Vaughan’s Trott abuse just not cricket

It seems to me that there are a number of cricket pundits and broadcasters who are confused about pressure, stress and burnout.  And sadly I suspect that their “macho” stance on mental health issues is still quite common in the workplace too.  In an article for The Daily Telegraph, former cricketer, Michael Vaughan states:  “When I hear players talking about burnout, I suspect it is an excuse.  You never see players retiring from sport and talking about burnout when they are playing well.”  He is incorrect on the first point.  Burnout is not an excuse.  Burnout is debilitating.   There is more validity to his second point; however, I just don’t think he understands why players who are performing optimally never cite burnout as a concern.  Let me explain: 

Pressure, not stress, can be good for us and help us to perform at an optimum level.  The conditions for performing at an optimum level include having the right stretch goals, and having the right resources, including psychological ones, to meet the goals.  When there is insufficient pressure we feel under-stimulated and over time this can lead to stress or ‘rust-out’.  When there is too much pressure and feel that we can not cope, this can also lead to stress and we risk burnout. 

We do not perform well when we experience burnout.  A person suffering from it will need time off work to recover and that recovery may take months rather than days.  When cricketer Jonathan Trott decided to fly home early from England’s Ashes tour, he took a difficult but correct decision.  At the time, the England Cricket Board explained his departure was due to a stress-related illness.  Recently Trott has specified that he had burnout, yet on hearing this Michael Vaughan has misunderstood the relationship between stress and burnout and has declared that Trott “did a runner”, “was fit to play” and that the decision was a “con”. 

How much better it would be if Vaughan showed support for a former colleague instead of heaping on the opprobrium.  And how much better it would be if the ECB looked at what it can do to reduce the risk of stress and burnout in players.  Trott is not the only player to have left a tour before the end due to mental ill health.  Perhaps as a start, the ECB should look at the impact on player wellbeing due to being away from home from long stretches of time; and if widening its pool of players could ease the pressures. 

But whether you’re on the cricket pitch or shop floor we all have a responsibility to stamp out work-related stress and associated conditions like burnout, to examine what’s causing the problems, and to discuss what can be done with those involved to both reduce the issues and prevent them from arising again.  And essentially, we need to change attitudes to stress.  Let me stress again, stress is not a good thing – it’s certainly not cricket.

To find out what you can do to stamp out stress in your workplace contact gill@unisonmedia.co.uk





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