Friday 26 October 2018

Distraction Control

If you want to umpire consistently near your best, you must develop the critical skill of distraction control through regular practice.

What distractions can affect performance?
Distractions for cricket umpires can come from a variety of sources. Things like the expectations of others, past experiences with teams or players, your own expectations or anxiety, family members, relationships, colleagues, media, administrators, financial concerns, fatigue, illness, changes to preparation routines and more importantly, your own thinking before, during and after the game.
The important message here is that YOU decide whether you let these things distract, upset you, lower your self confidence, put you in a negative frame of mind, take you out of your best focus, or interfere with your concentration. You can choose to be distracted or not to be distracted, dwell on it or let it go. This is one of the most vital components to mental toughness that all cricket umpires need to understand and master in order to be successful and have a long representative career.
We have all worked hard and umpired many games to build skills and benefit from experience and the teachings of others. Distractions don’t cause us to lose those skills, what happens is you lose focus which means you lose the ability to execute those skills properly.
Parts of your umpiring may not go as smoothly as you wish on a certain day and yes, it is disappointing and frustrating – that is a normal emotional response – but you don’t have to put yourself down, give up or question your own abilities. You can simply remind yourself (having developed good mental tools) to focus in a way that will allow you to umpire your best given the situation.

How to not let distractions affect you and your game
You can always find a way around, over or through most obstacles and distractions by committing yourself to remaining positive – turning negatives into positives, by drawing out lessons and regaining your focus on what’s important as quickly as possible. Stop here! This all sounds great but how can I do this? How can I practice this type of mental skill? The truth is, it is hard and as a result not many people master the skill – as a result we have a select number of champions in sport, only a select number of 1st class umpires and even fewer Test cricket umpires.
We all have good umpiring skills to be contracted with the ICC and our Home Boards but one of the main elements that separates umpires is the ability to focus at the right time by not getting distracted – distracted on the field in making a decision or distracted from your goals and training (stepping stones). It is hard for me to tell you how to make better LBW decisions as it is a judgment call on the day – sure there are factors to consider that lead to increased accuracy and consistency, but the best way I can help you improve your decisions is to give you the mental strength to avoid your focus being distracted at critical times. Here are some tips to help you stay on track and maintain your focus, or regain your focus on what’s important….

Commit yourself to remaining positive

Focus on doing what will help you stay positive and in control of your thoughts. A strong positive focus protects from distractions.

Get yourself into a positive frame of mind before a game. Recall your previous good performances, good decisions, and positive comments you have received and the fact that the selectors believe you are good enough to be umpiring this game.

Look for advantages in every situation– learn something from every experience. This will make you a better umpire if you take something out of the experience – it will make you stronger and confident.

Be rational and practical about the distraction – you can choose not to be emotional about it and get caught up in it – you can let these thoughts go.

Expect distractions and negative thoughts – that is a natural occurrence. Prepare yourself to face potential distractions like crowd noise, getting a decision wrong, an upset player, etc by not reacting to them and letting them bounce off you. You can deal with these issues later when your focus can be relaxed.

Know that you can enjoy the game and perform well regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes we have to consciously remind ourselves to enjoy the game and have a laugh in the face of anxiety and worry.

Turn bad moods into good moods. Make a real effort to be positive and happy. Remind yourself repeatedly that you have the ability to control and change your perspective.

Do what you can do and learn from it – then move on and focus on the things within your control. No point focussing on what other people think.

After a good day or not so good day, be proud of your efforts and what you have done well. Draw out the positive lessons and then start the new day fresh – no baggage, no distractions!

Focusing through distractions is probably the most important skill of all for consistently performing at your potential. It is easier said than done, but like most good skills, it requires dedication and practice and you will master it. If something is important enough to do, then it is worth giving it your full attention and focus – not to be distracted from it – it’s your choice.

Courtesy of Simon Taufel

Thursday 25 October 2018

Match Conflict Tips

Conflict Situation
The handling of conflict situations requires special management skills.
Animosity on the field can arise from two sources:
1. Player vs. Player
2. Player vs. Umpire

Player vs. Player
Some umpires have a dislike for getting involved whilst others may step in too quickly, either way the umpires will quickly lose the respect of the players. Never react too quickly.
1. A disappointed bowler needs a little time to cool down. If the incident happens during an over, consider waiting until the over is completed before saying anything
2. An astute captain will realize his bowlers cannot perform to their optimum if they are rattled and will quite often speak to the player
3. If this happens wait to see, if it produces the desires effect. If not you should have a quite word saying something like “Come on mate, don’t let things get too heated out there”. This is a non threatening/informal way of defusing a potential problem affecting further into the match. If the bowler shows no interest in improving his/her behavior, involve the captain immediately along with your partner request to take action,

Player vs. Umpire

Often the fielding team will feel aggravated over a decision. To show that the umpire is in control and of good temperament he should stand by his decision and reject of feeling guilt.
1. In the first instance, request the captain to control his players in accordance with the Spirit of Cricket.
2. If requires to speak to a player, never walk towards in an aggressive manner or point fingers in an animated way.
3. Always involve the captain and your fellow umpire so that all concerned will know what was said,
4. Any reports procedure involved, it must be made together with your colleague even if you are not heard what was said. You will know by the reaction of the player that there was a problem and your collective input into the report will be crucial when a hearing takes place.
5. Successful umpires know how much to take before acting under the code of conduct.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Coping With Pressure

Stress is a word in common use. Basically stress simply means load, but in current usage it implies overload.
Bodily stress is part of daily life, and this is really where the expression comes from. Noise, heat and work are stresses on our systems, but in the mental area we feel stress too, and in social interaction strains and tension are even more apparent.

