PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Hitting For 6 – And Upping The Run Rate

Like any profession, cricket wants to increase the numbers and quality of young people choosing it as career. And with the professional cricket scene being an increasing international market these days – from
India’s IPL to county cricket in England – New Zealand faces global battle to recruit and retain the best players.
In charge of this for the New Zealand Cricket Players Association (NZCPA) is Aidan Hobson who has implemented development programme for professional players. The scheme is separate from New Zealand Cricket which, Hobson says, has focus on other development areas.
“The aim is to make players more productive in the game and help them stay playing for longer. This will naturally increase the skills we have in our teams across the country and the experience that can be passed on. We also hope that the offers of education and career experience will attract younger people and help them see the sport as viable career,” Hobson says.
Including one-to-one advice, mentoring and coaching in range of personal and professional areas, formal education and training, online learning, team workshops and podcasts, the scheme aims to support cricketers in their playing careers and personal lives.
Programme activities include Massey University College of Business scholarships; business mentoring; leadership mentoring; leadership experience with seven not-for-profit organisations; access to international business mentoring across 12 countries (while on tour); career planning; work experience and internships.
So far 65 players – including current Black Caps – have been involved in over 200 activities and Hobson says the feedback has been positive from them and the partnering businesses.
“What we do is draw on the expertise of business to upskill our players. But these individuals within business are simply the New Zealand public, and it’s great opportunity for these people to help us grow the skills and confidence of our sportsmen. We are probably the only workplace in New Zealand that has this opportunity to work with such wide range of successful Kiwis, and it seems to be rewarding for all parties,” Hobson says.
Black Cap Grant Elliott is one player who has taken part: “With all the helpful, positive people in the career programme, I am finding it very comforting to realise that cricketers have unique and desirable qualities which businesses value. It is matter of working hard, brushing up on your strengths and utilising the help which is provided through the programme.”
Northern Districts player Michael Parlane agrees, saying the chance to be part of the NZCPA’s programme has been rewarding and given him “the chance to meet people who believe the skills I have developed while playing cricket over the past 15 years can be used out there in the business world”.
The programme also includes leadership components, mainly for senior players, aimed at helping players test out their understanding of leadership by drawing on the expertise of leaders in business, gain the confidence to see themselves as leaders, plan for future growth, and celebrate with other Kiwi success stories.
Blue Chip Coaching partners with NZCPA to work with senior players in optimising their leadership skills. Kevin McMahon, from Blue Chip, says while the context of leadership in business is different from leadership in sport, business experience and expertise has lot to offer the sporting arena.
“The environment in cricket has become more complex and is providing more opportunities and more challenging situations for senior players than ever before. With new competitions, demanding schedules and more money in the game the pressure on some senior players has grown significantly. Given this changing environment the challenge for those senior players has been how they can, under pressure, get the very best from themselves and from the players around them?”
As with business leaders the answer is to uncover and then utilise more of their true and authentic leadership skills, he says, adding that the senior players Blue Chip has worked with have been able to bring out more of who they are as leader and as they have done this their leadership behaviours have been accompanied by more confidence. As result they have achieved more impact and delivered better results.
Hobson says sourcing expertise and gaining productivity in sport has number of barriers – the main one being precarious employment. “Selection, short-term contracts, injury and the nature of the game itself, means players do not have the same stability in their working environment as most businesses. The same factors also affect retention where players, at certain times of their lives, cannot afford to continue with the precarious nature of employment, and therefore have to leave taking their skills and knowledge with them.”
John Wall, group managing director for NZCPA partner Sugar International, says the programme is world class.
“My role has simply been to spend some quality time with specific players to talk about leadership, business and performance. I have found the players to be enthusiastic, willing and committed to developing themselves beyond cricket. This unique programme has opened the players’ minds to opportunities for them both during and after cricket. I think it also gives them more confidence to perform on the field, more confidence to handle sponsors and helps them become better leaders with their local clubs. The players have told me that the programme is the best thing that has happened for New Zealand cricket. I think the secret is the ‘real life’ conversations the players can have with business people, in conjunction with some self analysis and professional skill-based training.”
Deloitte is just one business which supports the player programme. It has offered an 18-month scholarship, currently undertaken by Jacob Oram.
“The mentoring of Jacob creates the opportunity for high-profile international sportsman to relate to the people in our high-profile international professional services firm,” says Deloitte partner Trevor Deed. “Leadership and team playing are critical in all competitive endeavours, and Jacob has been involved in variety of Deloitte activities to share his experiences and learn from ours.
“We hope that it’s been rewarding experience for Jacob. One of the interesting things he acknowledged is that he hadn’t realised how his leadership skills, exposure to pressure, and time in the public spotlight were so transferable to the business environment. These sports people experience hell of lot at very young age so they are pretty resilient by the time they reach 30.”
Aidan Hobson says Deloitte provides good example of the country’s best cricketers learning from business and being able to apply this emotional and skill development to their own workplace (cricket).
With around 120 business and leadership coaches already in the programme his aim is to double this number by the end of 2009.
“Ideally this support from other successful Kiwis will have flow-on effect for the potential recruitment pool of the sport, attracting our best young talent, and over time giving back to the public and business through national sporting success and the community benefit flowing from this,” he says.
Hobson believes that through their intellectual investment, Kiwis as individuals and business leaders are contributing meaningfully to the success and development of the sport – new and interesting variation on the standard sponsorship model.

• For further information, full summary of the programme can be found at www.procricket.co.nz

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