Cricket star Taylor: Coronavirus has caused a huge strain on mental health

The pandemic has afforded Sarah Taylor plenty of time to reflect on her decision to put paid to a glittering international cricket career nearly a year and a half ago, with the Sussex and England great insisting she has no regrets, writes Peter White of Sportsbeat.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 4:17 pm
Sarah Taylor has been talking about the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought

The former wicketkeeper hung up her gloves aged 30 after a long-standing battle with anxiety that saw her take an extended break from the game in 2016, miss the 2018 World T20 and withdraw from England’s squad during the 2019 Ashes.

Despite her troubles Taylor’s achievements on the pitch earned her a nomination for the ICC Cricketer of the Decade award late last year, with two World Cup wins and three victorious Ashes series a mere snippet of the successes she contributed to.

While her focus now rests on her role as a sports development and life skills coach at Bede’s School in Sussex, Taylor is enjoying being able to follow her former teammates’ exploits on the other side of the boundary.

Sarah Taylor in England action before her international retirement

“Ideally I would have liked to have played for a little bit longer, but I have zero regrets about leaving when I did,” said Taylor, who is second on England women's list of run-scorers with 6,533 international runs.

“I didn’t necessarily leave because I didn’t like cricket, there was just a social anxiety aspect of my life that I needed to deal with and it was the right time for me. Social anxiety and living in the limelight don’t really coincide.

“I’m still fan-girling when the team are playing, for sure. They’re my friends and I want to see them do well, and I’ll be cheering them on when they go to New Zealand next month.

“I have no resentment towards cricket at all. For me now it’s just a case of being able to watch my friends play sport without the expectation on my shoulders, which is great.

“I’m extremely happy now. I’m in one place at a time and not travelling around the world, and I love my job. The kids, the staff and the parents at Bede’s are all great - they’re like my new team.”

Having taken on her new role 12 months ago, it wasn’t long before the Covid-19 pandemic presented a number of unprecedented challenges to Taylor’s new career and her mental health.

“It’s been a tough time for me - as it has been for everyone - and I’ve had to put all the things I learnt towards the back end of my cricket days into practice to help me get through it,” she said.

“Being furloughed means I’ve had to work out a new routine, and I’m aware of all the red flags and triggers of my anxiety, such as lack of sleep and not getting out of the house.

“I make sure I get out at least once a day, and I’m currently doing a sports psychology diploma through Bede’s which is keeping me busy. As long as I get my walk in and do a bit of work then I’m alright.”

Acknowledging the impact of Covid-19 on her own anxiety, Taylor has contributed her experiences to a brand new, free online mental health and wellbeing platform launched by Sussex Cricket. Read all about it here.

With almost one in five adults enduring some form of depression during the pandemic, Taylor believes the hub represents a unique resource that can help people from all walks of life battle a range of issues.

She added: “It was a no-brainer to jump in and try to push this initiative as much as possible. The hub features thousands of videos covering a variety of topics, and I hope by sharing experiences people realise they’re not on their own.

“That’s something I went through - I felt alone because I didn’t understand what I was going through for so long - and I hate the thought that there are people out there now in similar situations.

“Coronavirus has caused a huge strain on mental health, whether it be for monetary reasons, homeschooling or whatever. The more aware you can be, the more chance you’ve got of stepping in and dealing with it as soon as possible.”