Guest blog post written by Sports Development Officer, Tom Morton
I take half of my annual leave on a yearly holiday strategically placed in the two-week break between the cricket and rugby seasons, and the other half on midweek matches. My girlfriend knows to never arrange anything on a training night and I dread friends’ weddings being on a Saturday. This might sound old school or even ridiculous to those who don’t like sport but I don’t care because I LOVE winning!
Having been involved in team sports in both playing and coaching capacities for 20 years now, I/we have experienced varying levels of success and seen how team dynamics can differ from one changing room to the next. Frankly, anyone who thinks every successful team doesn’t have feuds or personality clashes is deluded. I doubt Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins are on each other’s Christmas card list after recent articles, but they managed 1st and 2nd in the 2012 Tour de France whilst both representing Team Sky.
In light of the recent Kevin Pietersen book release revealing the unhappy campers within the England cricket dressing room, is this a spiteful response to the premature end of a successful international career, or evidence that not everyone needs to get along within a team to enjoy success? Either way I imagine the English cricket PR team are having a tough few days trying to play this one down.
Through his own profile and certain friends that hold a firm place in the upper echelons of the media world this has sparked many questions around what happens behind the scenes of an international dressing room. In my opinion, having a fully harmonious team off the field is far less powerful than the existence of a common goal on the field. If all individuals are working towards the same target this can paper over the cracks with success which might otherwise burst wide open.
Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist are one of the best bowler/wicket keeper partnerships in cricketing history and it’s widely known that they never saw eye-to-eye, yet they played in the most successful cricket team of all time. From my experience teams which have the best personal relationships often lack the success. Being critically honest with a close peer is difficult; the fear that you might jeopardise something more significant can prevent the performer from pushing a teammate to the next level.
I was once told by a Hampshire cricketer in my club cricket side that we need to balance our friendships better. At the time I thought this comment had no value; we were winning enough matches and having some great nights out, but having not won a title for quite a few years, perhaps I should have paid more attention. Naturally, through ageing, maturation and the demands of family life there is a far better balance now and it is probably no coincidence that we have won five out of six trophies in the last three seasons.
Once a team has established a common goal, it is a coach’s responsibility to instil a level of acknowledgement for this. When players get wrapped up in their own personal game this is often when an individual’s development is halted. I think that once you have passed the ‘beginner’ phase and your own method of performing is more established, you have a far greater chance of continuing that development by acknowledging the common goal. By analysing the state of the game and what the team requires, your own personal performance will slot into place. The really clever performers will realise this early on and enjoy far greater levels of personal success or satisfaction. I’m not going to lie, I’ve played in sides where my own performance has held more importance to me than the outcome of the match but I can’t say I experienced much success with this approach.
So, a message to all those international managers, captains and PR teams who always portray a united front of peace and harmony, we know it’s not true! It doesn’t need to be true, just focus on the common goal and the public will be happy with the outcome.