Highs and lows of touring
Posted in Disability Cricket
Why am I writing a blog whilst on annual leave and just days before Christmas? Simple answer is I want to.
I’ve just returned from India with our Blind Squad where we enjoyed a fantastic trip to a wonderful country and experienced a welcome and hospitality that would be hard to beat anywhere in the world.
I struggle when I return home from cricket tours. There, I’ve said it. I can’t put my finger on why.
I’ve got a fantastic wife, two smashing children - all of whom are over the moon that I am home safe and sound from another tour with one of our disability squads.
So why am I grumpy, miserable, unsettled and really no fun to be with or around for at least a week after returning from a tour? I’ve spent many an hour thinking about this. I’ve toured with our national squads for about seven years now and each time I return home it is exactly the same.
The experience of being on tour is like being inside a bubble or a balloon.
As departure looms you slowly step inside the bubble and slowly and very gradually the bubble inflates. You know that the tour is on the horizon, you’re thinking about it and you’ve started packing but you are still aware of your normal life and your commitments outside of cricket.
Departure draws closer. In my case I’m thinking about saying goodbye to the children. Mine are seven and 11. My seven-year-old daughter copes better with the goodbyes than my 11-year-old son.
My wife and I plan how my departure will be managed to ensure that both children are fine - nothing worse than going away and leaving your children upset.
Eventually the departure date arrives, your bags are packed, you say your goodbyes and step on the coach. That’s it - you’re fully inside the balloon and someone is tying a knot in it because you won’t be escaping for a few weeks. You fully realise that you’ve entered 'tour mode' but the reality is that you’ve been it for at least week, maybe more.
Every waking minute, and often minutes when you should not be awake, is spent ensuring that our players have the best environment possible to be the best that they can be. I’m lucky to have a brilliant team of people working with me whose aims are exactly the same as mine. We have two coaches, a physio and a team manager for all of our disability squad tours. Often we’ll have additional support officers whose role it is to ensure the welfare and needs of our players are met.
Once on tour nothing else matters. You become completely immersed in your new surroundings and environment. Everything is about ensuring that the players are prepared and ready to do the business on the pitch.
It’s a serious business; we haven’t come along to make up the numbers. Everybody works hard, day in, day out. The days are long often upwards of 12-14 hours dependent on our schedules and transport time. The banter and the craic that is part and parcel of the group keeps everybody smiling. Even Fran, our physio, who brings that bit of class and decorum to proceedings, isn’t spared any mickey-taking and is able to give as much as she takes. It is an unbelievable environment to work in.
Then the cricket starts which is the whole reason for being there. Tournaments and matches throw in a whole new set of emotions - despair from knowing that despite doing your utmost to prepare the players sometimes their performances are below par, coupled with exhilaration and joy when you get the results you are looking for.
Losing when you should have won, winning when you have got out of jail. The skill is in managing those emotions and keeping everything on an even keel when inside you are either gutted or overjoyed. The emotional rollercoaster is unforgiving.
Competitive sport. The highs, the lows, the banter, the craic and the overwhelming satisfaction gained from being part of a team with a purpose - there really is nothing quite like it.
Then its over. You get off the plane at Heathrow and that first gasp of cold air is not winter back in the UK. No, it’s the air being released from your bubble because somebody’s just popped it.
So I'm sat here at home on my own, wife at work, kids in school - I’m not feeling Christmassy at all and my thoughts are with those in the professional game who experience all of the above as part of their career. The emotional rollercoaster must be the mother of all rollercoasters.
No amount of remuneration can possibly compensate for the highs and lows of sport and the effect it has on families and your own state.
Who do you talk to about this? Difficult to explain to your missus who has just spent weeks or months getting your kids up and out for school in the morning, holding down her own job and running the kids to and from after school clubs etc.
She’s forfeited her evening at the gym or pilates because there’s no-one to look after the kids. Not sure she’ll want to listen to you whining about feeling flat after a tour. People outside of cricket struggle to understand - where do you go? I’ve opted to write a blog and feel better for it.
I’m not looking for sympathy here. I’m very lucky to have the experiences that I do. I appreciate the life, the job and family that I have. Touring is definitely the highlight of a cricket career for those fortunate enough to experience it but there is another side that needs to be appreciated.