Wishing you all a happy New Years and thanking you for your continued support.
Christmas and new year can be a time of joy ,but also of sadness for some and the year ahead with the up’s l’am sure will also delivery some unwanted downs.
Groundsmen may have a wonderful environment visually but mentally the pressures of dealing with the demands of those who use our surface can also take it toll.
let’s be open ,let’s not hide in the shadows this 2020.
Players and spectators arrive to see the visible final product of largely invisible hard work of curating a cricket ground. Rather than just that moment of seeing the wicket and making a judgement- “looks green/flat etc etc”- there are hours beforehand dedicated to making it reach that point. Everyone can see the outcome on match day but few, if any, aside from the groundsman see the struggle in the lead up.
The isolation that can be experienced is one that can place significant stress and pressure on the individual. Also, there are many uncontrollable variables such as the weather, that can leave hard work ruined and others disappointed despite all best intentions.
It seems fair to say that most groundsmen do the job for the love of it, even in paid position, and are intrinsically motivated. Whilst this can be positive as the reward is from personal satisfaction rather than external praise, it can also lead to going well beyond what is needed and over committing to tasks.
Even if there is recognition of the full range of the role within a club, the inconsistencies of the position seep into other parts of life. Mick Hunt, former head groundsman at Lords, said “I got to the stage I was taking it home with me,” he says. “I’d wake up at ridiculous times thinking, ‘Christ, has it stopped raining out there yet?’ I won’t miss the stress or the pressure.” You don’t need to be working at the world’s most famous cricket ground to identify with that.
Opening Up Cricket has spent time working with clubs to look after the mental health of their players and this does need to extend to all elements of sporting environments. Those who dedicate time, often unpaid, to providing the facilities to play need taking care of too. Something I have reflected on in writing this is how realistic the expectations of ground staff are. In club settings, from what I see across the country, there’s certainly a need for more to offer their time to help someone who is tending to all the playing surfaces.
In terms of mental health, the five ways to well being show everyday ways in which everyone can look after themselves. For each of them there is a clear link to what a grounds person does, showing that the role can provide the tools to maintain good mental health.
Connect– being part of a wider community with opportunities to interact with a variety of people
Be Active– a very physical job that requires more than just sitting on a roller!
Take Notice– being outside gives plenty of time to engage with nature and the little things in life
Learn– there’s always problems to be solved and new things emerging that give chances to expand knowledge
Give– fundamentally the position is one that gives joy to others through enabling their hobby (or job in professional sport) to take place
The aspects that can undermine this such as isolation, stress and excessive workload are something that should be looked at by more than just the individual carrying on the tasks. We’ll certainly be encouraging clubs to consider what can be done to support not just their players but also coaches, umpires, scorers, ground staff and other volunteers to make sure our sport fulfils its potential for being a great influence on positive mental health.
Opening Up Cricket promotes mental well being and suicide prevention through cricket. They deliver sessions to clubs and coaches on positive mental health, helping participants discover more to improve their fitness of mind and body.
Originally founded in Liverpool, the campaign is now working with groups across the United Kingdom. Welcoming the chance to share ideas, they are keen to hear from other groups in similar or different areas to continue the development of the themes they address.