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Player, coach thyself

by Brian Davis

What makes cricket a unique game is that the character of the person participating is shaped and revealed in his approach, dynamism and entire outlook on life. This means that he has to have enormous self-confidence especially if he wants to make it to the top.

There are many pitfalls and tests to his personality as it is just not skill alone; mental attitude also plays a huge part in his development. For instance, a player with ball sense, coordination, perfect timing, the strength and courage to bowl fast, the gift of strong and supple fingers to be a tremendous spinner of the ball, would get nowhere unless he loves the sport with a passion.

This type of individual will enjoy playing the game of cricket and would do so with great success but only at lower levels, simply because he does not love it enough to put in the required number of hours necessary to maintain improvement and progression; the enthusiasm and the hunger is lacking!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that; everyone makes their own choice as to what enjoyment they get out of sport.  Others with a lot less ability to play the game would work extremely hard and may make it to the top someday.

This brings me to the role of coaches. Rudi Webster, who managed Clive Lloyd and his team during the turbulent years of Kerry Packer cricket and has also been a psychologist to West Indies teams, disclosed some information of views of world-famous players on coaching plus its various methods, in an article published May 10 in the Sunday Express.

These bits of advice from former cricketers like Sir Garfield Sobers, Richie Benaud and Jacques Kallis derived from conversations with these gentlemen, reveal a lot that is wrong with Cricket West Indies approach to the hiring of coaches.

I should add that it was always my philosophy in coaching, that the cricketer is his own best coach! As a coach, one observes and has to understand the player, what makes him tick, then guide him on how to overcome his problem by thinking it out for himself.

Of course, I am expressing here strictly the coaching of a senior team, or senior players already blooming and those who are about to blossom. A coach of players under-16 must teach the basic skills in a manner that wouldn’t become tedious or boring.

One of the main attributes of the team coach is the ability to motivate his team. In the rise of WI cricket there were no official team coaches. Cricketers of the day depended on the captain and senior players to advise them into playing a better game of high quality. And West Indian cricketers grew, developed their game and became world beaters.

I quote Kallis in reply to a question on what he would change if he had a free hand in coaching: “I would decrease the players’ dependence on the coach and focus them on self-reliance, self-awareness and self-responsibility. In some ways, coaching today is like a dictatorship. By that, I mean that players are too dependent on their coaches and that coaches don’t encourage them to stand on their own feet and think for themselves.

“When you are batting in the middle, the coach can’t help you and if you can’t think for yourself, make proper decisions and deal with the different situations you are going to face, you won’t do well.

“Today when something goes wrong, one of the first things a player does is go to the coach to get his opinion…and what he has to do to correct it instead of trying to figure it out for himself.  The coach can be helpful in these cases but the player must take responsibility for finding the solutions to his problems.”

The superior coach is the one who is going to encourage, inspire and reassure his cricketers in a manner that builds their self-confidence which makes them believe that they are at all times the best in their discipline!

West Indies cricket can improve immediately if the participants are taught to believe in themselves; if the selectors knew what is necessary to boost a player’s ego in addition to identifying talent in ability both psychologically and skilfully; plus if the administrators understood the meaning of fostering goodwill thus creating a happy bunch of players to take the field. That is the recipe for success!

Believe me, I’ve experienced it first hand with the teams for which I played!  A happy team is contented therefore cricket is enjoyable to them hence they perform at a higher standard.

The WI side and, for that matter, Trinidad and Tobago’s, are just a bunch of unhappy and discontented cricketers because of the points I have outlined. Happiness is the key to success!