England news April 1, 2014

'We urge the development of inner fitness'

ESPNcricinfo staff

Letter to Media from: 'Journeys Through Sport'

The examples of sportspeople from a range of sports who have all experienced real difficulty with anxiety, depression, and wellbeing, is a salutary reminder of the effects of high pressure in the world of sport-performance where they live most of their daily life.

Most sportspeople compete in intensely demanding and public environments where their work can define them as people, where they have to excel at early stages in life, live away from home, and have to manage high expectations, injuries, transformational sums of money, and the 'fame machine' at a relatively young age. 'Living the dream' they might be, but this accelerated development and intensity is out of synch with emotional development and normal rates of maturation.

Yet so many sport development programmes seek to develop 'toughness' and competitiveness, without attending to the need to develop the whole person.

If sport's leaders can provide environments whereby athletes feel secure enough to be open and honest about vulnerability and insecurities without being judged or feeling fearful about being discarded, then the sporting landscape will be healthier.

We urge sporting directors, coaches, and leaders of development programmes, to attend to the development of 'inner fitness' alongside 'athletic fitness' to help people understand 'self' better.

'Inner fitness' addresses a young person's purpose in life, their values, the way they think and understand their emotions, and how they acquire the relationship skills needed to achieve a well-rounded life, both inside and outside their sport.

Striving for excellence should not be defined exclusively by performance on the pitch, track, course, or court, but by the way sportspeople lead their lives.

Yours faithfully 'through sport' signed:
Neil Burns, Founder & Sporting Director Journeys Through Sport; Nick Compton, Professional Cricketer, Somerset & England; Tom Gaymor, Former Racing Driver, Academy Director Carlin Motorsport; Professor David Gilbourne, Professor of Critical Social Science; Richard Hill MBE, Former Saracens, England, British & Irish Lions Rugby Player; Gary Lineker, Former England Football Captain, BBC Sports Presenter; Julian Powe, International Leadership Development Consultant; Dr David Priestley, Head of Psychology & Personal Development Saracens RC; Katy Sexton MBE, Former World & Commonwealth Champion Swimmer & Coach; Ed Sinclair, Double Olympian Swimmer & Professional Coach; Alastair Storie, Former Professional Cricketer & Chartered Psychologist;Paul Taylor, Former Cricketer, Headmaster Framlingham College, Suffolk; Steve Turner, Psychologist & Professional Mentor @ London County Mentoring;