Filling the void

‘It’s good to talk’ and to connect with others. In the second episode of our new Blog Patrick Latham looks at how his decisions professionally were a leap in the dark, were also a source of angst, concern and worry. He now reflects on those and everything he had taken as his norm was replaced and how he managed to come out the other side with a book in one hand and a pencil in the other.

Any change in a career brings a degree of uncertainty and challenge. For a professional team player, leaving behind the changing room will inevitably be a wrench and will be unsettling. I was never in a full time in a professional changing room, but I definitely understand what a sportsman or woman leaves behind when that atmosphere, those friendships, those well-earned drinks after a narrow victory, that togetherness, your support network and, above all, your normal are gone.

At the time of retirement, whether forced or at a natural end, the opportunities will present themselves, and a new life will begin to grow in whatever career path you choose to take. These opportunities may seem obscure and random, far removed from what you ever thought you might end up doing, but give them a chance and never pass up an opportunity. Sportsmen and women are far better prepared these days for the transition into a life after sport but all the preparation in the world will not get you ready for a life without the changing room, so what can you do to create a new one?

In my case, my professional ‘changing room’ was the department, friends and colleagues in the school staff room I left behind in a move away from teaching and my role as director of sport. I left the position to pursue a career as a self-employed graphic designer, setting up as a sole trader but also taking on a cricket and hockey coach role in a different school. I have been fortunate to make something of combining two of my passions: design and sport. However, I very quickly became aware of the difference in time I was spending with people. Having come from a busy school where as a department we solved problems, put in place exciting and stimulating programmes for the students, but mainly we talked. It is the regular interaction and the talking which quite quickly started to have a negative effect on my demeanour. I would wake up have breakfast, head to my home based studio with a coffee and then be on my own until lunchtime. The vast majority of interaction with customers was via email, so I could go hours without realising I had not spoken. After lunch, I would arrive at the school pitches for games, deliver the session to a group of young hockey players or cricketers and then return home often without interacting significantly with an adult. I imagine that the realisation of solitude I had is a similar feeling that many sportsmen and women feel as they leave their changing room behind. The feeling of loneliness and isolation, amplified by thoughts of missing the environment that was their normal and of such vast significance in their everyday lives. It became easy to see why sports men and women often suffer from mental health problems after retirement. The support network that was there, the safe environment, your changing room, is now missing. So how can we go about replacing it?

Your changing room was probably a unique collection of individuals in which you had some good friends, some with whom you got on and probably some who you made sure changed at the other end of the room. These, though, were the ingredients for the environment you are now missing terribly. It is unlikely you will ever recreate or rebuild a similar place with all those characters, feelings, emotions and good times but several aspects of your life in your changing room can live on giving you comfort in familiar ways of life.

In writing our ‘A Leading Edge’ books, I have had my eyes opened to how positively stimulating, challenging and refreshing it can be to actively get out and meet new people, and the ways in which these meetings have come about have been fairly easy to organise. I definitely fell into a daily routine of one-paced and introvert tasks in the day-to-day running of my business. It was having a seriously negative effect on my outlook and enjoyment of life in general. I do not think I became depressed because of the lack of interaction with other adults, but I was certainly not very happy, motivated or stimulated in the work choices I had made after leaving full time teaching, so the opportunity to work with Wesley Durston came at a very good time.

We wrote our first book A Leading Edge for Captains, together but separately, each taking a chapter, going away, researching and writing. Our regular meetings in the ‘office’ (a very comfortable Oakham coffee shop) turned out to be a huge help for me in feeling a lot more positive about life and I began to feel that I was starting to contribute to society again in some small way. Since publishing the book, we have used social media and social networking to make positive connections. We have set up meetings, skype calls and phone calls with influential people to discuss ways in which we might be able to get our first book and the second book in the series ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’, seen by a larger number of young people.

One of the most positive opportunities came at a local business group meeting in a local hotel, where we had a stimulating discussion with local successful businessmen and women about ways in which we might consider approaching the marketing of our books. Seeing the massive benefits of getting around a table with a group of positive thinking and encouraging people, not just to our product but also to our own mental health and wellbeing, Wesley and I are definitely going to get more involved in the group.

