Whilst travelling from Hamilton to Auckland after visiting a NZCPA member one thing becomes clearly evident in regards to the man in the passenger’s seat of the vehicle, outgoing National PDM Sanj Silva, and that is his huge level of humility.
The two-hour journey was the perfect time to chat and ask Sanj to reflect on his ten-year career at the NZCPA. For the entire trip he was constantly downplaying the impact and legacy he leaves with the CPA’s highly regarded Personal Development Programme (PDP), using phrases such as “we did it, it was a collective effort, I didn’t do it alone.”
The reality is closer to the way NZCPA CEO Heath Mills describes it “ Sanj has done an outstanding job in growing and developing our Personal Development Programme into what I believe is one of the best of its kind in the world. I have no doubt he has been able to grow the programme to what it is today because of his personal qualities which are so aligned with his work. He is very capable, totally committed and always professional. But most importantly he is kind, caring, patient, considerate and will always help anyone in need – he is a great guy whom we’ve been lucky to have at the NZCPA for so long.
Through his work in the development of the PDP he has had a huge impact on our game and its professional players – he leaves the NZCPA with a programme that is world class, respected but most importantly delivers for our people. He can be very proud of the contribution he has made.“
When Sanj started in the role at the NZCPA, Sanj was the only person looking after the needs of all our professional players - in a programme which had poor engagement (around 20-30%), limited resources and with the majority of players unsure of what they wanted to do when they exited from cricket. What was implemented over the next decade evolved into the four key pillar’s which form the foundation of the programme - Education, Risk Management, Self-Development and Well-Being.
Sanj leadership began with the employment of a second Personal Development Manager in 2014, and the success of the programme has enabled further expansion to what is now a PD team of five full time employees catering for our current and past playing members.
As our trip continued so did his humility. The proud father and husband understating how he recognised the importance of the programme being totally independent from cricket’s high-performance system and team based PDM’s. The priority being to ensure members can trust the programme and its people completely being the foundation of what Sanj has built within the programme and the PD team. The fact players can trust a programme as being totally independent and focussed solely on them as an individual, with no consideration or involvement of their cricket performance has always been key.
“I just did my job and we did it as an organisation,” Silva said.
The Mental Well Being Programme which was created in 2013 is one of the key and most used services by our members, another feather in Sanj’s cap. Along the way the former Auckland, CD and Sri Lanka A representative worked collaboratively with the NZC High Performance team to portray the importance of the programme alongside their performance on the field.
NZCPA Board Member and Blackcap Ross Taylor was full of praise for the man who has become a close friend is stating “when Sanj started there wasn’t a lot of buy-in or support for players, little by little he kept adapting the PD Programme to suit player need and into what have available today.
Sanj and the PD team have always been there and looked after current and past players’ well-being. It is no exaggeration that he’s played a big part in my career.”
Ish Sodhi is another player with a long-standing relationship and respect for Sanj, sharing “I've known Sanj since I was 14, well before he started with the CPA. He has had an incredible impact on many of the players that he has worked with, and I am no different.
We will miss Sanj dearly, his work with the PD programme has always gone above and beyond and we could not be more appreciative. I know if I was ever in the ring, I’d have Sanj in my corner! We wish him nothing but the best with his future endeavours.”
Not widely publicised due to its sensitive and confidential nature the work Silva has done with many past players who have fallen on hard times – for them, this has often been life changing. Sanj identified early that The Cricketers Trust was a great safety net, but there was an opportunity to be more proactive before this got too fire – which led to the focus on services for past players which ultimately created a Past Player PDM role to focus on career transition and to more closely case manage those past players who required help and support.
Through Silva’s efforts over the past decade, that low member engagement in 2012 has been turned completely around, with meaningful player engagement numbers now consistently exceeding 90%. That is incredible and shows just how ingrained, relevant and valued the PD service is to our membership. The benefits are not just reflected indirectly in cricket performance, but increasingly flowing through into a more deliberate and planning transition into a career and life outside cricket.
When our car pulled in to drop Sanj off at home after our trip (which was typically another meaningful engagement with a player) Sanj shared one last point. “The number one thing for me was to make sure that we looked after our members holistically, and to put a structure in place that services their needs. I’ve loved my time at the NZPCA and have no doubt our new National PDM Lesley Elvidge will take things to the next level when I go.”
Silva’s legacy is that he has converted a problem into a strength for the NZCPA. The investment made by players into the PD programme is something they are all very proud of, and all our members are hugely indebted to the way Sanj has curated the programme for their ongoing benefit.
Although we are sad to see Sanj go, being a life member, he will forever be a part of the NZCPA in future. We wish Sanj all the best in his new role and thank him greatly for what he has done for the NZCPA and our members over the years.