It doesn’t matter what sort of cricket you play: Clubs the world over face the same problems and are looking for solutions.
Take Watsonian; the PitchVision Academy adopted club. The side are the top of the league cricket tree. They have aspiring professionals and play at well maintained grounds. Yet when I visited the club I discovered that they have as many problems to handle as anyone else.
The difference is that good clubs don’t let the frustration get the better of them. Here are 5 ways Watsonian are taking positive steps to deal with problems both on and off the field:
1. It rains
As I arrived in Edinburgh early on Thursday evening it started to rain. I cursed the weather because I was due to watch senior training in less than 2 hours. What I didn’t know was that a little rain was not going to stop things.
I stood under the trees at Myreside - home ground of Watsonian and local public school George Watson’s College – and saw 16 players arrive from their day jobs and kick a football around for an hour in the steady drizzle.
The old vs. young game was as competitive as any serious match.
'Sonians make the most of a rained-off practice session
Wet and satisfied with the workout they retired to the bar.
The team ethic was already becoming clear. These boys turn out in their numbers even when there is no chance of a ball being bowled.
2. A few people do all the work
Talking to the players in the bar after training, one name kept popping up. I had met the lively President, Ross Brooks, earlier that day carrying bagfuls of training clothes.
It soon became apparent that it wasn’t unusual: He was always doing something for the club and players were quick to recognise this. The sentence of the weekend seemed to be “I don’t know how he finds the time”.
All clubs needs men with boundless energy to give everything they can. Most club players don’t do much in the running of the club and it falls to those with a deep passion for giving more than they ever get back. Men like Ross.
I know your club has at least one too, so be sure and take the time to thank them.
3. Personalities clash within a team
It’s hard for an outsider to get a feel for the dynamic of a team, but when you have 11 players there is bound to be friction.
Despite the overall strong atmosphere, I did see up close how two players rubbed each other up the wrong way.
It was senior player and a youngster: both are highly ambitious. The senior player clearly expected certain things that the younger man felt didn’t match his goals. I saw the tension in a few guarded comments and thought how I have seen these types of exchanges in every club I have ever played and watched.
This is where a good captain is able to manage such relationships. It’s a difficult task for players who are unpaid and see each just a couple of times a week. It means the skipper needs to understand people to an even deeper level and work out subtle ways of dealing with the tension before it starts to influence player’s performances.
4. Its not easy relying on others
Like every club, Watsonians are not self-contained. They rely on others to help them get 3 teams out every Saturday and it can sometimes be frustrating.
In the ‘Sonians case, there is a very close tie in to George Watson’s College. The school owns and maintains the Myreside ground; talented schoolboys play club cricket for Watsonians. Yet each organisation has its own cricketing plans.
Ross Brooks told me he works especially hard at keeping the relationship good. It’s an organisational “marriage” in many ways and requires skilful handling.
I’ve played in clubs where relationships have been handled awfully by intractable administrator; relationships end up sour and the club causes greater problems.
What stands out about the Watsonian reaction is the positive frame. Of course people complain (its human nature) but Ross deals with it by trying hard to find solutions that work for both sides.
5. Gentlemen vs. Players
Watsonians have players at extremes of the club cricket scale. On one hand there are the serious guys: young players looking for ways to get a professional contract, club professionals and former higher level players still wanting to perform at club level. On the other, there are guys who are in it as much for the banter and post match drink as they are for the runs and wickets.
It’s the modern version of the old “Gentlemen and Players” attitude to cricket.
I know from experience this happens at every club. You need both because games wouldn’t be much fun without the mickey-taking just as much as they wouldn’t be any good without consistent performers winning games.
Problems occur when the two sides start looking at each other and deciding the other approach is wrong.
At Watsonian there is a healthy respect within the two groups. The Gentlemen know where to draw the line (mostly) and when to put the game face on. The Players are up for a laugh when the time is right. It’s not easy to strike this balance, but in my view it’s where every club should strive to be.
Again it’s the captain who holds the key. At Watsonian Craig Wright garners tremendous respect through his experience. He uses it to focus the Players and reign in the Gentlemen in perfect balance.
This is why a strong captain is so important to any club side with ambitions.
We will look in more detail at how Watsonian CC do things in future articles. If you want to learn lessons for your club, get the PitchVision Academy newsletter.