The mobile phone was a disaster for team spirit!

“At the end of my cricket career, even great victories were often celebrated in social isolation: we might have been all together, but most team-mates were checking their smartphones.”

Ed Smith has become an absolute favorite amongst the writers that this correspondent regularly ingests, devours and reflects. The initial attraction being his cricket career, a talented player at 1st class level with 34 centuries who broke into the England team after hammering six hundreds for Kent.

Alas he only played three tests, all against South Africa,  before being discarded, like many others. Smith then retired at the youthful age of 31 as captain of Middlesex CCC, at the time sharing a dressing room and leading Strauss, Morgan, Joyce, Nannes and Finn. He also found his way to pen a book about baseball!

Recently Ed wrote in the New Statesman:

“Social media feeds the time paradox. By expanding the range of potential social events to almost an infinite degree, social media makes it more likely that the status quo feels inadequate. At the end of my cricket career, even great victories were often celebrated in social isolation: we might have been all together, but most team-mates were checking their smartphones. The craic, the revolving narrator and shared storytelling, was on the wrong side of history. The mobile phone was a disaster for team spirit: it broke the intuitive understanding that boredom generates entertainment.”

The time that Ed was reflecting upon as a player was 2008.

Team spirit. The hidden chemistry that breathes enthusiasm, energy and inspiration amongst a group of players. When present, it can be an intoxicating, binding elixir. When  absent it can be an elusive, invisible whisper.

Cricket, no matter the format, needs time to consume and understand all that is going in for now and the next. Hard to reflect and discover on any smartphone app.

Recent experience in the Lords dressing room during an extended rain delay had the players scrambling for their phones as a panacea to relieve the boredom. Texts via SMS or Whats App, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram seemed to naturally invade the minds of players still involved in a match. The other coaches did not seem to mind, as long as the players were comfortable. A position completely understood. The interesting aspect in this particular case was that the remainder of the match for the home team could only be construed as a disaster being bowled out in 13.3 overs.

Did the smartphone interference play a role in this? Unknown and unable to quantify. Did it shift the focus? Possibly.

From a different viewpoint, coaching a women’s team has delivered a more extreme environment with regards to smartphone attachment. It was obvious early that a challenge was in hand when one, actually talented player, absent mindedly moved into position for a fielding drill with phone still in hand. She had been updating her status! Selfies on game day posted during the game give cause for head shaking and inner mumbling. Particularly when the performance contribution was negligible to team and self.

Players seem to seek comfort far too easily within the endless content of the screen. Swiping and clicking with curious certainty when their involvement is not required.

The conundrum for the coach – how do they learn as an individual or a group?

Why are they not content to watch and converse with others? Share a personal experience when the commitment for time involvement is already well established.

A challenge for which the answers are less clear and have definitely shifted from tradition as Ed noted in 2008.

Feel free to discuss…..many thanks.






About Andrew Walton

Cricket exposure as a player, coach, fan, observer, analyst & tragic! Coached at Melbourne Cricket Club, Prahran Cricket Club. Premiership player and coach at South Yarra Cricket Club ~ Home of The Vincibles! Academy coach at Karnataka Institute of Cricket, Bangalore.
This entry was posted in Clarity, Coaching, Middlesex CCC, Mike Hussey. Bookmark the permalink.

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