INTEGRATING EDUCATION FOR CRICKET DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Joel Warrican
My topic for tonight is one dear to me, because not only am I a cricket enthusiast, but I am also an educator! From both personal and professional experience, I know the value of education in every endeavour of life and I trust that whatever I say here tonight will help you the listeners to capture the sense of why and how education should be an integral part of cricket development, indeed the development of any sport here in SVG and across the wider region.
The question that can first be asked is WHY is education of great value in the sporting arena? Why should you young sportsmen and sportswomen be encouraged to continue to seek out opportunities to expand your education? And why should sports administrators continue to ensure that such opportunities are provided?
First it is important to understand what I mean when I speak of “education”. Education is often seen in a very narrow context: as formal academic activities pursued in formal classrooms. I want to challenge you to widen your perception of education to include not only learning obtained in a formal academic settings, but also the knowledge, skills and attitudes that can be obtained from activities such as travelling, meeting different people, reading for pleasure and negotiating new contexts. Consider how such activities can help you to develop qualities that can spill over into your sporting endeavours.
Education promotes critical thinking skills that contribute to sound decision-making. Critical thinkers have the ability to think things through before reacting. They listen to what others are saying and evaluate it; ask questions to determine the strengths and weaknesses of arguments and carefully plan their own response. Critical thinkers seldom “fly off the cuff”, impulsively leaping into situations without first looking. Critical thinkers are not easily misled or rattled! These are qualities that can serve sportspersons well in their everyday lives as well as within their sport! In the sporting arena, critical thinkers are less likely to exhibit behaviours that disgrace themselves, their countries and their sport. They are less likely to act without thinking, no matter how much pressure they may be facing. Sportspersons who develop critical thinking skills off the field are more likely to implement them ON the field. Education is a good vehicle for developing critical thinking skills.
Education promotes communication skills. The ability to express oneself clearly and sensibly is vital in today’s sporting arena. With the money and sponsorship deals for example, that are associated with sports, sportspersons are often called upon to speak to the public and to those who support them. A sound education gives sportspersons the confidence to face this challenge without having to worry about things such as whether or not their language is adequate. Education provides the basis for sportspersons to analyse the context of their sport and communicate their thoughts and assessment clearly and coherently. Imagine a young cricketer on the field, about the score his or her first century but gets out on 99 because rather than concentrating on the game, he or she was worrying about the interview that may have to be given after accomplishing the feat! You cricketers should have the knowledge, skills and confidence to take such situations in stride. A sound education can facilitate this.
In Barbados, this education is not left solely to the schools and home! There, cricket tournaments are organised from the primary school level right up! Interestingly, at these primary school games, there are roving reporters who interview these very young players. This is part of their training to deal with the media. This is part of their education as sportspersons! And coaches and trainers provide guidance and instruction to help these children develop the necessary skills; so much so that it is sometime astonishing to hear the interviews that these little children give. For the most part, they are articulate and confident! And many of them are under 10 years old! Furthermore, at every game at the Elite level, there is a commentator who not only runs commentary on the games, but at times, snags players to be interviewed live on radio or television. This exposure to the media in this way forms a vital part of the education of the players as they develop skills in effective communication.
Education helps people to develop skills in the management of time and other resources. In today’s environment, sport is big business and those who are serious about making it a career must approach it in a professional manner. This means that managing available time effectively is vital: balancing training sessions, professional engagements and personal activities is a must. Education can help you to develop this skill that contributes to your professionalism. There is nothing worst than a sportsperson who is always late or who does not show up for appointments. Education also contributes to your ability to manage your financial resources well. There is a saying: “A fool and his money are soon parted!” As I said earlier, sportspersons today can potentially earn large sums of money, some at a very young age. If you are to make wise financial management decisions about your earnings, then you should embrace education! Yes, you may be young and desiring the things that young people may have. You may be in a position to actually afford these things but without sound money management skills, you could squander it off as soon as you earn it! (You hear of players who go on tour and take major cash advances before they bowl or face even one ball! Not wise! Not wise at all!) Then later in life when you are past the prime of your sporting lives, you could find yourselves facing hard times. (Many such examples litter the Caribbean region!) It is the responsibility of sports administrators to ensure that young people are exposed to sound financial advice as a vital part of their education. Unfortunately, this kind of education is often not available in formal classrooms, which is why we cannot limit the concept of education to what happens in that context.
