Have you ever been promoted to a higher level team, walked in to the dressing room and felt like a stranger among friends?
Being the new kid on the block can intimidate players so much it prevents them from doing well. But a good coach and captain knows how to dodge this and help a new player feel welcome enough to relax.
The 'pub' method
For a lot of teams this could start and end in the club bar. Introduce the new player to the team, have a few drinks and by the big match everyone is the best of mates. It's unstructured, informal and lets our natural social urge take its course.
Except if you want to really get the most from a new player there is more you need to do.
The pub method is a good way to get to know a person in a bar, but this doesn't translate to what you need from them as part of a cricket team.
Anyway, what if you new man doesn't drink?
Even if the new player feels he is with pals when he walks out for his first game, he still may not be sure about his role in the side and until he (or she) does, he can't do his best.
The hand on the shoulder
To really get a head start, the new player needs to have a hand on the shoulder and an explanation of:
- The personality of the team
- His role in the side
Every good team nails these elements down whether they know it or not. Some do it informally and it grows over time, some set it down on paper. You can use either method.
For example, the personality or atmosphere of the team might be enshrined in a team 'manual', written by the players and given to new members as part of the ritual of acceptance (in a similar if less historically charged version of the baggy green and team victory song).
The manual is agreed by the whole team. It includes the team philosophy (playing for fun or performance), goals for the season, team traditions and plain old rules. It's best to avoid clichés about hitting the right areas and giving 110%: The more specific the better.
This has the extra benefit of crystallising a team's thoughts on what the personality is. To let it grow itself could (but not always) lead to the atmosphere going bad.
The second point, the new player's team role, also needs to be clear. There is a big difference, for example, between a bowler's whose job it is to hold up an end and one who has permission to give away more runs in the chase for wickets.
The quicker these things are made clear, the faster the player adapts to his new team. Leaving it to chance is the least effective method, so take some time to welcome a new player in cricketing terms as well as buying him a drink.
How do you welcome new players?
Want to be a better captain? Learn from the best with the interactive online course Cricket Captaincy by Mike Brearley.