cricket sport

Sport a learning ground for life

By Anna Campbell

I have spent much of January watching my children playing cricket in tournaments around the South Island.

As a parent, I consider my role to be a cheerleader, no matter their performance. In fact, I have learnt after many years of such supporting, my role is more important during the lows than the highs.

Everyone loves the winner, the century maker, the wicket taker; but when ''duck disease'' hits, the sporting arena can be a lonely place.  

I will never forget an occasion in my own limited sporting career where I didn't perform. Of course, there were many such occasions - once it took me 10 shots to get out of a bunker in a Brisbane golf tournament - but the mortifying humiliation of this particular occasion tops them all.

I was playing hockey in the Manawatu, after I had left school, for an age group team and, as it was my first game for that province, I was keen to impress. The game was tense, I was playing full-back, not my usual position, and the ball flew into the circle from one of the attackers.

I lined myself up and as I was about to trap the ball, a colleague yelled ''leave it'' because the ball was heading for the backline without danger of reaching the goal. So, I lifted my stick and the ball barrelled into my foot; the umpire signalled a penalty corner and the opposition scored the winning goal.  

For me, that memory is stronger than the memory of being in a winning tournament team and stronger than the memory of goals I have scored over the decades. Perhaps that is why the fear of failure often drives us harder than the need to succeed.

Yet, failure is something we all experience: relationships break up, businesses struggle, redundancy is forced upon us, exam marks are not what we might wish for. Last year, I was privileged to hear an Australian farmer, Chris Wilson, speak about his battles with depression.

He suffered a number of setbacks which sent him into a downwards spiral. What I remember most about his presentation was his retrospective description of how it happened. He described resilience as a deep well inside you that you can draw on to allow you to bounce back.  

He described depression as that well being run dry because he had isolated himself from friends and family. When he finally hit the wall, he had no reserves to draw on after years of depletion.  

That image stays with me as I think about how we build resilience for ourselves, our colleagues and our family. The greatest thing about sport is not winning, but the pats on the back from team-mates when things go wrong; similarly, the best thing about work is our workmates rallying together when times are tough; and the best thing about family is we know they will have our back when everyone else runs for the hills!  

Failure is a lonely business. To get through it, we need to surround ourselves with supportive people. These people can just be there, saying not much, they can help distract us or jolly us up and when we are ready, they can sit with us and work out how to learn from the failure.  

Sport is a great part of the New Zealand psyche and, like others, I can get carried away with the winning or the losing. When you break it down, the real greatness of sport is that it teaches us, from a young age, failure and humiliation are not permanent states.  

It is tough being the centre of attention when something goes wrong and feeling like you have let your team down, but with the right support, that feeling passes, learning happens, you fight back and sometimes - although there is never any guarantee in sport, or life - you win.