If you have been following the 2015 Ashes series, you will have heard a lot in the media and from analysts about the inability of Australia to adapt to the English conditions; be it being able to bat against the swinging ball or bowl a stricter line and length on pitches dissimilar to the hard, faster tracks found down-under. This inability to sufficiently adjust techniques, tactics and mentalities to these new conditions was one of the foremost reasons for their humbling series defeat.
Whether a follower of cricket or not, for young sportsmen and women there is something especially significant to appreciate from this – the challenges faced by athletes, no matter their experience and talent, of playing in unfamiliar conditions in foreign countries. The importance of them adapting to the demands placed on them technically, psychologically and sometimes physically when playing in a relatively novel environment. This is something of relevance to all sports, not simply cricket. It is why professional athletes regularly seek to have spells playing or simply training abroad, even those who have won it all and seemingly mastered every skill that there is to master. It is thus why you should seriously consider undertaking a sports gap year programme with Sport Lived in Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.
If you have an insatiable thirst to be constantly developing as an athlete, if you want to ensure you continue to enhance and refine the different facets of your game and take yourself to the next level and beyond, serious consideration should be given to bidding adieu to your comfort zone and undertaking a sports gap year programme, be it for as little as 4 weeks or for as long as 26. Now is the time to get your passport and kit together and head off to one of these three magnificent Southern Hemisphere nations that are not simply amongst the greatest on the globe for sport but offer very different environments for you to absorb, acclimatize to and learn from.
The previously mentioned Australian cricket example is particularly pertinent – different conditions often require different skills. In the city of Melbourne for example, where you can undertake full or mini cricket seasons with Sport Lived, the pitches you’d be playing on would be far faster and harder than anything you have experienced before. There is more bounce to generate when bowling and to be weary of when batting but more opportunities to score runs due the extra pace that the ball arrives onto the bat. If you want to enhance your playing off the back foot, Australian batting conditions are ideal. The many dustier pitches down-under are also better suited for spinners. Heading abroad and dealing with such changes in conditions will leave you returning a player with far more feathers in your cap.
In addition to different skills, playing and training abroad allows you to familiarise yourself with varied approaches to the game you love. Foreign nations often have their own ideas on how a sport should be played that may be contrary to what you are used to at home. A fine example is in New Zealand, where their traditional way of playing rugby is as famous as it is hard to play against. The current world champion’s way of playing filters down domestically at all levels and will provide a shock to system once you initially start playing there. The emphasis, unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, is to keep the ball in hand and steer clear of rucks and mauls as much as possible. There is a huge importance given to ball handling, running lines and distribution. The pace in attack and the intensity in constantly defending with a high line will be like nothing you have ever encountered before. James Haskall, capped over 50 times for England, went to play in the Sport Lived destination of Dunedin with the Highlanders to develop his game. As did Sam Burgess during his rugby league days – he just happened to inspire South Sydney to win the 2014 NRL Grand Final. You can learn and read about these different sporting philosophies but nothing beats actually experiencing them for yourself.
Going hand in hand in this are the various types of coaching that you would be exposed to. Even if you have been learning from the very best domestic coaches, there is nothing wrong with going out and learning from coaches with diverse tactics and inventive ideas, broadening your horizons and understanding of the game. If coaching itself is your passion, the benefits are obvious. As for playing, let’s take the Sport Lived Hockey Academies in Brisbane and Melbourne as examples. There will get to work extensively on your game with access to outstanding facilities at the Queensland’s State Hockey Centre and Melbourne’s State Hockey Centre respectively and elite coaches with a wealth of experience right up to international standards.
Furthermore, a spell pushing yourself to new limits through a sports gap year will do wonders for your fitness in general. We enjoy moaning about the British climate but wait until you start training and playing regular matches for your club in the glorious sun and heat of cities like Dunedin or Cape Town. Your general physical endurance and strength will improve dramatically as you adjust to the new conditions. It is why Germany, ahead of the World Cup that they would go onto win, flew to Brazil early and spent so much money on ensuring their players acclimatised to the Brazilian heat and were in the ideal physical state for the start of the tournament. In the world of tennis, Andy Murray is just one player who has reaped the fitness benefits of training abroad - he is known to spend much of his pre-season in Miami. You could do the same through a tennis programme in Melbourne. Irrespective of the sport, when you head back home you will feel a physically superior player than when you left. Mentally a period abroad is also beneficial, giving you the opportunity to try something new, accentuate your focus and return home refreshed and even more enthused for you the sport you adore.
The values of playing sport abroad are plentiful. It is something that any young and aspiring athlete should want to experience. That hope can turn to reality through a sports gap year programme with Sport Lived.
Thinking of taking a gap year abroad? Have a look at the superb opportunities offered by Sport Lived by clicking here.