Patterns of performance

Nature is one inter-connected dynamic pattern. If you look closely into nature, patterns exist everywhere.

Depending on your perspective and where you look, nature could reveal its chaotic or disjointed side to you. For example, I have had horrific reactions to the photograph below which was taken with my macro lens. I will share the context of this photograph at the end of the blog (just to keep you in suspense).

Yesterday, South Africa lost the 2nd cricket test to Sri Lanka with a day to spare. Given all of the expert opinion in the cricket fraternity; this result was against all odds. Captain Graeme Smith was at a loss to explain the performance of his team.

If one considers patterns, this result may not be so ‘outrageous’ and/or mysterious. Like in nature, patterns also exist in sporting performance. These patterns are created by energy flow and the habitual nature of humans (athletes). More specifically, attitude and thinking patterns of human systems (teams) generate patterns of behaviour both on and off the field.

To outline the pattern of performance surrounding the South African cricket team, take a look at the tables below.

1st Test Pattern

Vs India (Dec 2010) Vs Sri Lanka (Dec 2011)
Played at SuperSport, Centurion; 16-20 Dec 2010 Played at SuperSport, Centurion; 15-19 Dec 2011
India batted first Sri Lanka batted first
India bowled out cheaply in 1st innings: 136 runs Sri Lanka bowled out cheaply in 1st innings: 180 runs
SA only batted once SA only batted once
Convincing win by SA by an innings, with lots of time to spare Convincing win by SA by an innings, with 2 days to spare

2nd Test Pattern

Vs India (Dec 2010) Vs Sri Lanka (Dec 2011)
Played at Kingsmead, Durban; 26-30 Dec 2010 Played at Kingsmead, Durban; 26-30 Dec 2011
India batted first Sri Lanka batted first
SA bowled out cheaply in 1st innings: 131 runs SA bowled out cheaply in 1st innings: 168 runs
SA lose with a day to spare
SA lose with a day to spare

In order to understand on-the-field patterns of performance, one needs to examine off-the-field patterns of behaviour, as well as the attitudinal mind-set of the team. Given the convincing victories after the 1st tests, it can be hypothesized that the SA team may have gone into the second tests in an arrogant and complacent manner.

If the SA team wants to change some of its patterns of poor performance in the future there are many questions that could be asked regarding its activities and its use of time in the build-up to the test match. Here are some basic questions that could be considered:

What did the team do with its time after the victory in the 1st tests? Did the batsmen utilize this time and put in extra practice (given the fact that they only batted once), or did the team fly back immediately to the respective home cities to bask in the glory of victory? What happens to the players on their return home – are they monitored? Are the SA bowlers only prepared to graft, if they bowl on a green wicket that has pace and bounce and gives them an extra advantage? When does the team re-connect for the Christmas test? Does the team always have a Christmas Eve party at the hotel together with family members? How focused are the team during the festive season test match – are they distracted by the festive mood that surrounds them?

If may not be necessary for captain Smith to logically explain his team’s poor performance against Sri Lanka. However, he may need to seriously consider the fundamental pattern of performance of the team that the tables above highlight. More importantly, doing the same things over and over again in the same way, yet expecting a different result is ‘insanity’ according to a popular phrase.

If a team wants to break its pattern of poor performance it needs to go about its preparation in a different way; in particular challenging the old habits and routines that may be embedded in the team’s culture over time.

May I take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and balanced 2012, and especially hoping that you challenge the self-defeating beliefs and destructive habits that do not support your highest vision of the ‘Best You’ you can be.

The photograph that caused such an emotional reaction is that of the glue that weeps from the strelitzia nicolai flower.

2 thoughts on “Patterns of performance

  1. Justin

    I heard an interview with Graeme Smith where he made a comment ake that he took on the captaincy at to early an age (22) and give the chance over again he wouldn’t have taken it, I almost sensed his frustration and exhaustion with the job.

    It felt as if it was an “honorable burden” that he was shouldered with and he got no pleasure or joy out of the position.

    To change the pattern perhaps they need to give Graeme a chance to concentrate on his batting and let a new captain breath fresh energy into the camp?

  2. Ken Jennings

    Justin, thank you for your comment. I agree that taking on a leadership position in an elite team (no matter the sport) is a taxing endeavour. It can become a burden; with the captain not being able to generate new energy within the team.

    Change of leadership in a team can activate a change of the pattern; but this is not always the case (and therefore should not be generalized). As a case in point, Gary Kirsten was the coach of the Indian team that beat SA at Kingsmead in December 2010. Yet, he was the coach of the SA team that lost to Sri Lanka. So, the change of coach in the SA cricket team did not actually make any difference to the systemic (team) pattern that I have outlined.

    However, change of captain or coach can change team patterns; but it depends on how the ‘new’ leadership intervenes into the old team dynamics for the old negative patterns to be neutralized.

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