Education helps sportspersons to develop a worldview that can serve them well as they move up the ladder in their sport. A worldview guards against petty insularity that can be detrimental to professional growth. Education can help you to develop an understanding of your own culture and raise your sensibilities to the different cultures in which you may have to practice your craft. You develop respect for and tolerance of differences as you would expect others to be respectful and tolerant of yours. A worldview can help you to develop a level of sophistication that allows you to flourish in any context, with whomever you must interact, with a measure of confidence knowing that you are less likely to do or say anything that could offend anyone or disgrace yourselves. For example, an appropriate worldview serves well in formal settings such as dinners and other formal gatherings. Take something as simple as eating with a knife and fork! Sometimes people are reluctant to embrace this simple skill! It is not a part of our culture, they say. And then, they are invited to attend an awards dinner: black tie with six different sets of cutlery and glassware! Imagine the player on the field worrying about attending the event because he or she knows that he or she has no idea how to navigate the dinner table. Or worse, getting to the dinner table and taking the stance that they will eat as though they were at home eating on the back step: reaching over to grab food, grabbing food up in their hands, piling up food on the plate as though they have confirmed information that a famine was just around the corner! They turn up at formal events in low-rider pants or cut-off skinny jeans, decorated tee shirts and slippers! People may not say anything to your face, but such behaviour will be noted and could be a deterrent to the advancement of your career. A sound education involves basic knowledge of dining and socialising etiquette, activities at which sportspersons can sell themselves through positive, confident behaviours or destroy their image by being gauche, obnoxious, overly arrogant and disrespectful. Remember, in sports, your image counts for something! You know the slogan of the great tennis player, Andre Agassi, in his advertising campaign, “Image is everything!” Just look at what is happening in American football (NFL) where, through their personal off-the-field activities, a few players have tarnished their professional images and ended up losing out bigtime (e.g. sponsorships; endorsements; position on teams). In this regard, I will not even venture on the topic of recent events in West Indies cricket! The worldview that a sound education provides, can prevent you from disgracing yourselves, your sport, your country and indeed this region!
I trust that by now the benefits of a sound education for sportspersons are evident to you! So after considering why, perhaps we can explore the HOW! How can this kind of education be had, especially since many of our cricketers are no longer part of the education system? What can be done to integrate educational opportunities in order to facilitate the development of cricket in this country? Here are a few suggestions that you may find useful.
- Within the clubs and cricketing contexts in which our players develop their cricketing skills, incorporate training in other essential skills such as communication skills, time and money management skills, and social skills. Help our players to develop a level of confidence that will follow them onto the cricket field. Teach them a sense of occasion: how to dress for events, how to deport themselves at these events, how to socialise with all sorts of people! Teach them how to speak to the media and how to deal with fans and supporters as well as detractors! Teach them to be cool under fire, staying focused and determined! Quite often, such attempts to appear to be cool, calm and unruffled come across as indifferent and lackadaisical!
You know, there is a school in Barbados with a reputation of appearing to be champions even when they are losing! They are taught to never give up! The coach teaches the players that the game is not over until the last ball is bowled and that attitude has seen them putting up a successful fight sometimes against terribly unfavourable odds! He teaches them that rather than project “coolness” that come across as indifferent and apathetic, their cool heads under fire should be evident in the increased intensity and determination to pull off a victory! He does not tolerate apathy among his team on the field and has been known to call off players who are not projecting the right image! That is an integral part of their education. This is where they learn values such as persistence and perseverance! They speak like champions and for the most part deport themselves in that manner! In this school, Combermere School (and I must say that the school is like many others in the region including here in SVG where academics are concerned, but they have something special in their sporting programmes!), this form of education for sportspersons including its cricketers, is embedded in the ethos and history of the school! It is no wonder that Combermere School has produced over 30 international cricketers, including Sir Frank Worrell; Sir Wesley Hall; Sir Clyde Walcott and more recently Kraigg Brathwaite! Indeed so prolific is this school at producing talented cricketers that when no place can be found on the West Indies team for them, they even boast of exporting them to the England team as is the case with Christopher Jordan who is currently doing well on that team (and he is not the only one! There were others before him!). Alston Bobb can attest to this education as he himself is a product of it! As much as he plays for the Windward Islands, his former coach at the school constantly asks about him and his progress. (The school treats you like family! You may move away but they still keep track of you!)
