2013 – The rigours of touring, time off, and growth as a person

2013 is already in full swing, and planning has started in earnest for the upcoming season. A couple of days ago, I looked through our schedule for the year, and I can tell you that it is bumper to bumper stuff. Not that I’m complaining, in fact, its quite the opposite.

Touring the world, and being able to play against strong opposition is what every cricketer, and Coach, should aspire to. Granted, our schedule is not nearly as hectic as the Proteas for example, but I suppose it is all relative. Touring is as much a part of International cricket, as the brushing of ones teeth, and over the past year, maybe two years, I have heard a lot of players, and Coaches, complaining about touring, schedules, and so forth. For me, its not about the schedule, its more about the time away from home, and the twenty four seven attention on the job. If not addressed properly, a mental burnout could ensue.

These days, a lot of emphasis is placed on the player’s well being, and freshness of mind, when touring schedules come up. If I can use Gary Kirsten and his team for example; when they have time off from the game, it is basically told to the players to go and relax, get your mind off cricket. The old style coach, would be drilling the guys into the ground, if they had lost, or keep practising for the sake of practising. Of course there is a time and a place to be firm with players, but mostly the thought of “less is more” is used to great effect.

So many times I see Dale Steyn in the water catching a few waves, hearing of the boys playing some serious golf against one another as a relaxer, and of course you get the guys that cant wait to go home and have a braai with close friends and family. Some people like fishing, 4×4 driving, hiking, road tripping, swimming, mountain biking, or just simply just like to put up the old feet up. Time enjoyed wasting, is no wasted time at all.

Hiking the Chapmans Peak trail in Hout Bay, Cape Town

Hiking the Chapmans Peak trail in Hout Bay, Cape Town

The point is to get as far away from the game as possible. Each player is different, and therefore use different methods to switch off when away from the game. But what no one really talks about, is the Coaches’ time off. So much emphasis these days is placed onto the players, but no one really talks, or looks after the Coaches. When you think about it, the Coach is always busy planning ahead, and always has to give 110% at each training session, to each and every player. Add this on top of being alert for every game, pressure on performance, coupled with the touring schedule, and one can see that time away from the game is just as important for the Coach, if not more important. The point that I’m trying to make is; Coaches need to invest more time looking after themselves mentally, and therefore remain fresh, and therefore create optimum performance within the team. My sister always told me that the fish always rots from the head down, and it all makes sense once you think about it.

I think it is vitally important, that all Coaches try to be as fit as they can be, which will enable them to sustain the rigours of day to day coaching, month on month touring, and obviously coping with stress. Added to this, first class planning, is also a vital key to success. Rather be over prepared, is my motto. The support structure for the Coach needs to be firmly in place in order for him/her to excel at the highest level. Surrounding yourself with a world class team is essential.

This brings me to my next point: personal well being. I suppose this counts for both players and Coaches, and I cant stress the point enough, that ones personal well being needs to be in tip top shape. I’m sure everyone has heard of Self Confidence, and Self Esteem right? The question that I’m posing is, do we know the difference between the two? The reason for asking is, so many times we mix the two up, and end up making life, and sport, even more difficult than it already is. I will try and explain, what I believe, is the difference between the two…

Self Esteem

This implies to who you are in your relationship with friends, family, and loved ones. It’s who you are at home. It’s your spiritual relationship (if your are so inclined). Its who you are when no one is looking so to speak. It is who you are as a person.

Self Confidence

Is what you do as a person. In a sporting sense, this may refer to how you perform a certain skill, to overcome a certain obstacle, and to be able to perform under pressure. Self-confidence is mostly used to trick yourself, to feel like a world beater when the chips are against you. People with a whole lot of self-confidence, may even come across as over the top boisterous, or just plain arrogant. A perfect example for me would be the USA Olympic track athletes.

Here’s the trick though: Do we know how or when to use these? Can they work together? And can they affect one another, and ultimately yourself?

How many times have I seen that self-confidence, or the lack thereof, affect a persons self esteem. So often, people have used the way they perform on the field, affect who they are off the field. For example: a cricketer has just made it into the “big time” and all of sudden becomes arrogant, selfish, and loses contact with people who were with him/her in the beginning. Too big for the game so to speak. Sound familiar?

Or what about this scenario: A player has been in a slump the whole season, maybe even two, and this seems to affect the way he/she is at home. Relationships take strain, drinking habits occur, and life at home starts to take a downward curve. This is called a negative spiral, and things just seem to go against you no matter what you try.

You see the trick is, no matter what you do ON the field, it really has absolutely nothing to do with who you are OFF the field. At no time should your self-confidence be used to build up your self-esteem. In fact it is exactly the opposite way around. You should use your self-esteem to build up your confidence. Focus on becoming a better person, and I guarantee you that the results will look after themselves. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to train, of course not. All I’m saying is that, a balanced, happy, strong moral valued life off the field, will lead to more self confidence, and therefore give you a better chance in performing the skill. Because no matter what anyone does, or says to you, or what happens to you, has absolutely no bearing on who you really are as a person. That’s the beauty of it.

So how does this all come together with touring, cricket, and time off? Well for me its simple: find balance and happiness off the field, and look to be a better person to your friends, family, and especially your loved ones. After all, that’s who you really are. Be grateful that you have a talent in either playing cricket, or coaching it. Use your self esteem to model the way you play or go about your business on the field, and I’m sure you will see some sort of success down the line. And even if you don’t, it doesn’t change the way you love your wife, or treat your kids.

I trust this all makes a bit of sense. It’s always tricky to stay on track when I start talking about something I feel very passionate about. So basically, in a nutshell, for 2013, lets all strive to be better people, and be open to grow as human beings, and always have a smile on your face. What better way to look forward to your next tour…

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