The process of writing the books has demonstrated to me that the positive use of networking sites, such as LinkedIn, can be fantastic tools in getting connected to some amazing people in influential positions who, invariably, if asked politely are very willing to help. Since leaving my director of sport position, I had lost the understanding of the importance of connections and knowing people who know people. I am starting to build up a larger support network again, missing for so long.

The importance of getting around a table for a coffee and bouncing ideas off each other was something that I was used to, but had fallen out of love with. That part of my ‘changing room’ I am very pleased to have put back in place, and the rewards in terms of the positive effect on my mental health have been amazing to experience.

It would appear that it can be quite easy after a successful life in professional sport to fall into a less challenging and rewarding lifestyle which can have a huge negative impact on your mental health and general enjoyment of life. The loss of the environment of the changing room and all that went with it can be crippling and if allowed to take over your thoughts can push you into a downward spiral. By challenging yourself with a project, getting out, meeting new people, and being open to new ideas and thoughts you can recreate parts of what you found so comforting and familiar. As someone who participated in a professional environment, you will have a wealth of experience, knowledge and stories that people will want to hear about. Your personal story, struggles or overcoming hurdles such as injury, setback, success and failure are pieces of information that people want to hear about. Children love to see a sportsman or woman in person and, like sponges, absorb your stories and hang off your every word. They love to be in the presence of athletes, to have the opportunity to be coached by you and to play your sport with you. These experiences for children can inspire, change lives and make a real difference. There are a number of excellent charities and organisations who are crying out for athletes with a story to tell, who can inspire young people with their experiences, talking to them about their journey.

The good news is that as well as being very achievable, connecting with new people will give you a new support network, meeting them and sitting down to talk is good for developing your own ideas and allowing you to explore your own thoughts on projects that other people are undertaking. A lot of what you will be missing from your old changing room experience. You will undoubtedly have acquired a vast range of skills and ideas throughout your sporting career and in getting together with people you will give yourself that chance to find that you are perfectly placed and in the extraordinarily privileged position to contribute significantly in helping others, inspire them, changing their lives for the better. Nothing can be more rewarding than that.

PL

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is now available as eBook and paperback on Amazon.co.uk. Please click here to visit the shop

The Twelve Bowlers of Christmas – Answers!

In the run up to Christmas, we ran a just for fun quiz called The 12 Bowlers of Christmas in which Santa impersonated twelve of the more identifyable bowling actions of some of the worlds leading bowlers of current and past cricketing history… Here they are our 12 Bowlers of Christmas:


Top Row: Jasprit Bumrah, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Merv Hughes, Mushtaq Ahmed, The Great Thomo!!
Bottom Row: Jimmy Anderson, Daniel Vettori, Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Graeme Swann & Mitchell Johnson.

Thank you all very much for joining in and sharing our fun Christmas Quiz on our various social media platforms: Twitter – @aleadingedge1 and Facebook @aleadingedge We hope you enjoyed getting involved as much as we enjoyed reading some of the more interesting answers!

It was interesting that Merv Hughes has a few doplegangers.. Chris Woakes has a similar action.. Ronnie Irani popped up in there as well.. Dermot Reeve even got a mention, but personally I don’t see it!

Now, looking ahead to Easter, we are going with another just for fun quiz, but this time it will be the Easter Bunny doing the work, and he will be impersonating batters. Glenn Maxwell is apparently quite good at taking off Steven Smith and a few others, so we are going to get the Easter Bunny to work, but we need to decide whether he will be impersonating Tailenders or the Top Order… Let us know which you would prefer to see!!

PL

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is available on Amazon.

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ is coming soon…

When the sporting challenge is over, where is your next challenge coming from?

Wesley Durston, former Somerset and Derbyshire cricketer looks at how he has continued to find rewarding challenges after his retirement from first class cricket in 2016. Athletes considering their future career and planning for a positive and successful transition to a life after sport is a hot topic. Professional sport is a short career, and there will be a lot of life to fill positively afterwards. Here is one example of how a professional cricketer found equal measure of challenge, fulfilment, reward and enjoyment in something very removed from anything he ever thought he would get into.. 

