Commonwealth Bank Ashes Test Series
Aussie team psychologist on stress
Australia’s team psychologist Dr Michael Lloyd says awareness of mental health issues and coping mechanisms within the national set-up is good in the wake of Jonathan Trott’s departure from the England touring party.
26 November 2013, 03:39 PM AEST
Trott flew home from Brisbane after the first Commonwealth Bank Ashes Test citing stress-related issues, although the England and Wales Cricket Board insisted it was not connected to any on-field sledging or David Warner’s comments about “scared eyes” and his “weak” dismissals.
Dr Lloyd said he understands the use of on-field sledging, calling it an “effective performance tool” but warned that social media had the potential to significantly contribute to stress for elite cricketers.
Dr Lloyd, who Warner credited with turning his career around after off-field problems earlier this year, said fierce rivalry and respect go hand-in-hand but anonymous off-field abuse through mediums such as Twitter has the potential to have a significant impact if not managed correctly.
“Sledging is something that goes on on-field and is very much about the performance aspect of the game,” said Dr Lloyd. “Quite often sledging is an effective tool to be able to challenge somebody in regards to their performance and get the upper-hand on the field.
“What we are seeing playing out at the moment is a really strong and aggressive rivalry on field, which is really important, but it also seems like a high degree of respect for each other as professional athletes.
“The way social media is, comment can be made quite anonymously and not terribly well informed, so that can be quite challenging to deal with sometimes.
“Individuals are quite open to and subject to comment that doesn’t need to be accurate or well informed and that can be quite a challenging thing to deal with.”
Dr Lloyd said that under coach Darren Lehmann and captain Michael Clarke, one of the cornerstones of the Australia team is player welfare and care.
“With regards to any stress the most important thing is how an individual feels they are positioned or capability to cope with the stress is,” Dr Lloyd said.
“It’s really important for people to have a good level of awareness and be aware of how they are going and to have good support mechanisms around them. There’s stress and pressure in everyone’s work place but cricket and elite cricket obviously takes things to a different level.
“An Ashes series carries great interest from a public perspective and so it’s not something that everyone is familiar with, that everything you do is played out in the media, on television, in the newspapers or spoken about so readily on the radio.”
Trott’s departure from the Ashes tour has again put the spotlight on mental health in cricket. It follows on from Marcus Trescothick returning to England ahead of the opening game of the 2006/07 Ashes series in Australia, while Michael Yardy left the team during the 2011 World Cup.
“I think there has always been a degree of stress in any professional sport but now with greater media scrutiny, yes it has increased. To what degree it is hard to know, but nowadays with not only the conventional forms of media but also social media there is a higher degree of scrutiny again.
“One of the great things is the importance of family and spending quality time with them and that the group is quite inclusive of that kind of stuff and the whole idea of the team as family.
Dr Lloyd spent significant periods of time with the Australian men’s squad in Brisbane and will travel to Adelaide and Perth with the team for the next two Tests.
He warns that because the public is so familiar with players, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that they have the same human frailties and emotions.
“I think what is really important when you look at elite athletes and elite teams is there is really important support that comes from within,” said Dr Lloyd.
“It’s not only me but all the support staff that play a really important role in supporting each other through the demands that comes with any kind of series and particularly a series such as the Ashes.”