The Psychology of Patience in Cricket

How long are you willing to wait for a win?

My theory that long gaps between instances of success can contribute to a greater appreciation of a chosen sport.

I’ve had a lot of experience coaching sport in schools and, as a result, have had the opportunity to study the correlation between an individual’s success and their commitment to their chosen sport. As a teacher in a secondary school you can see improvement of performance over minutes, hours, days, terms and years. The passing of time can be easy for coaches and teachers to be rewarded, but the subjective act of learning can make progress feel like an arduous process for the student.

Committing to learning and enjoying sport relies as much on the consistency of the individual’s training schedule as it does on that individual’s biochemical dopamine delivery system. As with any behavioural pattern, in order for an individual to actively enjoy any kind of recreational activity (to the extent that they wish to repeat it) they need to enjoy what they’re doing. For most people enjoyment of a sporting activity is triggered by a successful instance. This can take many shapes from the mastering of a simple skill during a practice session to a goal scored or a match won. Put simply, as with anything else, humans are seekers of positive experiences: the more they succeed, the more likely they will be to seek further improvement.

Not every sport offers this kind of instant gratification, additionally, not all individuals will react to instances of success in the same way. In order to explore this further, let’s take a practical look at how gaps between instances of successes can serve to improve practice retention and overall performance.

I’ve often struggled to get my own students enthused about cricket and the stop-gaps between instances of successes can be seen as much of an impediment to thier progress as it could be an aid. Although cricket is often seen as dull or (at worst) boring by the uninitiated, the wide range of skills that the sport encompasses can make a training session a veritable gold mine of successful instances for newcomers.

Fielding drills offer numerous opportunities for learners to experience instances of success, especially for those that are new to the sport. The simple act of catching a ball can be enough to trigger a a successful instance, the same endorphin release can be stimulated with throwing drills such as this one below.

Most young people look forward to batting more than anything else, however it can be difficult to sustain a large group’s attention during this kind of training. Unlike fielding, it’s infinitely more difficult for a single coach to demonstrate the skills required for newcomers to learn batting. Equipment is required for each batsmen, as well as enough balls to keep students constantly playing for a stretch of 15 minutes (the optimum time for a student to learn a skill and exercise it in practice).

Cricket is often referred to as a game of patience. At a time where the sport has arguably never been more popular (millions around the world tune into the Indian Premier and twenty20 games in England consistently sell out throughout the Summer season) local club cricket is at an all time lull. Only by carefully managing successful instances can coaches hope to keep students engaged.