Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Coaching - Never One Answer

So Mickey Arthur is gone and Darren Lehmann has taken over the reins of the Australian Cricket Team.

Because it’s sport we’ll all have our different opinions on who, what, when and how things should have happened. Some of the deeper thinkers amongst you may even add where into that equation.

There’s so much commentary going around about it in the little bubble that is cricket land. People discussing who’s a good coach and who isn’t, that Boof will save the Australian Team that the team deteriorated under Mickey’s time in the role. Speculation everywhere on what’s wrong, who’s good and what happened.

I have no idea what’s happened. Wasn’t in the rooms during play, at team meetings, at training, on the team bus, at the bars or during the hours and hours of flying that occurs for this particular team. More than likely mistakes were made and things were not going that well. Whatever and whoever was involved in this it reached a point where this change has occurred. Who’s right, who’s wrong, everyone will have their say.

So in light of that I wanted to talk about what I know for sure. That every coach and every person in every team is different. Whether it’s You at home in front of the TV on Boxing Day telling Shane Watson and Simon Katich to call properly during a mix up or “How did he drop that?!”, Tom Moody trying to influence the field settings and bowling changes by running gloves onto the field at the end of every over during a One-Day match, Darren Berry being a meticulous planner and forthright with opinions or Tim Nielson throwing to his batters one on one until he can’t stand up.

All different.

All open to praise and criticism in some way or another. Opinions, everyone’s got them – some are just more influential than others. It’s one very subjective industry.

We can’t all learn or be coached in the same way and in turn not every coach can teach in every way. By nature coaches, teachers, managers, captains etc. divide opinion. John Buchanan’s time as Coach of Queensland and Australia saw titles and some of the biggest winning percentages in the history of the game. Some players loved his preparation and providing of a multitude of information and alternative thinking points….some not so much. Some players in hindsight have suggested his abilities to motivate were brilliant, that making people dislike him outwardly at times was something he did deliberately in order for them to thrive off it. Only Buck would know for sure.

Some coaches are described as “old school”, some as hi-tech, some high-touch. Coaches can be technically minded, have certain game specific skills, some tend to be man managers over any type of technical or tactical prowess. Some are people persons, some surly and fractious as to how they go about their work. Coaches deal with Players in a range of forms, administrators, ground staff, management, CEO’s and Boards – each of who have their own opinions on why things are going well or not so well – this spectrum is growing all the time. Many of these people also think that coaches win or lose games in cricket. I understand that’s ultimately how they’re judged but I would think that anyone who has played the game at all is unlikely to suggest their coaches won or lost that many games during their playing time…unless you need a scapegoat that is.

Did I like or agree with all of my coaches? Not a chance! Do I blame them for my inability to play the ball moving back into my pads with foot closed off and playing across the line more times than I care to remember? I certainly do not.

And within all of the categories and styles that coaches can fit into it also comes back to how they feel and coach. Do they enjoy the overall feel in their squad or are they struggling with them and their overall ideologies. What you see and want may not be what works for that particular group. There is example after example we can go through:

·         Mickey Arthur with the South African side vs. Mickey with this current Australian side.

·         John Buchanan with his Australia side vs. John with his Middlesex team

·         Tom Moody coaching Sri Lanka vs. Tom Moody with Western Australia

·         Shane Duff with the Sydney Thunder vs. Shane’s other work at Grade Level

We could go on at length.

Are we different coaches with different teams? I would think that’s highly unlikely. There are just different fits at different times with different individuals and organisations – that’s a lot of “different”. It is the players in teams that define the success and results of any particular team with a coach helping or detracting depending on the fit, depending on the day in question.

Darren Lehmann’s word carries a different type of weight to Tim Coyle’s and I dare say they have a different skill set, so why not acknowledge that first up. Does Martin Crowe’s cricket word carry a little more weight than say Mike Hesson, Justin Langer’s more than Simon Helmot? No offence but of course they do. Does that make them always right in everything across a coaching spectrum vs. everyone else always wrong – I don’t think so.

Therefore the people making these appointments need to understand what it is they want from their coach, staff and players and appoint from there. Sometimes you’ll need more than just one type!

Do you need an authority figure, a disciplinarian, a skill acquisition expert, people manager, program manager, someone who can use a computer, write or speak well publicly, a bio-mechanical or tactical bowling expert? These are the most important questions and I don’t think they are asked or understood often enough. We certainly never say it out aloud. We talk about coaching pathways without actually knowing what it is or what it looks like. We need some honesty and transparency in our industry. It won’t always mean we win top level matches but it will create a better understanding of what is required and how we can help.

What will happen is some people will lean towards names that they’ve heard of or remember because of their playing background and of course this helps in some ways. But coaching is very different to playing and we are all different types of coaches.

There is never one answer when it comes to who should be the Coach of a team. All players will benefit and struggle in different ways under each and every coach. Each coach will have a different concept of how he or she will be involved and influence the group. No one is completely wrong or right but there will be better “fits” for some than others.

