Beware the pitfalls of sporting stardom
The news this week that Tom Maynard was killed in a bizarre, horrific accident is absolutely devastating. Maynard was a young player destined for bigger things. More importantly he was a loyal son to a true cricketing family.
He displayed his loyalty to his father Matthew in no uncertain terms two years ago when Matthew parted ways with his lifelong county Glamorgan in acrimonious circumstances. In protest over the treatment his father received Tom left the county as well to join Surrey.
He was making a real fist of furthering his career at the first division county in London. Our heartfelt condolences go out to a father and family who were tremendously proud of their son both as a player and as a human being. For them life will never be the same again.
Unrelated to the above incident I have been thinking for some time about the management of young players in a sporting world full of pitfalls. It is not enough anymore to manage a young player’s on-field career only. Careful scrutiny has to be given to life off the pitch for upcoming sporting stars as well.
Financial rewards for young players are substantial these days. Along with financial gain comes the responsibility of life priorities. Sadly in many cases senior players set a very bad example in this respect. We don’t need to look any further than our own backyard for examples of this.
Some of our senior players who are paramount in the leadership group can’t even manage the social media, continually embarrassing themselves and South African cricket, let alone set a responsible, good example for players coming through the system. This I am hoping will change with the likes of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn moving into the leadership group.
As a young player coming through the system it is difficult not to follow the example set by the leading players in the team one plays in. When those players have the wrong values, this rubs off on players coming through the system. A glamorous and hectic lifestyle is what most young players are exposed to. The trimmings that go with a successful sporting career are difficult to put into perspective. Fast cars and bright lights remain a real temptation for many.
Sustained on-field performance should always be top priority. The reason for playing the game should be achievement. This approach brings about many other rewards that can be enjoyed with the wisdom that a mature approach brings.
The ECB in the UK have recognised this problem. They have created a system that employs a number of player welfare managers who visit the counties on a regular basis and interact with all the players. These managers are available for advice and are trained to deal with many diverse and different aspects of a player’s daily life, as well as offering future career planning and advice. This is a good system and should be followed worldwide.
Player agents should also be intricately involved in personality development of the players they manage. It is not enough to take the commission and run after successfully concluding a contract. The good agent will keep tabs on his players, particularly the younger ones, and try and keep them as down-to-earth and stable as possible.
For those players who are lucky enough to come from a good stable family background, the values installed in them by their upbringing will be a major help. Even in later years family influence can keep a player's feet firmly on the ground.
This problem is not going to go away. In fact it will intensify. The different cricket boards around the world will be well advised to give this situation priority.