By Ryan Cook
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise, seek what they sought” – Matsuo Basho
The 17th century Japanese poet’s words reverberate in my head, as I watch a group of up and coming professional cricketers interact with some of the world’s best during a camp I attended recently. Top international cricketers, at the height of their powers are present as they attempt to answer curious questions and relay timeless stories, advice and tips in their areas of expertise. Whilst these contain golden nuggets of information, I wonder if this priceless experience is applicable for these players at their stage of development. Should we be rather focusing on what were the seedlings at the origin on this path of mastery in an attempt to bridge the gap between then and now? Is this information helpful for all players or just some?
I enquired with one of the specialists, a prominent international fast bowler as to what he was “seeking” at a young age that enabled him to become one of the modern greats. His answer, “consistency”, this was expanded on with phrases such as “knowing my action” and “trusting my action”. This is an insight which most gloss over in the search for the magical moment of enlightenment. The simplicity of this informs all of his drill work, mental framework and tactics and has done so for years.
In order to climb the ladder of professional cricket, young players need to possess an enquiring mind in learning combined with a tight filter to sift out all the information they receive. A developing player may already have been bombarded with heaps of technical and tactical advice at a young age from various stakeholders. Distinguishing between these is a balancing act and a challenging task which often creates extreme dissonance in a players’ mind especially if contradictory. In addition to this, in the modern era of social media and armchair critics how does one decode the noise from the signal?
A player understanding his or her identity and philosophy can be challenging especially with limited experiences shaping it. This is where coaches play a pivotal role in exploring the authenticity of each player to help guide, challenge and support them throughout their journey of self-discovery. By constantly stretching their limits within a “safe” environment which rewards ownership, a player can build capacity to extend themselves whilst staying true to the core.
To quote James Clear, “Mastery requires both impatience and patience. The impatience to have a bias towards action, to not waste time and to work with a sense of urgency each day and patience to delay gratification, to wait for actions to accumulate and to trust the process.” Sitting on this see-saw of development is a difficult task for players and coaches and there is no cookie-cutter method for success, but rather one which should be tailor made for the individual.
Those before us spread great knowledge and experience, so that we can stand on the shoulders of giants. However, it is in “seeking what they sought” and in doing so finding our own voice that the inner wisdom and potential is revealed.