At the start of each year, I always think back to the previous twelve months before looking forward to the next twelve. I think back on the things that have occurred and how they have shaped me. Very often it is experiences shared with friends and family that are towards the top of the list along with days out or places visited, new Parkrun locations ticked off my list and nice meals enjoyed on holiday. But allied with those lovely things there are decisions made that can often be amongst some of the more rewarding experiences. That couldn’t be more true than in 2018 and a chance happening that occurred in February shared with my good friend and now my fellow author Patrick Latham. ‘Let’s write a book’, he said…. so we did!

I can honestly say that I’ve never ever considered or dreamt of writing a book, but less than a year on from the concept of the original book ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ we are in the process of writing our second book together. It’s both crazy and exciting in equal parts. In my formative years reading a book was a fairly major event for me so to think that my name is on a book as a co-author is still astounding every time I see it.

Nothing about the experience was easy, but then I suppose if it were everybody would do it and it would not be as much fun to do so. In so much of my professional cricketing life, decisions I made were semi-conscious in that playing and coaching sport are quite natural to me. I see something I make decisions based on what I see and act accordingly; this experience has required a lot more thinking and decision making, which is less natural. I’ve learnt and am still learning to wear three new hats as what I’m now known (certainly in the world of books) as an ‘Indie’ author. An Indie or Independent simply put is someone who writes for both business and pleasure, from concept to publication. The three hats I mentioned are a writing hat, a creative hat and a business hat. Patrick and I have made the decisions on everything that has gone into our first book, we’ve written it all ourselves, we created the layout and design of the book and now we are doing the marketing and business side of ‘A Leading Edge.’

We don’t think that for a minute every decision we’ve made so far regarding the book is the best one, it is definitely a learning process, but we made the best decisions at that time for us and for the readers. What we do know is that we are now better informed off the back of some of those decisions to act accordingly next time. It’s very exciting to say that knowing that we intend to have two more books released this year. We aren’t just going to sit back and rest, we are continuing to push through with ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ whilst planning, writing and publishing book two ‘A Leading Edge for Bowlers’ followed by book three ‘A Leading Edge for Batters’ (Both are working titles at this stage.)

We are still a little while away from announcing a release date for book number two (A Leading Edge for Bowlers) but we hope that it’ll be somewhere near Easter and the start of the cricket season. We can, however, announce and are very excited to be able to say this weekly blog feature will be continuing into 2019, also ‘A Leading Edge for Captains’ will be released and available onto iBooks very shortly, which is very pleasing.

As my professional cricket career drew to an end, the thought of what next, how to continue to challenge myself, and at the same time get a sense of achievement and fulfilment from whatever I did was definitely on my mind. As a professional sportsman or woman, you pick up a huge number of diverse skills and qualities that you probably never even know about until you test yourself, take yourself out of your comfort zone and give new things a try. I have certainly done this with writing the first book and I am very much looking forward to continuing to build and develop the skills I never really knew I had as a result of trying something new.

I hope that in a year’s time I’ll be looking back on 2019 with two new shiny publications, of decisions well-made and another exciting growth year for A Leading Edge.

WD

‘Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains’ is available on Kindle and paperback version via Amazon.co.uk
Alternatively, buy direct from our website:  www.aleadingedge.co.uk
You can also link to us on social media via  Facebook: @leadingedge and Twitter: @aleadingedge1 .

 

Keep it Simple!


It’s a common problem, and one which, if left unchecked can lead to a dip in form or at the extreme, a player dropping out of the game completely.

The more cricket the better right? School, Club, District, County… possibly Regional or even National level too! Oh, and don’t forget mum, dad or another family member who is always willing to throw balls ad offer a bit of advice. It’s fantastic for a young person to play so much cricket with lots of different people at a range of standards. Isn’t it?

We sometimes come across young players who fit this category. Plenty talent, bags of potential, a love of the game, but all of a sudden that enjoyment fades. The fun stops, the runs or wickets dry up and the player starts to go backwards and the brain starts to fry. But they are getting coaching at school. Their club coach is so keen and loves to offer plenty advice at training. The county coach is an ex-first class player and knows his stuff. There has even been an outside chance of an England U15 place, so the enthusiastic father has paid for personal weekly one-to-one coaching with a Level 3 coach to give the best chance of getting in. So why has the player stopped scoring runs? Why has she seemed less fussed about playing and training? Aside from the tiredness from all the travelling to and from different coaching sessions, the messages received from all these coaches often conflicts, and causes such a muddle in the players mind that they completely forget what works for them and what they used to do that allowed them to score runs and take wickets.

