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  • Jake Smith

''I Wet Myself In My First Ever Game for Hampshire''

I had a chat with the excellent Jake Smith (sports broadcaster & journalist) about my journey from playing to presenting sport. I won't lie, I think I was a little too honest but oh well, here it is:

Meet the newest rising star of sports broadcasting!

As a child, daytime radio host Robbie James dreamt of becoming the next superstar in the world of cricket. Instead, the now-21-year-old plies his trade entertaining thousands on a near-daily basis, as well as being paid to watch the sport he once loved to participate in.

Robbie has grown up and entered his adult years realising that the glitz and glamour of being a sportsperson is not all as it seems and now experiences the world of sport from a different angle.

Robbie first fell in love with cricket when he was nine-years-old, but it wasn’t just the game that was played on the field, it was the lifestyle and fame of the batsmen and bowlers who first inspired him to play the sport too.

“I remember the first time I ever played, it was one day after school and someone brought a cricket set to the park, I had the time of my life.”

It wasn’t long after his first experience with a bat that he joined a club. Bishop’s Waltham, a small medieval town near to the city of Southampton, accepted a young Robbie, who was bursting with ambition and filled with desire, to become the player he began to idolise – Shane Warne.

“I watched him in the 2005 Ashes and he was amazing, I always wanted to spin the ball as much as him.”

The juvenile was even lucky enough to have met his hero during his time at Hampshire, describing it as “an incredible moment that I’ll never forget!”

Though Robbie had his first taste of the game whilst playing with some friends after school, it was the events of a tournament which soon followed that caught his eye; “I watched the 2005 Ashes series, which I still think is the best test series to date, and I really fell in love with the game from there.

“Then my uncle took me to what was then The Rose Bowl to watch Hampshire take on Yorkshire in a One Day semi-final. From then on, my dad would take me after school to watch Hampshire and stand outside the dressing room waiting for autographs.”

Unfortunately, and despite the fact that he was invited to train with the under-11s squad as only a nine-year-old at Bishop’s Waltham, Robbie never made it in the professional setup.

“I wasn’t offered a professional contract in the end. I made it all the way through the age groups setup but wasn’t offered anything more.”

He then went on to admit; “I was almost relieved when it happened, it was a massive weight off my shoulders to not be surrounded by constant pressure.”

One embarrassing moment that Robbie recalled from his time playing as a young cricketer came from when he was with the Hampshire under-10s squad. The weight of expectation really hit him during his county debut at the age of nine.

“I wet myself in my first ever game for Hampshire when we were playing against Surrey.

“I was fielding and was so nervous - they couldn’t get a sub on in time so it ended pretty badly, I still remember trying to find some spare whites in the changing room.”

Fortunately, it was not all doom and gloom for the young batsman, who now looks back at the memory with a pinch of salt and laughs it off; “My coach did say that I hit the best shot of the day, so it wasn’t all that bad.

“It’s now a story that I tend to tell to my friends when we’re having a few drinks, it’s all taken in good spirits – who would want to live a boring life? Sure, it was embarrassing back then, but looking back now it is actually rather funny!” – Robbie laughed.

High pressure and expectation is something that is forever haunting the minds of sportspeople in 2019, from the youth setups and local reserve teams, to the big stages and world tournaments of any sport.

In fact, the stigma of mental health is a gripping one, and one that has received much attention from the media and the majority of the public over the past year or so.

The former cricketer-turned-radio-presenter agrees that there is a strong correlation between the mounting pressure on sportsmen and women, and the decline of their mental states.

“There is definitely a link between the two concepts. Work has already begun to offer help and support to those suffering with mental health issues recently, especially for men, and it’s fantastic to see that level of kindness from complete strangers when you also see the level of terror in the world today.”

It’s not just ex-pros who Robbie thinks require help, but those who, like himself, didn’t quite make it either; “I definitely was affected by the pressures of playing high level sport - I felt under surveillance so much of the time and I was always worrying about what other people were doing and how many people were better than me.

“I didn't spend much time with friends or family because there just wasn't enough time when I was travelling around the UK every week” he elaborates. “By the end of my career, I had fallen out of love with the game quite a lot.

So, what kind of pressure does a youth cricketer face when either preparing for or playing a game?

“It’s worrying about if the captain liked you and was willing to put trust in you, or even what the coaching team thought of you. I felt like if I bowled one bad over that would be my career over. Not to mention the weight of expectation from those watching you on the sides.”

“Ironically, I could end my career on the radio much quicker – if I swore!”

Once it became clear that there was no room for Robbie in the world of playing cricket, he decided to turn his hand to broadcasting – in particular on the radio!

“Weirdly I don’t feel it often, but there definitely is pressure doing live radio.”

It was a 14-year-old Robbie which first fell in love with the idea of being on the airwaves and he continued to follow his broadcasting dream through to his late adolescent years. At the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robbie actually started the institutes student radio, which is still going strong today.

However it wasn’t all plain sailing for Robbie as when he graduated from his Economics degree, he came to realise that there were few opportunities North of the border whilst donning an English accent, so he decided to move back down South. Nowadays you can hear Robbie nattering away between 3 and 6pm on weekdays, live on 93.7 Express FM – a radio station based in Portsmouth, that can also be picked up around the surrounding areas and online too via a live player service.

It took a lot of hard work and dedication for him to get there and he even admits a short memory from his childhood, which just goes to show the passion Robbie has for radio.

“When I was 14, I started to think radio was cool and, because I was very sad, I would spend hours in my room pretending to be on the radio.

“It’s another moment of my life which may have been quite odd at the time, but a story that actually I love to tell now that I have achieved my dream” – Robbie added.

As well as presenting his own show on a local community radio station, Robbie has also assisted the production of the Capital Breakfast Show for both the Scotland and South Coast regions of the station. But it’s the latest chapter in his promising and still young broadcasting career that he is most excited about.

His new role sees him undertake multiple tasks – Robbie is now the stadium announcer and presenter for Hampshire County Cricket, covering Day One action of County Championship games, where he also operates the big screen.

Royal London One Day Cup matches are also on the agenda, as is presenting and DJing T20 games and commentating for the Hospital Broadcasting Association too.

“I LOVE commentating on the matches, I actually watch the game more closely than I ever did and it’s made me fall in love with cricket again.

“I don’t have to worry about if I’ll get another over or if I’ll be dropped, there’s just not that added pressure looming above you when you are actually playing. Oh, and you get to sit in the sun and know you’re getting paid to communicate with people, which is my favourite thing to do.”

Having fallen back in love with the sport he once strived to be the next big star in, Robbie went on to compare the differences in pressure between playing and being behind the mic, as well as revealing a nifty tactic he uses to keep himself focused on his new job.

“I think when you're competing with other teammates playing cricket there's no getting away from them, you have to watch how they're performing and that takes your focus away from your own game.

“I see being on the radio as just having a conversation with someone and I try to make sure I don't follow too many people on social media wanting to do the same thing as me, that way I can focus on me and not worry about the progression of others.

“I've also matured a lot, I love radio for the right reasons and I'm not sure it was always that way when I was playing cricket. I think if you're into anything for the wrong reasons, that'll always be obvious and put you at a disadvantage.”

Looking ahead to this year’s Cricket World Cup, the young presenter is excited: “I think it will be a really close tournament. England are favourites, but I think India will be a really tough side to beat, they have a bit more experience than the England side and they are very used to playing under extreme pressure.”

Hampshire take on Middlesex in the Royal London One-Day Cup at The Ageas Bowl on Tuesday, where you can hear Robbie James commentating if you cannot make the game in person!

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