Conventions in our working lives, our social interactions, family structures, political and religious norms are constantly under challenge and change.
One of these conventions is to do with age, which says that number of years on this earth correlates to knowledge, experience and sometimes, but not always, wisdom.
So the older we are, the more likely we will have greater knowledge, experience and wisdom than a younger person.
Convention also seems to dictate that at a certain age relative to each industry and sector, generally around what is considered to be the ‘retirement age’, this knowledge, experience and wisdom is no longer useful as it has passed its ‘use-by’ date.
Of course we have met, worked, played sport with people who were young but seemed to have that ‘old head on young shoulders’. As well as, there were older persons who still thought they were “Peter Pan” or “Tinkerbell”, and had never grown up.
But as a consequence, there can never be a fixed rule or unwritten policy that skews favour on age alone.
That is why I was interested in the comments of Steve Smith recently regarding a selection decision of Ed Cowan verses Daniel Hughes. If selection was based on results only, one would have little doubt that Ed Cowan’s numbers were superior. If selection was based on experience to perform at the level of the competition, Ed Cowan’s name would still be in front. If the selection was based on CQ, cultural quotient or ‘fit’ within the group, I cannot offer comment – but at the same time, those involved in selection have not either. So one can assume this is not the reason for Daniel Hughes’ selection.
The article suggested ‘potential’ was the reason for Daniel being elevated into the starting XI. While every player has ‘potential’, as very few, if any, have reached their ‘potential’, the younger the player the more ‘potential’ they are perceived to have.
So the conclusion that most people would reach is that age was the determinant of this selection.
I have seen this worrying trend in cricket and many sports in Australia over the past decade or more. It cannot be written into policy, as this would possibly lead to a legal challenge based on discrimination.
However there is plenty of evidence that clearly demonstrates younger players receive preference to older such as –
- Those who make up academies;
- Representative teams composition is biased to younger players;
- Younger aged teams placed into higher level competitions;
- Club competition structures and schedules work against older players remaining in the game, or playing at the level they should.
Why is this an issue? – Surely we want to give our younger athletes more exposure to higher-level competition to constantly test their skills and ‘potential’? And at the same time, there needs to be succession planning for the future.
The answer is yes – we do want to test them at higher levels, provided they get the learning experiences that will improve their current knowledge, experience and possibly wisdom or maturity, and give them the opportunity to take over from incumbents when the time is right.
But how are these young athletes exposed to in-game coaching and learning, if they are only playing with and against players of their own age?
My experience as a player and a coach over 40 years showed me that the best development of young players was when they are surrounded by older players – either those with whom they were playing, or those that they were playing against. Country and regional athletes and cricketers are good examples of development as they play their sport in and amongst adults for much of their younger years.
Australian batting for instance has forsaken the experience of Bailey, Klinger, Voges, Ferguson, White, Cowan, Henriques to name a few of recent times, in the hunt for ‘potential’ young cricketers.
Age should not be the barrier to playing cricket or being selected in competitions.
Simply because you are older does not mean you can no longer perform. And conversely, just because you are younger with ‘potential’, does not mean you will be successful.
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