Christmas is well appreciated in the Garaway Household. As with many families, its a time for getting everyone together, for over-indulgence and for reflection on the hectic 12 months that we have had in 2017.
My life inside and outside of cricket is pretty full-on so I use this time of year to reflect back on some of the lessons that maybe passed me by at the time. So here is my learning review of the year; I hope there is something in there for you too.
January - Afghanistan’s Amazing Story Continues
Afghanistan confirmed their dominance of ICC Associate Members Cricket with a comprehensive 10 wicket victory in the final of the Desert T20 Challenge versus my old gang, Ireland.
The incredible rise of Cricket in Afghanistan has been all the greater because of impact that conflict and war has had on the country since Afghanistan became an ICC Affiliate Member nation in 2001. Their story was depicted in the splendid documentary “Out of the Ashes” which tells the story of the team's qualification for the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 tournament, their first ever Major ICC Event.
The film gives you a sense of the hurdles and challenges that the administrators, players and cricketing public face on a day to day basis in order to keep Cricket thriving internally and more recently, on an International stage. Afghanistan were awarded Full ICC Test Status on the 22nd June 2017.
Lesson: “Out of the Ashes” demonstrates what can be achieved in the face of challenge or difficulty. I use the film in a motivational way when I am working with organisations and clubs who are struggling to see a potential positive future in the face of dwindling adult player numbers, financial concerns and administrative challenges.
Most local cricket clubs aren’t located within conflict zones nor in countries where political instability is an everyday occurrence. Can the Afghanistan Cricket Board story inspire your club to face up to its challenges and build itself a brighter future?
February - Maynard Magic
In June 2012, Tom Maynard (Surrey and England Lions) lost his life in the most tragic of circumstances. Matthew Maynard and some of his closest friends established the Tom Maynard Trust soon after to support athletes across a number of sports. The Tom Maynard Academy is the cricket coaching element of the magnificent Tom Maynard Trust. Matty leads the coaching team and is ably supported by the incredible Australian International, Ian Harvey, Glamorgan legend, Mark Wallace, ex-England International All Rounder, Jamie Dalrymple and little old me.
Each County has the opportunity to send a player over to the brilliant facilities at Desert Springs and have exposure to 10 days of grass nets, middle practices and match play ahead of their normal pre-season.
Over the years the TMA have worked with players such as Northants Captain Alex Wakely, T20 Cup winner Chris Wood, England opening batter Ben Duckett, Somerset all rounder Lewis Gregory and County Championship winner Jamie Porter (Essex & England Lions).
It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to play a very small part in what is an exceptional coaching team and to be associated with the wonderful Trust.
If you are interested in the work of the Tom Maynard Trust then have a look at the charity's website and click on the video.
Lesson: Matty Maynard and the Tom Maynard Trust have shown how immense hurt and loss can motivate individuals and organisations to do some great things and support a huge number of people along the way.
March: Black Box Thinking
One of the key goals for me this year has been to research the role that failure has had on the worlds greatest athletes, musicians, organisations and entrepreneurs. I sensed that failure had been integral to their subsequent accelerated learning and development yet did not have an understanding telling me “why” this was the case.
Author Matthew Syed believes
“that we have an allergic attitude to failure. We try to avoid it, cover it up and airbrush it out of our lives. Instead we should embrace it and learn from it. That's what Sir James Dyson does, what the Mercedes F1 team does, what Google does, what the aviation industry does”.
James Dyson made 5,127 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before he got it right. Sir James is now worth more than £3 billion.
Cricket is the ultimate game of failure.
Just look at batting as an example. We celebrate success with every 50 runs scored by an individual. But the most successful batter of recent times, Sachin Tendulkar, a man who was labelled a god by many of his supporters, passed 50 in only 33.8% of his Test and ODI Innings. That’s a failure of 66.2%!
And he was amazing!
Lesson: Given that the best in our sport fail so regularly, I felt that I needed to learn more about extracting learning from failure so I could help my players to develop at an accelerated rate.
A wise man once said “Each success is the child of many failures”.
Sachin Tendulkar is a living example of this within the game of cricket. He scored 100 International Centuries and won 2 World Cups by embracing failure and learning from it.
How will you perceive your next failure?
If you are on the hunt for a very late Xmas present then look no further than Matthews book, Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success
April - Rocky Road
The Meyers XI is the most senior XI at Millfield School. Naturally, players take great pride in being selected into the XI and in representing one of the best cricketing schools in the country.
The 2017 Meyers XI were a young side in the main with only three senior players in the squad. The main bulk of the team came from players with two or three years left at Millfield which bodes well for the next couple of years.
The winter training had gone well although the whole coaching team recognised that there were a few characters who like to display their egos and a larger group who lacked maturity.
The challenge that we faced was that none of the professional coaches within the department were going to be working with the team during the summer. Our model at the school had been to deploy our excellent teaching staff to coach the Meyers XI in the short summer term allowing Dan, Matt and myself to work with the Junior teams. It was a model that had worked well in previous years with more senior and experienced Meyers XI players yet something felt different in 2017.
Whilst my U15 Squad were playing some excellent cricket at the U15 Millfield Festival, the Meyers XI travelled North to another festival and lost all three matches. That wasn’t a massive worry to me as our programme is geared around learning rather than winning and it sounded like we needed to bat with greater discipline if we wanted to be more competitive.
The alarm bells began to sound when parents, supporters, England selectors and umpires started to message me with feedback on the way that the players conducted themselves, how the captain spoke to others, how they didn’t sit together as a team when batting and how arrogant they were throughout each day.
I left my U15 Squad in the capable hands of Dan and travelled 300 miles to address the team hoping that this would kickstart a change in attitude and performance.
So a week later, now having lost six games on the trot and collecting further negative feedback along the way, I liaised with the coaches in charge of the team and basically let fly one day!
I told the players exactly what I thought of them, what I wanted Millfield Cricket to stand for, what would happen if they didn’t comply and I didn’t hold back. Not for a second. I have only spoken like that to a team once before in similar circumstances. It has helped turn a season around in 2005 and I hoped that this would do the same.
Fortunately, the penny dropped, the excellent coaches of the team (Chris and Ty) now had a foothold on the behaviours that I expected and everyone understood the consequence for poor behaviour and performance.
The Meyers XI won the remaining eight games left in April and performances picked up significantly.
Lesson: Trust your gut feel and act early!
All of this hassle could have been avoided if I had acted earlier on my “gut feel”. I knew that something wasn’t quite right during the off-season and I should have shifted my position in the coaching set up to take a position working alongside the Meyers XI rather than continue the normal 2-year U14 into U15 cycle.
My remedial management was rigorous and effective yet, in truth, should not have been required if I had stated my expectations more clearly at the outset and also taken a leading role within the Meyers XI coaching team before the season had started.
Our instincts rarely let us down so we should learn to trust them.