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Trevor E S Smith | Compelling life lessons from sports

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:00 AM


Confidence is a necessary ingredient for success in sports and in life.

However, too much confidence breeds complacency, which, in turn, delivers disastrous consequences.

One of the best examples of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory took place in the 2020 U-19 Cricket World Cup.

The Caribbean region and its diaspora are being forced to learn the bitter lesson of the difference between confidence and overconfidence. The devastating effects of complacency should be etched in the minds of the West Indies U-19 team and its management.


The WI U-19 is arguably the best to have represented the region. In this tournament, they beat highly rated teams from Australia and England. On at least two palpable points leading up to their shocking defeat, they had New Zealand (NZ) on the ropes, to mix sports.

With due respect to the well-known fighting spirit of NZ, for me the overwhelming reason for the potential cup winners failing to reach the semi-finals is the platform for our learning.


Nyeem Young is, unquestionably, star quality. He gets his turn to bat on the back of outstanding performances with the WI well positioned.

On the third ball Nyeem faces, he tries to hit it over the head of a fielder. He gets caught.

Nyeem brought the confidence from the previous games into this one. He failed to take the time to properly assess the pace of the pitch and to get into his stride.

The situation is even more graphic because at the other end, Kirk McKenzie was on 90 not out in a dominant display of batting.

A confident but cautious Nyeem, in tandem with McKenzie, would have devastated the opposition.


Take time to assess new situations, no matter how confident you feel about your ability. Rushing in can cost you the prize that you so desperately want.

The rout of the remainder of the WI batting provides another life lesson.

Don’t depend on others when you have the opportunity to complete the task!

Develop a mindset that believes deeply that the buck stops with you.

Ignore how many people there are to complete the task. Only entertain the thought that if you fail to get it done, disaster might be crouching at the door. If it is to be, it has to be me.


Antibiotics are designed to kill bugs. Medics plead with us to take all the prescribed antibiotics, even when we feel better. The rationale is that if we fail to kill the bugs, we might empower them to develop a more resistant strain which will be harder to treat.

The message is simple for us in life. Don’t leave things unfinished such that they may return as a bigger problem. The key is to use the most effective resources to get the job done.

So back to the WI U-19.

NZ have scored 158 runs with the loss of eight wickets at the rate of 4.37 per over. They have two of their lowest-ranked batsmen at the crease and the last man in the pavilion.

They need to score a further 86 runs at a rate that is 31 per cent faster than achieved by their more capable players.

Had captain Kimani Melius learned the antibiotic treatment lesson, the results might have been different.

Barring injury, Jayden Seales will be terrorising grown men in two years’ time the way that he has done throughout this tournament.

Yet, Kimani’s ‘antibiotic’ stood on the boundary with four overs left in his allotment. At that point, his six overs allowed only 3.5 runs each.


Drive home your advantage. Complacency is one of the most dangerous mindsets. You are not aware of the impending dangers and in that state of blissful ignorance, you are unable to respond appropriately.

Complacency can be tricky – especially when driven by overconfidence. It prevents you from taking decisive action because things appear to be going well.

Patrick and James did well to contain scoring. Wickets, not containment, was required. The NZ batsmen grew in confidence.

Remember the medics’ concern about the development of a more resistant strain? Get all 10 – complete the treatment!

By the time Kimani woke up, Clarke, the second lowest-ranked batsman, scored 46 of the 86 runs required at the rate of six runs per over.

All this while Seales cooled out on the boundary, presumably being preserved for the semi-finals that never came.


Deal with today, today.

Yes, we need to take the future into account. However, there is grave danger in taking today for granted.

You invite disappointment when unfounded confidence prompts you to neglect today’s reality and to shift your energy and resources into the future.


Kimani laid blame on fielding errors for the stunning defeat. Not so!

The game was lost due to overconfidence and complacency. As the leader, he should own up to the fact that he failed to drive home the advantage. Complacency and focus on the future knocked a chance to win the World Cup out of the hands of a truly talented bunch of cricketers.


A final thought relates to the responsibility of management. While we were screaming “Seales” at the TV, what were they doing? Were they also in semi-finals dreamland?

Leaders must lead. Intervene when the situation demands it.

Maybe your teams are making similar mistakes. Talk to us!

Trevor E S Smith with the Success with People Academy. We guide the development of high-performance teams. We are interpersonal relations, group dynamics and performance-enhancement specialists. We provide learning and productivity-enhancement technology solutions. We offer behavioural assessments from Extended DISC, sales & sports competence assessments on the FinxS platform and e-competency Frameworks and e-Onboarding solutions in our SPIKE technology platform. Email: