Gordon’s presentation — a copy of which is with The Telegraph — should lay the foundations of an appreciable change in the coaches’ approach towards such an important aspect: Mental toughness.

Gordon, it may be recalled, interacted with Team India on the eve of our 2003 World Cup campaign, in Paarl. In fact, it was at his suggestion that Sourav Ganguly and Co. authored a theme — Now or Never — for the tournament.

That interaction — both collective and one-to-one — was so “fruitful” that coach John Wright has initiated a move for Gordon’s ‘services’ during Team India’s tour of Australia later this year.

Sourav, of course, is just as keen.

Gordon, by the way, was contracted to Cricket Australia (then the Australian Cricket Board) during India’s last trip Down Under — in 1999-2000.

Incidentally, during his presentation (where he called for setting team and individual goals) in Chennai, Gordon listed what goes into a team performing at its peak. He focussed on the individual as well.

Here goes:

(a) For teams: Patience (accepting results), pressure (batting, bowling and fielding), partnerships (batting and bowling), present focus (ball-to-ball) and positive mental momentum. If you’re sincerely committed to executing a team game plan, you will be in control.

(b) For individuals: Trust (back yourself and enjoy), take positive risks (be definite and play to win), task awareness (constantly ask yourself what you have to do) and present focus (totally absorb self in the moment and task at hand).A winning formula, if ever there was one.



THE SANDY GORDON DOCTRINE

DEFINITION of MENTAL TOUGHNESS

- Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:

Generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer.

Specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focussed, confident and in control under pressure.

ATTRIBUTES of MENTAL TOUGHNESS

- Self-belief to achieve competition goals

- Unique qualities that make you better than the rest

- Insatiable desire to succeed

- Bouncing back from setbacks

- Thriving on pressure

- Accepting anxiety as inevitable

-Not getting affected by the performance of others

- Remaining focussed despite personal issues

- Switching on/off as required

- Remaining focussed despite competition issues

- Pushing physical/emotional pain boundaries while maintaining technique/effort

- Regaining psychological control following unexpected/uncontrollable events

MENTAL SKILLS

- Goal setting and self-regulation skills

- Concentration and attention skills

- Anxiety or arousal skills

- Visualisation, imagery, mental rehearsal

- Confidence, self-efficacy skills

- Ideal Performance State — pre, during and post competition activities

TEACHING MENTAL SKILLS

-Coach best person to teach

- Integrated within coaching plans

- Developmental approach: Simple/complex

- Objective to make athletes self-sufficient

- Individualised programmes as early as possible

- Problems with adherence to be expected

- Coach as model of skills being taught

GOAL SETTING

- If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else

- If you want something to happen, then measure it

CONCENTRATION

- Is the ability to pay attention to the right things at the right time

- Is about sport intelligence and concerns: Selective attention, critical cues at critical moments, present focus, switching channels of concentration and anticipating distraction

HANDLING PRESSURE

- Mentally tough players are able to manage both physical and emotional arousal levels under adversity/pressure

- How you think, is how you feel. That’s how you act/behave

FINALLY…

- All cricketers imagine — some more productively than the others

-You can be good without working hard, but to be great, you must work hard…

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