- READ! A large part of thinking critically is finding individuals that modelled this desired behaviour. Granted, role models today may be hard to find, but there is a lot that can be learned from the activities and exploits of others in the field. And the good thing is, that much of it is available electronically! Encourage young cricketers to read: about great players; epic matches; the development of the sport in the region and internationally. This is an invaluable part of the development of cricket here and regionally. Young players’ worldview should include knowledge of the struggle of past players whose actions contributed to the status of the game today and the opportunities currently available. And reading goes beyond merely calling words! It involves applying those critical thinking skills to try to understand the actions of these past cricketers! How many of you have heard of the World Series Cricket organised by Kerry Packer in the 1970s or even understand the significance of this historic event to modern forms of the game? Reading about this and trying to understand the thinking that must have gone on in the heads of the WI cricketers who participated as they embarked on this controversial journey should be an integral part of the education of you cricketers. Today we look back at the Kerry Packer debacle with nostalgia as we acknowledge the positive developments that emerged in West Indies cricket as a result. Controversy remains a part of West Indies cricket even now, but what both players and administrators of the game can learn from the historic events of the 1970s, is that in the face of controversy, there should be efforts to understand each other’s perspectives and to be respectful and tolerant of each other even when disagreeing. An educated person learns from the experiences of others! Reading and analysing the experiences of past players can be invaluable to the personal development of you the players and to the game in the region in general.
- I cannot speak on the issues of integrating education in cricket development without addressing this next issue: that of nurturing the sport from the primary grades. Cricket administrators in this country must find a way to support cricket even among the tiny tots. It is not the best model to wait until boys and girls are in their teens to try to identify and develop cricketing talent. No, such talent should be caught and nurtured from as early as possible! It is best to start working with them early to help them to develop the kinds of characteristics that I mentioned before: not only their cricketing skills, but also qualities such as confidence, good communication skills, critical thinking skills and social skills.
- SPECIAL NOTE: I also cannot address this issue without appealing to the cricket administrators in the country to find a way to keep our skilled players actively involved in the game even while there are pursuing academic education at the tertiary level. Currently, there is little avenue for cricketers who are studying at the SVG Community College to play enough of the sport to continue to maintain and hone their skills. The stance taken is that these are college students rather than school children and hence they are kept out of the schools competitions. I challenge you administrators to be innovative and find a model that can rectify this situation. Two years is too long for these players to go without the level of age-appropriate competition needed to keep them not only interested, but also in form! Furthermore, the Cricket Association needs to work with the college to develop programmes that can nurture and support all players, inclusive of those who would not normally matriculate into the college. This programme can be designed to help these players to acquire the kind of education that goes beyond the academic: the kind that helps them to become confident, fluent communicators with the worldview that facilitates their development as sportspersons! Perhaps the Cricket Association can join all the other sporting associations and the college to explore the establishment of a sports academy for this purpose. Sport is big business and those with talent should be provided with the opportunity to develop this talent for their own advancement and for the benefit of their country and the region. To my mind, seeking innovative ways of providing educational opportunities to develop these and future players is the first powerful step in the right direction to further the development of cricket in SVG.
- A final note: An excellent addition to the education of our players should be evident in the example that you, the cricketing administrators and media people set when you deal with them generally. You administrators must treat the players with respect, valuing the cricketing skills that they possess. Consider the message that is sent to them when they go off on national duty without the resources necessary to do well! Cricket tournaments are not only played on the field, but in dressing rooms, accommodation, on buses. You need to give our players a psychological boost by supporting them in these areas. Furthermore, you cricket commentators should think carefully about what you do to the psyche of these young people when you report on games. Confidence can be destroyed with thoughtless words and scathing criticism! Yes, sometimes our players may disappoint us, and indeed, may need to be criticized. But you should still remember that they are human and constant harsh criticism can be demoralising and discouraging. Worst, is the constant negative comparison with former players. These are new times, new circumstances and new conditions of play! Rather than tear down, you should try to encourage our players with constructive criticism when necessary, but leaving their dignity intact. Indeed, if you are good at what you do (commentating), bearing in mind that words are your tools, then you should be yourself sufficiently skilled at using them judiciously; not as a weapon against those that you should be supporting! To do otherwise is to teach lessons that denigrate! This is not a part of the kind of education needed to propel the sport forward here in SVG. Remember, SVG may be a small player in the whole regional cricketing arena, but the small underdog, with the right tools (in this case appropriate educational opportunities and moral support) could be capable of great things! Remember the story of David and Goliath! The giant Goliath was struck down because David took an unconventional approach to the battle. Seeing David’s weapon of choice (a sling and stones), Goliath dismissed him, grossly underestimating his opponent. Remember his words:
Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves? … Come to me and I will give thy flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!
If we are innovative, and like David we do not let our size deter us from battling with giants; if we think outside of the box when it comes to the development of our cricket here in SVG, then we can take the region by storm, producing outstanding players who will be credits not only to themselves but also to this small nation that we call home!
Thank you for your attention.