Sports and business are closely aligned. Businesses are run similarly to sporting teams in that they are results-oriented, require a foundation of strong core values, and are underpinned by a positive culture that drives high performance.

Australian Vice Captain, Pat Cummins, has had his fair share of setbacks and challenges – both at an individual and team level – when playing cricket at an international level. 

At a recent PageGroup webinar, “Overcoming Adversity”, Cummins shared his insights on resilience, leadership and team dynamics.

“We were delighted to host this fantastic event, which was a sell-out for us and arguably our biggest webinar we’ve held since COVID-19 hit Australia,” David Khadi, Regional Director at PageGroup Australia said.

“Pat is an A-list sporting professional who overcame a stress fracture in his back to become the world’s number one-ranked test bowler and ICC Test Cricketer of the Year.”

Resilience and gratitude during setbacks

Despite this injury, Cummins wanted to continue proving himself, however, not being able to play had affected his outlook and attitude.

“For those couple of years when my body wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do, I started concentrating on being grateful for the opportunities I had in the first place: playing cricket full-time for Australia,” he revealed.

“Resilience, for me, is about being grateful for the position you’re in but then also understanding that you’re in control of your destiny and situation. So once you have a setback, it becomes a choice – do I want to overcome hardship or injury, or give up?”

He said his parents had helped influence his outlook on life: “They’re two of the most grateful and humble people I know. Being grateful was drilled into me since childhood.”

Cummins also maintained his perspective during this setback by speaking to others who had gone through similar experiences.

“One of the biggest lessons they taught me was that you need other interests outside of cricket,” he shared.

“For me, that was university and keeping in touch with my friends so that when I’m not on tour, I can easily step outside that bubble. That took a lot of pressure off what stage I was at during my injury or career, because cricket is something that I do but it [doesn’t define] me as a person. I happen to play cricket, but I have other interests too.”

Key leadership attributes for overcoming adversity

Cummins has played amongst impressive leaders such as Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and more recently, Tim Paine.

“Everyone has their own style and do it slightly differently, but as leaders they all have an incredible drive to get better, train really hard and have incredible passion for what they do,” Cummins said.

“Steve Waugh had a way of taking high pressure situations and simplifying them. Justin Langer does the same.

“What’s also been consistent with all my leaders is their drive to learn, get better and set really high standards for themselves. They have this continual search for improvement, they care for their players and have good relationships with the team.”

He said the VC position has added an extra level of reflection on the environment he wants to create within the team, and to also take pressure off the Captain and coaches where he can.

Expanding on Langer’s vision and values, Cummins said there was an initial adjustment period before team buy-in and eventually, success.

“As players, we can be stubborn about how we go about our game and we hadn’t really been challenged in those ways before. But we knew it was coming from a good place,” he revealed.

“JL is big on setting high standards, being disciplined, self-improvement and having no excuses. He’s super motivated and puts everything into his coaching.”

After about a year of understanding how each player works and what motivates them, Langer was able to get the best out of the team, he said.

Team dynamics and culture

While it may seem like any team – whether sports or business – has all the ingredients to be successful, many aren’t or struggle with reaching success.

In terms of dynamics, Cummins highlighted the 2015 World Cup team as one of the best teams he’s been part of.

“When I think back to that tournament, yes, the players had the experience and a high skill set,” he said.

But the drive to improve and do well was huge. Mitchell Johnson was super competitive at training, for example. And there was also this innate trust that was present and the sense that everyone wanted each other to do well.”

He said when it came to poor team dynamics, he called out: “Stubbornness, people refusing to express themselves or refusing to change, and they tend to ignore problems.”

Strategies for rebounding from failure

Cummins shared the following tips for finding success after a hardship:

  • Don’t point the finger or pass blame
  • Acknowledge that it wasn’t successful
  • Set out your blueprint for how you want to improve
  • Take the pressure off being perfect single every time

Tim Cruikshank, Commercial General Manager at the ACA said the partnership with PageGroup has a clear synergy in providing great support for its members with their professional development, assisting them to successfully transition out of the game. 

“Pat is a great example of a star player who has sustained a well-rounded approach both on and off the field. It was great to hear him discuss his humble perspective on maintaining this balance,” Cruikshank said.

“On behalf of the ACA and its members, we thank PageGroup for partnering on this event with us.”

Commenting on the takeaways shared during the webinar, Khadi said: “Adversity is something we’ve no doubt all been facing in some way, shape or form, both from a professional and personal standpoint, especially in light of COVID. 

“PageGroup is proud to partner with the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) to provide their members with professional coaching, career training and workshops, which will help to assist their progression post-cricket. This aligns well with our purpose of changing lives for people through creating opportunities for them to reach their potential.”

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