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Team vs Individual by Adam Hollioake 27 May 2012

I don’t feel qualified to talk about much in life…there are so many people out there with serious intelligence and qualifications in all manner of things that I cant even spell little own understand….

However one thing I feel qualified to speak about is being a professional athlete….I am in the rare but fortunate position of  having been a professional sportsman in 3 different sports and more notably as an individual sportsman and as a part of a team….
For those who are reading my blog for the first time I played professional cricket for 17 years with Surrey CCC and also played for England between 1996 and 2002…
A year ago I turned professional as a boxer and Mixed Martial Artist….yes…I know…quite a change…however the differences don’t end at the fact the sports are so vastly different…One of my favourite sayings is….”you play cricket, you play football… don’t play fight….unless you are young girls with pillows!!”
In this blog I attempt (with my very ordinary writing skills) to highlight some of the differences that have been quite obvious to me between being part of a professional team and being an individual athlete….
I am going to change it up a bit here as I normally write in a fairly free flowing way (basically no structure ha ha)…I’m going to put it under titles….Cos I am just crazy like that….
Relationship with the Coach/Trainer
This is a quite obvious title to start with. The most obvious thing here is that when you are playing in a team environment the coach/player relationship is diluted by the fact that the coach/trainer has other members of the team to prepare for the game…they also need to have the personality to deal with a large variety of personnel unlike the individual coach who only really has to get to know his protégé well…I feel that I had a great relationship with all my coaches as a cricketer, I had some great coaches, without doubt my 2 favourite team coaches were Keith Medlycott & David Gilbert, both great human beings and two of my dearest friends, however they also had 20+ other individuals to manage so it was a very difficult to build that deep relationship (around sport anyway) like  you develop with your trainer as a fighter…but the fighter trainer relationship is a special one…I have had 2 trainers in my time Scott Welch (European Heavyweight Champion and he who fought for the World Heavyweight Title) and more recently Stephen Ng…they are both amazing human beings and both wonderful trainers…I guess there needs to be that extra trust…after all they are in control of your health in there….
To prove that this isn’t a cricket-fighting comparison I also had a personal cricket coach throughout my career…Peter Carlstein (Ex South African Cricketer) used to train me during the off season and is one of my closest friends…I owe much of what I achieved to him…he knows me better than anyone and used to push me so hard I would regularly throw up during training sessions…He reminds me very much of Scott Welch and Stephen Ng except I have known him since I was 19 so we have a very long history together…
Team Mates can carry you/Team mates can let you down
I guess another very obvious area of difference between the team athlete and the individual is there is no where to hide as an individual athlete nor is there anyone to bring you down…it begins and ends with you…There was always players in the teams that I played in that would go missing in big games or would go missing at important times in games…by the same token there were players who could always give you a day off by winning the game for your team by individual brilliance…I entered every game wanting to be bowling and batting at the business end of the game…Whether that be trying to get the team over the line batting at 6 or bowling at the death…This was often viewed as me having a combative nature…when the real truth was I don’t ever trust anyone as much as I trust myself…I am even a terrible passenger in the car…Ask Saqlain Mushtaq who I drove around for 8 years…I refused to let him drive…when it is the norm to share the driving. He even referred to me as ‘his driver’ once…All in all there are vastly different mindsets required for both…I personally prefer the mindset of the individual athlete because I think it is easier to just retreat into thinking about yourself and not have nagging doubts about letting others down or even being let down by others.
I personally like having the buck starting and ending with me….not because I claim to be mentally strong but rather because there are just less variables…It is a slightly selfish attitude but being part of the team requires a constant assessment of your teamwork ethic… need to work on yourself as an individual and consider the needs of others in your team (you need to build the confidence of a struggling team mate or train for the sake of the team despite feeling that your own game is in order)
In addition to this section is the dealing with winning and losing…I can honestly say that nothing that I have experienced compares t winning things as a team…I have been fortunate to have been in the situation of winning as an individual and as part of a team…hands down it is far better to share the experience with a team of people….There is something special about struggling together as a team but ultimately attaining your goals…To be able to sit down and reminisce about victories you achieve together far outweighs any individual accolade that can be bestowed upon any individual athlete….
Media Differences
This is probably the area that people may be surprised at most…The nature of team sport makes it very hard for a member of the team to truly express his personality….The limiting factors are you are representing your team/club/country and you cant go expressing your opinions as that of the team. There were many times were I wanted to psychologically attack our opposition and lay down the gauntlet however I had to be mindful that I was the mouth piece for our team and I had to remain aware that players in the team didn’t necessarily thrive on confrontational situations…On top of this I had to be conscious that the club or indeed country may not want to be represented in such a light…If indeed I felt that I had the blessing of my club country to let fly at an opposition player or team….I would still need to consider carefully that I was stealing limelight away from other players or the team itself….
I vastly prefer being an individual athlete in this respect…You will see a far more free speaking man with me as an individual athlete…
Dealing with Relationships
It is no secret that teams can be winning teams or losing teams based on the comraderie within the team…That in itself tells you that the effect of players on one another is very real…and I have been in teams where people inspire you and help your performance to rise…people like Saqlain, Goughy, Headly, Alec, Athers, Thorpy, Azhar, Bickers, Freddy there were many players I played with that inspired me to want to give more….By the same token there were players who I just flat out didn’t like…thankfully there was only 2 or 3 of these in the whole time I played…including my youth cricket and I hate to admit that these people had a negative impact on my mindset…despite me claiming to be mentally strong…something I could have been better at is not letting bad team mates affect me as much as they did…..
All in all there are pros and cons of both but for now I am really enjoying my freedom of speech and the relationship I have with my trainer Stephen Ng…Hopefully this will remain a winning partnership and one thing I do know is he is a friend for life…..
Speak soon
One Love

Adam Hollioake