Match preparation - conducting a pre-mortem

Came across this expression yesterday thanks to Northchurch Cricket Club 1st team captain Tom Vila in an excellent players meeting last night in preparation for the upcoming season.

We've called it inoculation in the past, but it's around the idea that prior to a season or a match you conduct an inventory of what could go wrong and develop strategies to combat them when they do.

When they do.

Because things will go wrong

No match or season ever goes, 'good, very good, great, shake hands.'  There are ups, downs, mishaps, mistakes and just plain bad luck.  That's the nature of competition, that's what we've signed up for!

As I prepare for my own match today I know that:

  • my opponent could play lights out tennis
  • he may hit a let-cord winner on a key point
  • I may break a string on a key point
  • he may make a mistake or two on line calls and he may well accuse me of the same!
  • the lighting may be poor and the balls not to my liking
  • my match may be delayed for some-time
  • I may pick up a niggle/injury 
  • I may struggle for timing/form or start badly
  • I may lose a set from a winning position
  • I may find myself getting really nervous/chocking and slow on my feet
The list goes on.

Of course, my strategies to cope with these possible scenarios are mainly mental and geared fundamentally to my self-talk.  Remember how important your self-talk is, primarily because you are listening!

Key phrases I'll be using:

  • "It's ok I can handle it'
  • Hang in there and wait for your moment
  • Who's doing what to who?  How and why are points being won and lost?
  • Slow down, relax, breathe
  • It's ok - I knew that could happen.  This is competition.
  • I can turn this around, keep working.
  • Ok, accept this and move on
  • Use what you've today - stay competitive
  • C'mon; expect good things to happen
Conducting a pre-mortem sounds a little negative I know.  The argument is that we should be staying positive and looking for good things to happen.  I agree, but conducting a pre-mortem should be an integral part of great preparation and being 'real', understanding the nature of competition and the challenges it will present.

The flip side of the coin of course is being intentional about what you would like to happen, visualising success, having a clear plan and processes to follow.