So what Coaches and those who make decisions on them need is help.

A better understanding of what coaching is and how all of our strengths and weaknesses fit. We need to educate our group of current, past and future coaches, players, administrators and boards. Be honest in how coaches fit into systems; make better use of their skills. Let’s have open dialogue as to who is more likely to work at what level and why.  Let’s also create a national system that covers off pre-requisite topics for Coach Education courses whilst understanding that delivery style and method will differ depending on who is delivering the topic. It’s not creating robots; it’s creating a curriculum so that all of our differences and abilities come through and can be used effectively when coaching our International, State, 2nd XI, Grade or Under Age sides. Every level of player needs understanding, learning, growth and sometimes discipline. If we best help our youngest players it may even help keep their interest at a time when our playing numbers are suffering and dexterity skills are on the decline.

Then we need role descriptions that define the expectations of each individual coach relating to what is expected of them with that team/program. I say no to generic job descriptors that run through every HR phrase in sport. Let’s be specific.

And here’s the kicker….. It then falls back to each individual player to learn how he or she fits into their particular team at that particular time and how around that they can get the best out of their game. Cricket is a strange blend of group and individual. It has more variables than most other sports that I can think of. Certainly the hierarchical nature of the sport is no longer in existence.

I don’t know Darren Lehmann in great depth. Players past and present respect him. He’s always been generous with his time and thoughts. He has as broad a knowledge as anyone in the game. His ability to unite groups has been one of his greatest selling points in amongst many other good ones. I hope it all goes well for him and his new team. There’s no doubt they can win the Ashes with some of the many variables going their way. I think he’ll do a great job.

I do however know Mickey Arthur very well. He was my boss in Perth. We didn’t always agree on how cricket and how cricketers should play….who does? But we always agreed on the bigger and more important issues that came with sport and life. He was generous and kind to me. He is my friend and I am feeling for him right now.



Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Quiet Coach

The saying goes, the quieter you are the more you hear. And it was Mark Twain who suggested, “Actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often”. Do you think this could also relate to coaching?

 The nets are full of action today. All full with young hopefuls wanting to be the next Ponting, Gilchrist, Sehwag, Clarke or Taylor – I liked Mark but Ross is the one in vogue at present, which you can understand given his bat speed.

And with them, coaches full of their own hopes and thoughts on their chargers. Each with their own coaching ideas and language. Bowling machines are fed, throws are given, balls being rolled, Inver drills being espoused to the budding players.

It’s cold outside so the best place to be is inside watching some under age squads train. I linger around in between all six of the nets observing and listening to what is unfolding between various players and coaches. Some private coaches, some Fathers and some Organisational Coaches. The instructions are flying….

Higher elbow

Foot to the ball

Bottom hand is too tight

Come on, concentrate mate, watch the ball

Open your stance more

 You keep closing off your front foot; you’re not going to be able to access deliveries on middle and leg (that coach has been reading the advanced manual).

The instructions are coming thick and fast. No doubt said with good intent and some usefulness but I feel somewhat suffocated.

It is however the 6th net that catches most of my attention, the only sound being made is bat on ball and lots of it. He’s hitting some well and some not so well and some missing all together. Yet his coach offers very few words. The kid hitting must be about 10 years of age.

I can’t help myself. “Excuse me, is that your son?”

“Yeah. Jack. He loves his cricket, loves Michael Clarke”

“I notice you don’t say much too him while he’s hitting?”

“No. I played a bit but just want him to be his own player. I can’t play for him. If he has a question I try to answer it but other than that he just enjoys hitting and playing with his friends. Can’t ask a lot more than that”
I leave their net feeling so happy for that young cricketer.
It’s such a rare conversation in our over industrialised sporting systems. The quiet coach, letting someone do their own thing and work it out for themselves. Sure coaching verbally has its place but letting someone learn kinaesthetically without the constant chatter is something, I think, we could do a bit more of.
I often wonder about the car ride home and how that’s used by parents, coaches and athletes. Do they lecture and instruct or do they allow for questions or quiet reflection. In amongst our wanting to instruct and coach perhaps the quiet coach has their place?
Would love to hear your thoughts on your most memorable coaches, good or not so much.

Thanks Sport.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Coaching Sport - Why We're Asking the Wrong Questions


Sports Coaching – Why We’re Asking the Wrong Questions



We weren’t disciplined enough tonight.

They didn’t want it enough.

Queenslanders showed they’re the toughest sportspeople in the world today.

The boys played with passion out there, they left everything out on the field.

They were ready to run through a brick wall for each other.

These players these days don’t have any pride in the cap/jersey/bib. We used to play for the cap/jersey/bib.

Read any sports article or listen to players, coaches and ex-players and these are the types of phrases that keep hitting you between the eyes. It’s not that these messages are completely wrong……just that they are very short sighted. What comes next? After you’ve run through the brick wall and there’s four days, 79 minutes, or three-quarters left to play? And what have you as a player or coach done to get through that?

