Decisions Decisions Decisions
IF – Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
You’ll be a Man my son!
Actually just a few lines from the poem, but this is how it was always told to me by the late Keith Hopper. “Hopp” was an English Literature Lecturer throughout his life but also a semi professional soccer player and outstanding club cricket professional in the leagues of North East of England for many years.
He was Chairman of Bishop Auckland CC and also Head Groundsman when I started my first groundsman placement there in 1989. You can imagine the conversations we had, we both had such passion for the game and he was a wealth of knowledge, a source of vast experience. Looking back he was such an influence on my career.
Funnily enough at the time, it never really went in as to what he was eluding to with this poem. I mean I got the gist of it but never really unlocked the message until very late in my playing days.
They were words however I never forgot!
Our great game is one of decisions, a new decision each delivery for everyone on the playing field at that time. Often these decisions are affected by the situation of the game and the pressure that players are under at the time of making them.
As a batsman is there time to leave a ball? Do you need a single to get off strike or is the game screaming for a boundary?
Can the bowler attack the stumps for a wicket? Have you conceded runs in the over and looking for the best way to get the last ball through to the keeper and get out of the over with no more damage?
Here is a link to blog post I wrote a couple months ago about what does the game need? If you missed it check it out, I`m sure you’ll find it interesting.
Anyway back to those decisions.. Often when a team is in the ascendency or controlling the game comfortably, decisions to be made are often the right ones! But the scales of right and wrong can often be much more evenly balanced when there is pressure involved.
When the game is close or even when you`re behind the 8 ball in a contest, then the pressure of the situation can often affect a players ability to make a logical decision.
I sincerely believe that a player`s ability to make good decisions is far more often the reason why players and teams are more successful than teams relying purely on ability.
The more I am involved in coaching, the more my philosophy leans towards players knowing “What does the game need right now?”
Being able to have a plan as to how to reach victory and then trying to execute that plan, I believe will allow players to make better decisions.
A batsman on strike at the start of the over, who knows he needs to get a single to rotate strike, is far more likely to get that single and continue the partnership, than the player who gets to the fifth or last ball of the over now thinking “I must to hit a boundary!”
In making your decisions try to recognise and avoid times when pressure builds to critical mass. When logic goes out of the window and decisions are made without thought to outcome or consequence.
Coaches and captains encourage players always to “make good decisions!” It’s not enough just to have the ability to succeed. How many players over the years have you heard something like this said them?
“Should have played higher”
“Should have done more with his talent”
I’m sure this was what Hopp was saying to me in this message. Playing high level sport requires an ability to make good, logical decisions. You`re ability will help you execute that decision but an ability to remain calm and logical under the most severe of pressure is certainly going to separate the men from the boys.