Aussie dancer inspiring England's cricketers

Australian ballet dancer Alexander Campbell reflects on how his life in cricket has helped his career

Growing up in Australia, most teenagers come to a point in their life where a life-changing decision has to be made.

For some, it’s whether to continue their schooling or drop out and start a career.

For others, it’s whether to pursue higher education or travel the world with little to no money.

For Sydney-sider Alexander Campbell, his decision, on the surface, was a relatively normal one – choosing one sport to focus on or dedicate himself to another.

But while most boys at 14 have to choose between the various football codes, tennis, golf and swimming, a young Campbell had to pick his boyhood love or a new, bold endeavour.

"I had to choose between ballet and cricket, and I struggled with the decision for a long time," Campbell, who is now the First Soloist with the Royal Ballet in London, told the Royal Opera House

"But my love for ballet, and the opportunity to do something that seemed so unusual for a kid from Sydney, was enticing. 

"A part of me felt that choosing ballet was more risky – the braver choice of the two.

"I was first exposed to cricket through my dad, and so I have always had a love for the game. 

"I can't remember a time when I didn't have a cricket bat or ball in my hand.

"It definitely had a positive impact on me as it gave me different things to focus on. 

"Ballet training is so intense I’m not sure I would have coped without the opportunity to throw myself in to something completely different."

Image Id: ~/media/1D67D1648E7E49A19CE67E753CC2DC14

A young Alexander Campbell with the Sheffield Shield // Alexander Campbell

But cricket remains in Campbell’s life after he was called on by the English and Wales Cricket Board to speak to aspiring cricket coaches as part as their Level Four training. 

Campbell is an advocate of "transferable skills", like his ability to out-jump his teammates from the agility he gained by dancing.

"There is always lot of discussion on whether it is better to focus on one thing or to try and develop transferable skills," said Campbell. 

"I'm not sure my ballet teachers would tell you that cricket improved my ballet training, but I certainly think it helped. 

"I developed all sorts of skills – hand-eye coordination, timing, sharpness, explosiveness, agility – that perhaps wouldn’t have developed in the same way had I just been trained as a dancer."

Gordon Lord, ECB head of Elite Coach development, says the skills taught in ballet, and the dedication to the art, interest the Old Enemy.

"Our coaches have been impressed by Alexander’s commitment and resolve to perform at the highest level within an intense and relentless schedule," said Lord.

"Though perhaps what is most inspiring is his infectious enthusiasm and passion for what he does."

England are not alone in seeking experts in other sports to help aid their players and coaches.

In June last year, Australia’s cricketers were given a weightlifting master class by Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Damon Kelly at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.

The men’s squad was also put through their paces in the swimming pool by Olympic champions Grant Hackett and Stephanie Rice.