Winning is important but for most cricketers it's not the only thing, and that's a problem.
Other factors can easily take over and define you far more than the quest for victory: Jobs, family, escapism from the daily grind. That means you can be unfocused and inconsistent as a team.
It's also frustrating for those players where cricket is far and away the main priority in life. They cannot understand why anyone would want to do anything but train, play and win every game.
These external factors don't have to command the side. With some simple changes to your approach, you can account for everything and still get the best chance of a win.
Find your culture
Every team has a unique culture: The way we act when we are with the team. It's different from work, home or even other sports teams.
It's also vital to know what it is, because when you have a positive culture, it gives you focus.
Most players are vaguely aware of how to act around their team mates. But without clearly defining your culture, you risk drifting into cultural norms that don't give you the best chance of success.
Of course, you don't want to overdo this.
The last thing you want on a weekend is to have to go through another round of buzz word bingo just to have a hit. Keep it simple, natural and realistic. Make it ring true.
The best way to do this is to get together as a team and agree on some parts of your team culture that are both aspirational and realistic. Avoid laying down the law from above and make it a mutually agreed document of the best culture you can acheive.
- Ask what it means to be a player in your team: Why do you do it? What brings you back week after week when there are so many other things to do?
- Ask what a successful player in your team does and how they do it. How self-sufficient are they? How much do they practice? What is their attitude on and off the field? How do we have difficult conversations? How supportive are we compared to how much "banter" we have?
By answering these questions you find out what's important to everyone in the team.
Build a code
From here you know what you want to acheive. Lock the culture in stone by having a "code of conduct" everyone can agree to.
This code is not a series of rules from on high. It is a mutually agreed way of behaving. It is the team culture written down. It summarises the true culture of the team so when a new player joins they immediately know what to expect.
The code at the club I coach, for example, is just five words: Strive, Respect, Enjoy, Commit and Inspire.
Each of these words has a deeper meaning to every person in the cricket club. Striving means working hard to be the best cricketer and person you can be. Enjoying means always focusing on the fun aspects of playing together, even when results are not perfect. You get the idea: It's a philosophy.
This code makes people accountable. You can't hide behind "banter" if you are being nasty about a team-mate because you are no longer showing respect. You can't dodge training every week and make excuses about being busy because you are no longer showing commitment.
But it's also not about catching people out.
That's one of the hardest parts of a written code of conduct.
Your code is agreed by everyone (if it isn't, it's not in the code) and if most people are not sticking to it, then it's not really part of the culture. You need to update the code to make it more realistic. Remember, while to code is supposed to show you at your best, it also has to be a real reflection of your existing team culture.
Get to the root
I'm sure agree an agreed code of conduct is not difficult to put into place, but will step up your team's performance (whatever that means in your unique case).
Formalising the culture in writing is a relief. It allows players to have a life away from cricket. It understands that there is a range of reasons to play from escapism, to feeling part of a team, to winning at all costs. It accounts for these and gives you a touch stone to know what everyone expects of each other.
Your cricket is a lot more fun and successful for everyone when that happens.