If you are a player with potential, you will undoubtedly find the coaches start sniffing around, looking to offer you their advice. So how do you decide which is the best advice to take? Because after all, the chances of every coach you come across telling you the same thing is highly unlikely!

The best advice I was given was, ‘to listen to all advice no mater who from, accept it gracefully and say thank you’. Depending on your ability, you will have either come across that advice in the past or it will be new to you. It will either be complete nonsense, make complete sense or it will trigger a little spark of curiosity in your mind. If you find the spark is ignited and you are interested in investigating the advice, try it out in a net or with a few throw downs. Even better talk to the person who offered you the advice. Ask them questions about it. Think about what you are trying to do and make a decision whether this advice might work for you or not.

A net situation is perfect for trying out small adjustments to your technique, and you don’t really need a coach to experiment! With the ball, it might be gripping a little tighter, or more loosely; moving your fingers together slightly, or moving the ball so there is slightly more pressure exerted on the ball by one finger than the other. Angle the seam a little more or less.
With the bat, you might adjust your grip slightly, up or down the handle, move the top hand round the bat a little bit more and see what it does to the path your bat takes through the ball on playing your shot. Lift the bat higher, start with it on the ground on your foot or in a different position on the ground relative to your feet. Try things out. You never know when you might hit on some tiny change that really works for you.

The problem will come, though, where you have two or three coaches, all who are insisting that you try something different and each piece of advice conflicts with the other. It is in this situation that players get set back, ruined or in the worst case scenario finished. The further through the levels a player moves the coaches need to ensure that they communicate with each other, ensure that all are following the best interests of the individual and are being led by one entity. It is important that if you are the player, you are honest at the first sign of conflict between coaches and let them know there is a difference in the message. The coaches should then communicate and decide on the best way forward for the player that will then become a united effort, ensuring the coaches are all saying the same things to the player.

In terms of the best advice that comes from coaches, and you will find players at the very top saying the same thing, keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things with novelty gimmicks, or coaching tips for coaching’s sake. Batters, stand still and watch the ball. Bowlers, bowl the ball with a strong wrist and fingers behind the ball, and get your body working and moving down a straight line towards the target. If your personal motto becomes ‘keep it simple’, you won’t find yourself far wrong. When it all starts getting complicated with advice from here, there and everywhere and the numerous coaches (who ultimately only want to help you) are scrambling your brain, the good news is that you have an identifiable starting point to go back to where you will be able to recognise yourself and what you were trying to do.

PL

Did you enjoy this article? If you would like to read more about cricket from A Leading Edge, our first book, A Leading Edge for Captains is out now in paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

New Partnership with Tom Flowers Cricket Coaching

We have great pleasure in announcing a fantastic new partnership with local cricket coaching organisation, Tom Flowers Cricket Coaching.

Tom Flowers and his team run cricket camps and coaching clinics in clubs and schools as well as specialist one to one coaching in the East Midlands. From beginners to advanced player’s Tom Flowers Cricket Coaching deliver a personal and bespoke service designed to meet the needs of clubs, individuals, corporates and schools. Tom is passionate about enhancing the development of local cricket and works with some of the areas most promising players heading for County/Representative/Pathway/District & Top level club cricket.

Tom Flowers Cricket Coaching is currently taking bookings for Christmas coaching courses as well as Half term and Easter clinics. Don’t miss out, visit the web site today and book your place!

www.tomflowerscricketcoaching.com

PL

When Do We Learn ‘The Game’?

As young people and new players to the game, we are taught the basic skills to allow them to play the game in it’s simplest form. We coach batting technique and shots, bowling skills and fielding skills (& positions if we are lucky!). We also get to learn some of the laws of the game, and some of the basic principles – one team bats and the other team fields. The bowler bowls to try and take wickets, while the batters try to score runs.. etc..