As humans we react to loads and tension by making an adjustment. At first we try to endure the load and call on a kind of defence mechanism. Our heart beats faster and body temperature rises. We are ready to make an effort.

Under pressure we achieve more than we normally do in everyday life. But stress can also have a negative effect. When we reach the point at which we cannot deal with stress anymore, i.e. when we are overloaded, then a sharp drop in performance follows. In such situations we cannot even reach our customary performance level.

Overload does not allow us to make any more extraordinary efforts. However, for an extraordinary effort a certain degree of stress is necessary. For a good officiating performance, an increase in the state of tension is essential, in other words a level of stress. Only when this stress level is optimal can an above average performance result.

Thinking back on successful performances does not bring to mind those performances where the level of challenge was too low, or those in which the challenge was too great. In an overload situation the ability of the system to perform would collapse. But it is also just as bad to be under challenged. The secret of good performance is an optimal load level. This brings maximum performance.

Pressure Control
Ability of officials to deal with pressure can frequently be linked to how well they can control their levels of anxiety. Controlling anxiety in ‘clutch’ situations during a competition is what can distinguish a good official from a great official.

Anxiety may also be associated with the concept of fear, or more specifically for officials the fear of incorrect decisions leading to unsafe situations. An official who manifests anxiety before and during competition can experience an elevated level of arousal and feelings of tension and apprehension.

Psychological skills (mental toughness training)
Developing the ability to control emotions and mood states by applying a few simple psychological skills is beneficial for all sportspersons. In particular, improving self awareness and motivation, and decreasing reactions to stress are essential life skills. Recognising the complex interaction and strong relationship between physical and mental states is important for recovery and training. This is evident when muscle relaxation is complemented by lowered heart rates and blood pressure, and improved mood states. The term used to refer to the techniques and skills employed to aid an individual’s emotional and psychological state in this way is mental toughness training. Relaxation techniques, meditation, breath exercises, music, relaxation massage and flotation are the most frequently used techniques.
Although passive rest is an important component of recovery practices the time spent during passive rest can be used to include one or more of the above relaxation techniques. Meditation trains the athlete to relax by controlling the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system by reducing noise or stimulation to the brain. By controlling this system the official can lower blood pressure and heart rate, slow down breathing rates, relax muscles and calm the sympathetic (excitatory) nervous system. This technique is useful for controlling stresses during a game, after training or competition, particularly if the official has had to control a very explosive game. Meditation skills take some time and plenty of practice to acquire and they are most readily learned by younger individuals.

Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can be done at the end of training or before going to bed. The technique involves tightening and relaxing specific muscle groups so that the individual identifies the sensations of muscle tension and muscle relaxation in that body part. This results in a reduction in muscle tension and helps to improve body awareness so the individual can recognise muscle tension and focus on reducing it. When this skill is used regularly in training it can lead to significant improvement in training and competitive abilities.

Imagery and visualisation
All individuals have an imagination that can be developed to contribute to their training potential. Imagery relaxation and visualisation involve using the imagination to create a vivid scene. Four senses are used to generate the image – sight, smell, sound and touch. The image created by the individual should evoke feelings of comfort and relaxation.

Breathing exercises are used frequently in the martial arts. Learning breathing techniques and focusing on relaxing tense muscles leads to a more relaxed state. Exhaling while applying static stretches also helps to produce a relaxation response in the body.

REST and flotation
Other psychological techniques revolve around the concept of REST (restricted environment stimulation therapy). Some skills are as simple as closing the eyes to reduce stimulation while other techniques require training (e.g. meditation) or specialised equipment (e.g. flotation). Reducing the amount of stimulation to the brain enables the official to focus more effectively on relaxing and becoming emotionally calm. Flotation tanks provide an environment of minimal stimulation by blocking sight and sound (unless the client relaxes to music or to an affirmation tape) and reproducing weightlessness. It usually takes two or three trials for most individuals to learn how to relax completely, but flotation is remarkably effective in reducing stress and preventing burnout, particularly after or during stressful periods.

Music as an adjunct to training is underutilised. Although it is sometimes used in the gym to provide a motivational atmosphere conducive to hard work, it is equally effective in evoking a relaxation response if the appropriate music is selected. It is useful for individuals to create a bank of music to generate a range of emotions and atmospheres, either stimulating or calming. These can be used in training and, because music playback devices are quite portable, they are an excellent tool for pre and post games and competition, or when you are in an unfamiliar environment and finding it difficult to relax. With practice any individual can learn to manipulate mood states for optimal arousal or relaxation.

Apart from flotation, all of these techniques can be practiced daily without the need for any major specialised equipment or facilities. An ideal time for rehearsing these skills is immediately before going to bed. Learning how to switch off from the day’s events will also promote a good night’s sleep.

Emotional recovery
At key times during the year, such as competitions and tournaments, school or university exams and Christmas, individuals are often excessively stressed. If a game or tournament was very intense, or the official’s performance was below their expectations, they can gain considerable benefits from emotional recovery techniques. Mood lifting activities can include watching an amusing video or comedy show on TV, reading an escapist or adventure novel, or going to a fun park, zoo or light entertainment centre. During periods of extended competitions, such as overseas tours planning these activities as part of the tour is essential.

Courtesy of ICC