The Telegraph-Paul Bolton
The win-at-all-costs mentality in high-performance sport could be blamed for Jonathan Trott’s early departure from The Ashes series, a sports psychologist has claimed.
Trott is the third England batsman to leave a tour for stress-related reasons in recent years following Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy. Steven Sylvester, a chartered sport psychologist who played for Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, believes that is no coincidence.
“If this just happened once, you could understand it, but this is the third English cricketer that has been absolutely derailed emotionally and mentally on tour and that is alarming. What other international team has had players who have been emotionally derailed in this way?” Sylvester said. “The emphasis that we have on winning at all costs in English cricket and wanting to become the world’s No 1 team can actually make it more difficult for a player to be the best he can be. The media, public and opposition are watching your every move and negative judgment can rapidly erode self-esteem.
“The English system focuses too much on winning, getting the extra margins, being bolder, stronger, faster but at what cost to the welfare of the individual? Instead, I would recommend growing mental strength by being softer, more open and developing more self-awareness.”
Playing back-to-back Ashes series this year and the verbal war waged by Australia ahead of the current series have added to the pressures on England players, Sylvester believes.
“There are a combination of factors this winter with back-to-back Ashes series, poor performances by certain batsmen in the home series and Australia wanting to come out fighting. Even their coach has come out and chipped away at one of our players.
“Cricketers are not alone in suffering from depression and anxiety, which is an increasing issue for our society as a whole. In my clinic, I see a range of top performers, including CEOs, who all find it difficult to reconcile ‘how they feel’ with ‘what they show to others’. This conflict becomes even more intense when the public’s expectations of them increase.
“Suicide in the UK is the biggest killer of young men under 35 and the World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second highest cause of death in the next 10 years. So as a society we have a huge issue with depression and mental health so we really need to find new ways of helping those affected”.
The Professional Cricketers’ Association has helped to raise awareness of depression through its Mind Matters campaign, headed by Trescothick, but Sylvester, who has worked with a number of county sides as well as in football, believes that batsmen are more susceptible than bowlers.
“Making nought as a batsman has a bigger impact than a bowler going for nought for 100,” Sylvester said.
“When you get nought you are worried about staying in the team and what the judgment of the management is going to be and how the crowd are going to react.”