Simon Cusden, former professional cricketer turned coach, on what it takes to be a true mentor.
A simple question.
‘Would we take driving lessons from an instructor who had read the manual but never driven a car?
Well, some of you may have a death wish. For the rest of us, the answer is, of course, no we wouldn’t. Because only when we feel safe can we be completely vulnerable, and put our lives in the hands of another person. Learning a cover drive might seem less dangerous to us than learning to drive a car. But our egos do not know the difference. The ego keeps us safe and protected. What is new is dangerous. What is old is safe. If we cannot move past our survival instincts and feel safe in our inadequacies, we cannot grow and we cannot learn. We close up in our hearts and enter our minds. Thoughts rush in, judgements are made, fears arise and growth stops. Peak performance becomes impossible because to be free from fear is to be in the heart and in the present moment.
We need trusted and experienced advisors whose authenticity and ability to speak from experience can bring us into a state of humility and openness. Only then can true teaching begin. This is the art of a mentor.
The conveyer belt continues to produce coaches, teachers and instructors. People who desperately want to make a difference and give back to their clubs, schools and communities. Their intentions are heartfelt. They attend the courses, listen to the TV pundits, read books and yet something is missing.
While it is rewarding and important to find information, inspiration and knowledge from external sources, it is the powerful and influential mentors who look inwards for the sources of guidance, instruction and council. They understand the paradox that everyone is different, and yet the same. Their egos and fears make them different, and yet everyone has equal potential to express themselves and be free. This is the only path to peak performance.
In their inwards quest, powerful mentors must face themselves in the mirror. To help others understand their own deficiencies, they must be honest and make friends with their own dragons and demons. Mentors are tour guides of the internal processes of honest reflection. It is this journey that provides them with the power to move with people past their comfort zones. They help them feel safe and protected because they are being guided by someone who has made this trip and left some breadcrumbs along the path.
So we move onwards into the ‘Age of the Mentor’. Coaches such as Darren Lehmann and Trevor Bayliss have rightly been anointed with this title. Cricket and life has moulded them into perfectly qualified guides of young people. We may not have all played a high standard of cricket. But we have all loved. We have all lost. We have failed and fallen. We have got back up again and succeeded.
Every coach has the potential to be the Mark Webber of driving instructors. A mentor.
You can find a mirror or realise life is the mirror. Be brave. The next generation depend on you.