Who then teaches the game itself, and in particular, the finer and more subtle parts of the game? It is one of the main reasons we wrote this book, to solve a problem that we as coaches and school masters identify in the youth cricket that we see on a regular basis. Sometimes the young captain might go out into the field armed with a piece of paper in his or her pocket with a list of bowling changes on it, other times the coach/umpire will take on the role of captain the game for the young player. This will involve giving the team talk, organising the bowlers, setting the field, encouraging the players to move around the field and then setting the batting order. A deeper understanding of the game is something that a few young (and old) players are fortunate to have.

Where can they get their greater understanding from? For me, I learned from a young age, by osmosis. I am from a cricketing family, and the summer timetable was focussed around the events of the village cricket club. If dad wasn’t playing in a match, he was playing with me in the yard, in the nets, hitting catches and, probably most importantly of all, watching with me on tv and talking with me about the game. Being around the men as a young boy and taking an interest in the game gave me the opportunity to see how the game was played. Hearing the stories in the bar after the game when I was a bit older, hearing players talking about the game, using salt and pepper pots, torn up beer mats and ketchup bottles to map out fields and game situations to help explain the game are particularly vivid memories from my childhood. I fear this doesn’t happen as much as to used to. Alternatively, maybe I was just  one of the very lucky ones and it never really happened that much at all in the past either.

Our new book, A Leading Edge for Captains looks to fill that gap in general coaching. It raises questions and promotes a greater thinking about the game of cricket. Our hope as authors is that the reader will not only gain a wider understanding of the game, but possibly even have more questions as a result of reading it. Those questons, we hope, will promote more discussion around games of cricket in the pavilion or the changing rooms.

Included in the pages are fantastic contributions from some of the wonderful characters we have been fortunate to play with and against as well as current and past county and first class players from around the world. Their insight into the game is invaluable for players young and old, experienced and novice.

We are very much looking forward to our upcoming first public event, the late night shopping in Oakham on Monday 10th December. If you are attending, you can find us in the Victoria Hall where we will be signing copies of the book  will make great stocking fillers for any cricket lover. Whether you are looking for a book for a young cricketer starting out or developing a greater understanding of the game, or if you are looking for a great gift for a hard to buy for cricket mum or dad, this book is perfect for you and should be on your Christmas shopping list!

PL

Jonny Bairstow: Celebrations

Since Jonny Bairstow injured himself in a pre match warm up, the result of which saw him sit out the 3rd ODI, T20 and first two test matches in Sri Lanka, he will have been agonising over his decision that day to participate in the fun pre-game football kickabout.

Football plays a big part in England’s warm up sessions, and the current players seem to get rather competitive in these games. They feel it goes beyond a warm up and is a fruitful source of ‘in jokes’, so important in the building of the team in the dressing room. To date, injuries sustained in pre match football which have prevented players from participating in matches have been rare. The ligament damage Bairstow sustained on this occasion set in motion a sequence of events that otherwise may have ended a career at the very moment it was looking likely to continue taking off on its staggering upward trajectory.

In the 3rd Test in Colombo, Jonny Bairstow scored his 6th Test hundred and celebrated in an interesting way. Interesting, in that his celebration was commented on in a host of different ways on radio, tv, and on social media. Was he angry, relieved, emotional, joyous or petulant? One journalist even used ‘gurning’ as a way of describing his facial expression after sweeping that single to bring up his remarkable hundred. So why the reaction that we saw on this occasion?

Consider the player. After the summer, his career was heading in a very positive direction. He had secured the role of England first choice wicket keeper and as one of the top ten batsmen in the world. His future was looking rosy, even though a number of exciting new understudy players had been included in this test squad. Then an injury sustained in an ODI warm up put him out of contention and opened the door for a young player to have an unscheduled opportunity. Very quickly, from being sure of his future in the side, a debut hundred from ‘keeper/batsman Ben Foakes and an impressive performance behind the stumps meant that literally overnight all attention had turned to the replacement Foakes as the exciting future behind the English stumps and in the middle order. A direct replacement for Bairstow, and he can play! How quickly fortunes change!

