Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Barney Gibson, the first-class cricketer who played his last game aged 15

Who is the youngest player to appear in first-class cricket in England?

The answer is Barney Gibson, who kept wicket for Yorkshire against Durham MCCU in April 2011 at the age of 15 years and 27 days. 

I marked the occasion with a post on the long-defunct cricket blog The Corridor, but nothing has been heard of Gibson since.

Thanks to a Cricketer article by Nick Friend we now know what happened to him. He chose "enjoyment and freedom".

As a boy and young teenager he was on the books of both Yorkshire as a wicketkeeper and Leeds United as a goalkeeper:

"I don’t think I realised how much I wasn’t enjoying it until I didn’t have to go to training, until I didn’t have to put in the extra hours, which at one point was something that I really wanted to do. It wasn’t until I’d done it and it had taken its toll that I realised how much hard work does go into being a professional athlete."

As a teenager ... his entire existence had been devoted to academy sport until the moment he decided it was no longer for him. So much so that it was all he knew and all his family could foresee. Having started so young, it was engrained in him.

"It wasn’t until I got to the age of 18 that I asked myself: 'Is this what I’m going to be doing forever?'" Gibson recalls. "I think it was just a case of no longer enjoying what I used to wake up looking forward to doing every day."

Good for him.

Just because you are good at something, you don't have to do it. And there may be lessons here about the pressures we put on talented young athletes at a ridiculously early age.

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