Learning from Dame Flora and Somerset Cricket Club
Somerset’s Cup Match victory and Dame Flora Duffy’s triumph in the Commonwealth Games on the Friday of Cup Match had something in common.
Both were sporting examples of dominance. In Somerset’s case, they have now held the cup for a decade, but this has been magnified by the way they have dominated St George’s. The matches have rarely been close, and in the past two years, the challengers have come close to suffering the humiliation of an innings defeat, as which was inflicted in 2018.
That’s a change from times when one club or the other held the cup for long periods, but often as a result of a draw.
Similarly, Dame Flora’s victory in the Commonwealth Games was never really in question; she imperiously led the way in the women’s triathlon and never looked in danger of being beaten, in much the same way she led when winning the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics a year earlier. It means that over a period of four years, she has won one Olympic gold and two Commonwealth golds in addition to numerous world championships.
So these are two examples of sporting dominance occurring not for a short time, but over a period of years. Athletes competing at the highest levels will agree that the only thing that is harder than winning one championship is winning another.
Fans of Somerset and of Dame Flora should not assume that this is the norm, and that it somehow just happens by right.
Memories of the long periods — decades in some cases — when St George’s held the cup with a vice-like grip fade. Dame Flora’s dominance may not be seen again in most Bermudians’ lifetimes. After all, before this, Clarence Hill’s bronze medal was Bermuda’s only Olympic silverware. Until Dame Flora came along, Clarance “Nicky” Saunders was in an equally exclusive club as the island’s only Commonwealth Games gold medal-winner.
For a place as small as Bermuda, Dame Flora’s achievements are extraordinary. That may be recognised only long afterwards when our athletes return to the mean, as they likely will. Similarly, there may come a time when Somerset fans look back wistfully at this period as a golden age for their club’s cricket at Cup Match time. Such are the twists and turns of sport.
But this does not mean that they happened by accident. Dame Flora’s success is owing to natural talent, but also to tenacity, resilience and endless hard work. Her challenges earlier in her career are well documented. Many would have given up. She didn’t and is now reaping the rewards.
The Somerset Cup Match team benefit as well from talent, teamwork, hard training and understanding what it takes to win. Certainly, they seem to have had the edge in selection, but as coach Clay Smith has ruefully admitted, the St George’s team also have talent — but their brittle confidence means that they react badly when things start to go wrong.
Like Somerset, Dame Flora will find a way to win even when things aren’t going according to plan — as she did in the Hamburg world series event when she not only had to overcome a ten-second penalty for a goggles infraction but also sacrificed just as much time over a tardy second transition.
It is both useful and dangerous to take lessons from sport, and to apply them to real life.
As difficult and challenging as sport can be, it is nowhere near as complex as managing an economy or running a government.
But there are lessons to be taken from successes in sport and other walks of life which can be applied to Bermuda and how it manages its way through these complicated times.
Any team, and perhaps especially Somerset, will agree that teamwork is vital to its success. When “Team Bermuda” takes the political field, too often it looks like a group with 11 captains, all convinced they have the right answer and determined to go their own way and unwilling to listen to other ideas. Our leaders often seem to be more interested in winning the argument instead of agreeing on the best ideas. That is not how you win.
Bermuda has been through some challenging times in recent years. But often we are too quick to assume the worst of people who do not succeed rather than giving them another chance. Bermuda is too small to write off people who have faced struggles.
The best teams, leaders and coaches know when it’s time to change direction or tactics and when to listen to others. The worst are those who are convinced that only they are right. By all means, have the courage of your convictions, but that is different from wilful blindness.
Bermuda faces multiple economic and societal challenges. Although Bermuda remains a world leader in reinsurance, this remains a highly competitive sector and despite its success, reinsurance companies of the 2020s do not have the physical presence that their predecessors did.
The way back for tourism will be long and hard, while other attempts to diversify the economy take time, even when the ideas are good.
In the meantime, many residents face massive challenges from galloping inflation and the rising cost of food and fuel. At a time when Bermuda is not enjoying full employment, this makes it even harder.
To come up with the right solutions will take a team effort in which the best leaders, regardless of which team they represent, are chosen. Sadly for St George’s fans, there is evidence that other factors have influenced selection. Dame Flora Duffy would not go into action without an excellent team behind her that she can trust implicitly.
Bermuda needs its best minds now. No one should be left on the sidelines.