The injury Bairstow sustained might have been bad enough to keep him out of the game for months, but intensely hard work and access to the best rehabilitation meant that after just two test matches he was fit enough to be in contention for the third test match in Colombo. Over the course of the first two test matches, Bairstow had no choice but to sit and watch, helpless, as Foakes took his opportunities and impressed everyone. It is a ruthless cut-throat game at the top level, and Bairstow was now facing the reality that his career as England wicket keeper could possibly be being taken away from him right in front of his eyes. Fortunately, there has been a spot at number 3 going in the England test side. In this test, with injury to Sam Curran offering the fit again Bairstow the chance to come back into the side, he took his opportunity under great pressure, to score a magnificent hundred batting at 3.

Take into account the recent tragic loss of two of Bairstow’s friends, the relief that he had proven to himself, his teammates, the media and the wider cricketing public that England had just solved the long-running problem of a number 3. Throw in that he had just restarted his own career in a brand new role in the team. Undoubtedly, as Bairstow looked to the skies and let that roar of pure emotion pour out of him, his father and friends will have come firmly to mind. Under that pressure, after all that rehabilitation work, all that uncertainty over his future in the side, the scrutiny by the media over his ‘avoidable’ injury, the intense relief at proving himself, it is hardly surprising that the reaction we saw was as intense as it was. 

Dealing with batting for hours in the searing heat of Colombo, it showed someone who cares deeply, someone who had fought his demons, someone who was responsible for single-handedly rescuing his own career. Bairstow has, in a very short period of time, managed to alter his mindset at the highest possible level from ‘keeper/batsman to number 3 batsman. What a feat that is. Just how much mental and physical strength the last few weeks must have taken out of Bairstow we can only imagine. Well, actually, we can imagine – his celebration showed it all. Good on him.

A Leading Edge for Captains is now available from Amazon

Decisions Decisions #YouDecide

So there we have it, a week of captaincy decisions on A Leading Edge. We very much hope that you enjoyed thinking about what you might have done in these situations and come up with some solutions!

The aim of A Leading Edge is to encourage thinking about the game, to see a problem and to think about the different potential solutions for that problem. When you have the solutions, you can start thinking about the potential aftereffects of altering your plan and therefore weigh up the best decision to make.

Thank you very much for your comments and involvement in this week’s decision making. We are looking forward to studying the results over the coming week and it will be interesting to see what the decisions you made were.

If you would like to get involved, the posts are all still available on Twitter: @aleadingedge1, so please do have a look and make your decision!  The individual #YouDecide graphics are shown below.. Good luck!

We are putting our heads together to come up with the next initiative in interactive weeks of cricket captaincy! Watch this space!

A Week of Cricketing Decisions Ahead!

We thought it would be a good idea to put out a few cricketing scenarios and give you the opportunity to see what you might chose to do as captain. Throughout next week, from Monday 22nd October, we will be posing two scenarios a day on our Twitter page (@ALeadingEdge1). We will be asking you to make your decision on the best option in your opinion by either ‘sharing’ or liking the post to show which way you would chose to go as captain.

If you don’t already, follow us on Twitter at @AleadingEdge1  and join in the fun! There will be ten scenarios over the course of the week, two a day at 5:30pm and 9:30pm, with the first one coming up on Monday 22nd October.

Good luck!!

 #YouDecide

Announcement of Foreword Author – Caroline Atkins

Caroline Atkins

We are delighted to announce that former England cricketer Caroline Atkins has kindly agreed to write the foreword to A Leading Edge for Captains.

Caroline was part of the generation of England cricketers who did an enormous amount of work in developing the female sport and put the foundations in place for the growing success it has become today.

Caroline was a member of the successful England touring side who retained the Ashes in Australia in 2008. In the same year, Caroline broke a world record in scoring the highest ever women’s ODI partnership for any wicket of 268 with Sarah Taylor at Lord’s, contributing 145 runs. In the following year, Caroline was a member of the World Cup and the T20 World Championship winning England sides.

Caroline is currently employed by The Cricket Foundation as a Chance to Shine ambassador and coach.

We would like to thank Caroline for her time and encouragement in contributing to our book, and hope that you find her words as insightful and inspirational as we do.

Follow Caroline Atkins on Twitter: @cazatkins13