By Sophie Lenz.
Representing Western Australia at just 17, Australian cricketer Mitchell Marsh knows all too well the pressures of being in the spotlight from a young age.
He became the youngest cricketer to ever play in a domestic one-day game, and just two years later he made his T20 international debut. The transition from high school student to professional athlete is something Marsh says he will never forget.
“I remember it clear as day. It certainly took me a while to adjust from being a 17-year-old school boy to a professional athlete,” Marsh says.
Son to ex-Australian cricketer, coach and selector Geoff Marsh, Mitchell says he never felt any pressure from his family to play.
“Growing up, cricket was certainly just a part of our family, but Mum and Dad have never put any pressure on us to play the sport,” Marsh says.
Rather, his passion for the sport was sparked by an innate love for the game and years spent rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business.
“I was extremely lucky as a kid to follow dad around the world whilst he was coaching Australia,” Marsh says. “I shared dressing rooms with legends like Shane Warne, Steve Waugh and Glen McGrath: a great era of Australian cricket and those experiences are probably what started my passion for the game.”
Now almost a decade on from his professional debut, Marsh admits that along with his success, a fair share of public scrutiny and negative attention has followed.
“It can be very mentally draining,” Marsh says. “These days I try not to read the thoughts of a few arm chair critics. That said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and some can be quite funny.”
His advice for other young athletes is simple – don’t believe everything you read.
“One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was younger was that when it comes to the media, it’s never as good as it seems and it’s certainly never as bad as it seems,” Marsh says.
Despite Marsh’s no fuss approach to dealing with critics, he recognises that there is more to being a professional athlete than just looking after your physical health and encourages those in need to speak up and seek help.
“Certainly as male athletes it can be hard for us to talk to people, but I encourage all male and female athletes who are struggling at times to talk to professionals or even people who are close to you,” Marsh says.