When was the last time you were inspired into cricket action?
Perhaps, like me, your strongest memory of being inspired is from watching your heroes on TV and running out into the sun to copy their feats in your own small way. We played for hours both in real games and in knockabout matches.
Thing is, you don't have to be a superstar on TV to be inspirational.
Every week across clubs and schools, coaches and senior players are working hard to provide inspiration. They help people come back again, have fun, improve their cricket and bring some positive results.
In fact, for coaches, inspiring others is a key part of the job description. With so many other options, inspiration is your unique selling point.
So, can you inspire?
Anyone can inspire. It's not as difficult as it seems. You just need a little planning and a lot of relentlessly positive hard work. Here's how.
Deliver passionate effort
Superstar players are inspirational because we want to emulate them. We hang off their every word because we hope they can sprinkle some magic upon us too.
But for most people trying to be an inspiration, we don't have the luxury of being an international cricketer with thousands of runs and hundreds of wickets. We need something more.
(And in fact, even the greatest players of all time can only inspire for so long on reputation. Everyone need something more eventually).
That something is unwavering effort in service of others.
People love to be cared about. We all have egos that love the boost. What shows others that you care more than effort?
Of course, this effort must be genuine. People can see through you if you fake it and you can't keep up the facade for long anyway. So, find what drives you and give you energy and do it as much as you can.
Here are a few examples,
- Stay in touch with people with personal conversations, ideally face to face.
- Write session plans and distribute them to the team.
- Be the first at training to set up the drills.
- Offer to work with players one to one if they are struggling on something specific
- Read up on the latest in coaching, teamwork, tactics and technique, and offer summaries to your team.
- Keep the team averages up to date.
- Record your team's matches.
- Video training sessions and analyse performance
- Be the fittest person on the team and tell others how you did it.
- Enjoy talking to people about themselves and get good at listening more than instructing.
The common thread of all these actions is that you are helping others. They are not compulsory, but people will quickly notice how much you care and will be motivated.
If you are lucky they might even work a bit harder too! That's the ideal and it works often.
I mention luck here, because the trouble with inspiration from selfless action is that it is unreliable.
You could do every single thing in the list above and some people will still not be inspired. In fact, they might even be hostile towards your actions.
I had this experience as a coach with a player a while back.
I was new to the team and putting in a huge effort to inspire the guys. I was doing most of the list above. It was leaving me tired every day, but I could see the shoots of inspiration coming through.
Even here, a couple of players were staunchly against my work. One told me he thought it wasn't worth coming to training because I wasn't helping him get any better. In his mind, that is the coaches job and anything that doesn't directly help with this is a waste of time.
In reality, I could not have been doing much more to try to help. What he wanted was impossible to deliver: instant improvement by doing the same things he had always done.
He wasn't really looking for coaching, just someone to blame when he did poorly.
And the fact is, you will always experience moments like this when you try to inspire because people are people, not programmable robots! Some will be enthused and inspired by what you do, while others will reject any efforts; no matter what.
The real skill here is to keep working to inspire as much as you can, while accepting that it doesn't always work. That is the balance of a cricket life in service.
Eventually, most people will learn to trust you because they see they have your best interests at heart.
Keep that in your mind and you will never lose the motivation and energy to inspire.
Humility is strength
Tied to this is the ability to stay humble because, despite what your ego tells you, people love a bit of humility.
And they can't stand egomaniacs!
You could strut around pretending you are the best ever and telling everyone what to do because you are never wrong. That only works if you are really never wrong. The moment you are wrong you lose trust, inspiration and probably friends.
It's far better - and far more difficult - to admit your errors. It's far better - and far more difficult - to say that you don't know everything. It's far better - and far more difficult - to open up and ask for help.
This humility is what truly inspirational people practice all the time.
It makes you seem human. It shows that you are open to learning new things. It builds trust in others that you can speak openly and honestly because it is the hard thing to do.
It's tough because we all have a part of our mind that does not want to admit weakness and failure. We want to be the best we can be and falling short of that is hard to accept.
Get over that hump and it's easy. Try some of the following:
- Ask questions rather than tell people what to do.
- Admit when you made a mistake ask people how to do it differently next time.
- Ask others what they think you could do to help them more
- Tell others when they are better at something than you. Ask for advice on how you can improve your skills.
- Make time to do jobs that your ego might consider "beneath" you; like cleaning up the changing rooms or selling raffle tickets to boost the club's profits.
- Make it clear you are always looking to improve and never satisfied with where you are.
These are practical components of a simple philosophy: Stay humble.
The tough part is to get past your own reluctance. There will be moments you fail in this. But with the right attitude and enough simple actions, you will get there.
There are few things more inspirational than humility.
Combine this with passion and hard work and you have a simple - but not easy - formula for inspiring people into cricket. In the long run, it's really not about your feats on the field, but about these simple ways to create a team spirit that keeps people self-motivated.
Have fun, stay motivated and keep inspiring!