Bridgetown, Barbados – In April, 2010 15 young men stood before an audience and were introduced as the first intake of the Sagicor High Performance Centre of West Indies Cricket. They came from all across the Caribbean, came from varying backgrounds, and different skill levels.
They joined forces at their new base at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and what united them was their love of cricket, desire to individually establish themselves as a successful West Indian first team player, discipline to work, and the commitment to work together as a unit to help each other. It was a tough, sometimes gruelling period at the Sagicor HPC, but these 15 youngsters have all grown to become better men and their cricket on the field has improved.
Simon Grayson, the Sagicor HPC Elite Performance Coach, has worked with the players and the other support staff and he has seen the growth and development first hand. He spoke of the improved life skills, social interaction, greater self-belief and desire for success.
“We have had some really encouraging signs with player improvement because of their increased understanding of both themselves and their games. Shannon Gabriel [fast bowler] spoke to me recently and said that he is not sure how he has developed as a cricketer, but he’s positive that he has developed as a person, and because of that his cricket has improved as well,” Grayson said.
“Another example is Devon Thomas [wicket-keeper] who informed me that his grandfather was amazed with the man who came back to Antigua after the first three-month semester. Devon said, ‘he didn’t recognise me because I spent more time with him and his friends. I was more social, a better person and I enjoyed doing it’. These are just a couple of examples of the way the players and their families feel they have matured and improved their lives. I would have to say that all 15 players have stepped forward but there is still more developing to do. They have a solid foundation from which to build a successful career.”
In between their workload on the field the players have also been busy off it, completing many different tasks such as facing their fears when they were 50 feet up a pole about to walk on a high rope through three different challenges. Then there was the 10-mile endurance hike from sea level to 500 feet which was designed to test and improve their mental toughness. They have also spent time doing charity work.
Grayson explained: “I contacted Variety, a local charity, regarding our involvement in aiding the local community. We looked at several projects and selected The Learning Centre and the head teacher happily agreed to have us come in and interact with the students and staff.
“We sat down as a squad and watched the film Fire In Babylon, stopping it several times to debate what we had just seen and what we could learn from it. The film showed the history, political climate at the time and how the players went on to the pitch representing the people and their struggles and their willingness to fight as one for a cause. It also showed players like Sir Viv truly giving to the people and I asked the lads, ‘what can we do for the public, how can we serve them, how can we help the people that we rely on to support us and carry us over the line in matches?”
He added: “So that afternoon we visited The Learning Centre and interacted with the children and staff for a couple of hours. All the players happily got involved with the children playing and learning cricket, delivering a reading lesson, helping with the drawing class and also playing other activities as well. We all had a superb time and from the feedback I received, the players loved every minute. It is something that the players will carry with them and remember for years to come.”
As everyone is aware there is more to the modern day sportsperson than the sport itself. The players have been shown numerous techniques regarding the importance of routines, communication, performing under pressure and concentration. There are also a number of things that they have completed off the field.
“Spending time with a charity is not something professional players have to do but after they saw the reaction and enjoyment in the children’s eyes it was easy to observe the fulfilment and pleasure in our players’ faces. I’m sure that in the future they would have no hesitation in donating some of their time for good causes,” Grayson noted.
“This Sagicor HPC programme has had many highlights but for me the major positive has been having 15 men that the West Indian public should be proud of. They have all improved by ensuring they remained positive and disciplined throughout a tough work schedule with exceptionally high standards. Three players have already been called into the West Indies senior squad, with five being selected in the West Indies ‘A’ team.
“I have spent time with the first team in Tests, ODIs, the T20 World Championship and the ICC Cricket World Cup and I know that the many good things that Ottis Gibson and Darren Sammy have implemented are similar to the standards we are achieving here at the Sagicor HPC. The work ethos and commitment to improving are aligned in both set ups which will ensure the smooth progression for players with high potential evolving into fully-fledged international careers.”
The second semester of the Sagicor HPC will come to an end this week and will climax with two 50-over matches. They will face a Barbados Select XI on Tuesday at Windward Cricket Club and take on the University of the West Indies on Thursday at Kensington Oval under lights.