If I wanted to bat longer, I had to get better!
There were 2 key takeaways that really resonated with me during my conversation with Neil Burns, former Somerset, Essex, and Leicestershire wicket keeper batsman.
Neil was hugely successful during his career and regarded by many as the best wicket keep batsman not to play for England.
This then relates to the first point, which Neil believes helped him on his way to becoming a professional cricketer, which was playing with 7 of his close friends from his neighbourhood. They would go to the local park, behind Neil’s house and play cricket and other sports for hours and hours. Neil said that if you wanted to bat for longer, then simply you had to get better, there was nothing else he or the others players could do, but to improve. They managed the games themselves and it would lead to arguments, tears, and tantrums, with children trudging off home if they were out and wanted to bat longer. But this ruthless approach is reality, if you’re out, you’re out! If you don’t get a job, that’s it, you try again. For those that make successful careers, they have this outlook, ‘I have to get better, ‘I need to improve’. Others will often look for excuses as to why something hasn’t gone their way, and then do not see the same growth. This win/lose environment was crucial to Neil becoming the player he was, but he also mentioned that his close friends all went on to play high-level sports, not professionally like Neil did. But instead, they forged successful careers in different fields, and whilst Neil couldn’t categorically say that sport had anything to do with their success, there is no doubt in my mind, that it played a big part.
The second point was opportunities. Neil has coached cricket in the townships in South Africa and talks about sport being a universal language. I know I bang this drum a lot, but I’d like you to reflect on your school and whether you feel you provide enough extra-curricular opportunities to the children to experience clubs and playing sport with friends. As Neil pointed out, which I had never thought of previously there is so much for the children to enjoy, and the feeling of scoring a goal, or the clean impact of a ball hitting the bat and flying for 6. This on top of the social and personal skills that can be developed is so important.