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Sports psychologist David Scott reveals how he will improve Bermuda’s cricketers

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Sports psychologist David Scott talks to players and coaches in Canada

The sports pyschologist tasked with improving the mindsets of Bermuda’s cricket players as they attempt to qualify for the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup is preparing to fly to the island to meet the squad.

David Scott, professor of sports psychology at the University of New Brunswick, will arrive in Bermuda on January 21 to pass on more than 30 years of experience in working with professional and amateur athletes, but it is his love of cricket that compelled him to volunteer his services.

“I come from from a tiny village called Donemana in Northern Ireland and I am a big cricket fan. William Porterfield, who was the Irish cricket captain for many years, comes from that little village as does Andrew McBrine, who is the captain of the team right now.

“One of the reasons I want to be involved with Bermuda is that I’ve been before. Back in 2004 to 2007, I worked with the West Indies cricket team. I didn’t work with any other teams here in Canada, cricket was my thing, and it was awesome. I loved that but it’s not the sport in Canada. It’s all ice hockey here so for the last 15-16 years I went away from cricket,

“But in 2012 I came to Bermuda because David Moore, who was Bermuda coach at the time, had coached the West Indies. He asked if I would come down so I came for a week, put on some workshops and then David moved on, I ended my involvement with cricket and went to hockey.

“I’m now a bit older and I want to start doing the things I love and that’s how I got re-involved. I fired off an email to Calvin [Blankendal, exexcutive director of Bermuda Cricket Board] to see if there was any chance of them needing my services. I’m volunteering as It’s the only real cricket association in this time zone. There is the US and Canada but they have their own people.”

Scott has spent 30 years in his field and has worked with some of Canada’s top professional ice hockey teams and he feels the importance of a sports psychologist cannot be underestimated as coaching levels improve.

“What has happened in high-performance sport is that it’s getting harder and harder to win,” Scott said.

“Once upon a time all you needed was talent, but now there are plenty of talented players about who do not play at the highest level. Why? They are talented but they don’t come to training on time, they don’t eat healthy and when the going gets tough, they give up.

“They are talented but they don’t have what’s needed to succeed at the top level. It’s a long-winded way of saying that mental skills are much more accepted as part of sport generally. Athletes know that winning is not easy any more and it’s the little things that make a difference.”

While spending the majority of his time with professional athletes, Scott works with sportsmen and women from the age of 13 and is not keen on making a distinction between pros and amateurs.

“For me, professional is an attitude,” Scott said. “When I work with professional players they are not on time for meetings because they are paid to be on time. In many sports that I’m involved in, it’s guaranteed money even if you don’t play a single minute. It’s a contract, so why are those players ever on time? They are on time because they have respect for their teammates, their organisation and the coaches, it’s just who they are.

“What I try to get across to all players at all levels is there are certain things you can do that has nothing to do with money. I don’t think people should say I’d work harder if I got paid because that is being disingenuous. For me, regardless of whether you get paid or not, when you make a commitment it’s like jumping off a diving board. Once you jump, there is no going back.”

Scott makes no secret of the things he will be working on with Bermuda’s cricketers and is happy to share the techniques that he will be promoting with the players.

“We will be working on our mental skills,” he said.

“That’s really important because I think it would be naive and disingenuous of me to think for one minute that I can give one little talk to a team and turn them into world beaters. I’ve worked with the Montreal Canadiens for the last 14 years on mental skills and I spend ten days a month with them.

“My job when I work with a cricket team is pretty simple. It’s to help us score runs in one inning and take wickets in the other and I do that by teaching and helping the players to develop their mental skills - how to think the right way, how to set goals, how to focus better, how to overcome adversity and how to overcome imagery. These are all skills that can be taught.

“We will have a group meeting where I’ll introduce the ideas but that is the platform for one-on-one meetings, whether it’s in person or on Zoom because different players have to work on different mental skills. Some players may be really good under pressure but others might not be.

“I know I upset some of my colleagues but I do not buy in to talks, these are skills that need to be learnt and it’s a process. It’s a lot of work and a lot of teams and organisations bring the sports psych guy in to give a couple of talks a few days before a major tournament. You wouldn’t bring a fitness coach in three days before a big game if a team was physically unfit and expect to make a difference.

“I don’t see this as waving a magic wand to all the athletes in Bermuda. This is a long process to putting things in place.”

It can be difficult to quantify the marginal gains produced by sports psychology and Scott clearly feels it is not a magic bullet but he has enough years on the clock to know where his talents fit in.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, results matter,” Scott said. “If you don’t score enough goals or you let too many in, people are going to lose their job.

“I’m not naive enough to say that the outcome is not important but to get the result you want, you have to put in the performance. The score takes care of itself but it’s about performance standards, preparing properly, training with intensity, having resilience, bouncing back and learning those skills. When you do that, it increases the chance of getting the result you would like.

“Success in sport does not come from any one thing, it comes from a combination of talent, fitness, mental skills and environment. I don’t see what i do as being the most important, but all of those things drive performance on the field.

“In high-performance sport if you are missing one of those factors you are going to be found out."

Bermuda’s cricketers will be hopeful of not being found out when the Americas Qualifier in Argentina begins at the end of February and Scott is keen to point out the difference mental performance can make not just in sport

“I work in high-performance sport but I also work with teenagers because mental skills apply across life,” he said.

“I’ve been a professor for almost 30 years and I have had students who are smart enough to find a cure for cancer. The problem was they couldn’t come to class, they couldn’t take notes and they didn’t study but my goodness they were smart. They were just missing the mental skills of grit and perseverance, of setting goals.”

• David Scott will be giving a series of lectures during his week in Bermuda aimed at sports enthusiasts, stakeholders, administrators, players, coaches, parents and match officials. The sessions will take place in the main hall at Police Recreation Club and are open to all. Ticket information can be found at ontrackbda.com/ticket/bcb

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Published January 12, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated January 12, 2023 at 1:49 pm)

Sports psychologist David Scott reveals how he will improve Bermuda’s cricketers

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