Now I’m not saying that passion and emotion don’t exist in sport. Of course they do – contests between tribes over the years, competitions for trophies, striving to be the best at what you do usually does. BUT…..we are now living in a fast food type industry and the press has to produce the catchy 5 second byte and headline that creates readership and conversation. So we bypass what coaching is and learn how to hit the next headline.

When it comes to our understanding of Coaches, Coaching, Learning and Development we have a poor understanding of what it is and how Coaches should be appointed then judged. The way things are now, questions and comments lead to an emotive response around Coaching which leads Coaches to fear of innovation, development and learning – which is exactly what coaching should be. If we’re not prepared to be wrong we’ll never come up with anything original, different or better. If you get the chance check out Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk around education – he tells it as well as anyone in the world.

Because of this we have Boards and Senior Management basing decisions on whom the Senior and other Coaching Staff should be based on the wrong premise. With the wrong information in hand it leads to Boards and Senior Management asking the wrong questions, looking for the sterilized answer (the best salesman or the highest profile ex player) and therefore as Indiana Jones noted in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “They’re digging in the wrong spot!”. Hard to get the Ark of the Covenant when you’re doing that – therefore the only way is to steal it is after Indiana has discovered it – and that, I fear, is the landscape of much of our sporting development and learning for young cricketers, footballers, netballers and many athletes around the country.

The increase of money in “professional” sports (mostly male dominated) has changed several things in the sporting landscape. And these changes have led to greater emphasis and pressure on coaches to produce “results”. This in turn has led to the “sterilisation” and “industrialisation” of the Coaching and Learning Industry. And from Cricket’s perspective at least, it is hurting the learning of the reducing cricketers we have to pick from.

We spend hours and hours on predicting future teams and future trends, telling anyone who’ll listen we know what the 2017 Ashes Party will look like from the National Standard Testing after the Under 17 National Carnival. Now I’m not here to suggest these experts of coaching, administration and scientists are wrong. I’m here to say that it’s a very unhealthy way of going about things. Please stop predicting the future and allow it to happen organically! We should aspire to create learning environments over dictatorial ones.

Administrations, Boards and Player Associations can help in other ways… Contracting processes and understanding, Player Welfare and Development, Transitioning, Coordinating Playing Schedules etc.

We need to better understand what coaching and learning is and how athletes and coaches learn and connect.


Enjoy your weekend matches.

Cheers Sport.




Thursday, 9 May 2013

A Sibling's 10

So I was done. I didn’t know what my four readers wanted next. I think they were relieved it was over. Plus I haven’t done that much sports observing of late. Too busy trying to take the family portrait and moving to another City.

But my Brother took a break from his musical styling’s and had some other thoughts – although I’m sure I mentioned U/7’s somewhere….but his line on Politicians (please note I haven’t changed a lot of what or how he wrote it ‘pollies’) and thinking of John Howard bowling in Pakistan – you need to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o8by05rtMY had me chuckling for ages.

And for the record my Sibling does have a hat trick to his name and I have no hole in ones. So here’s his list of 10:

·         Sporting exile possible additions...

·         51. Name pronunciations Renouf, Schifilliti, Rischitilli, Ink Aleaga

·         52. Underdogs punching above their weight and getting smashed …Eric the eel, that karate guy who just can’t smash the board but still making you feel good

·         53. Celebs (pollies) having a crack at sport (but probably shouldn’t) …making you feel better about your skill set (John Howard......Clive palmer) schaundenfreud... I think that is taking pleasure in another’s misfortune

·         54. Mouth guards...fitting and that mouth wash mint taste of goodness

·         55. Billeting with a family who has better stuff than you …..I once had a porches owning family that lived in Manly

·         56. The miracle...being in the right spot at the right time...reflex catch, bounce of the ball, hat-trick, hole in one

·         57. War wound stories...taking pride in who had the worst injury

·         58. Under 7's anything...it's just a bunch of kids running around, spinning on the spot not giving a damn as they're "playing" "sport"

·         59. The re-enactment...whatever happened retell it with feeling and embellish...ever so slightly

·         60. Not getting picked last… It must have happened to some people getting picked last...it’s a little bit based on popularity but a lot based on ability. My weight always limited my athletic appeal in PE and lunch time sports where an adult is not in charge of selection, however my co-ordination and ability to relay tactical messages to the opposition were often taken into consideration when adding me to a playground/PE based roster. As a fat kid not being picked last = win!


Always happy to hear more stuff anyone loves about sport – so if you’re bored on the mining site – then muse away.

I’m going tenpin bowling tonight with strobe lighting. Will find out if that should be added to the list….surely strobe lighting, beer and heavy balls will be a winning combination?

Thanks Sport.

Talk later.




Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Home Straight

Sporting Exile VI – Let’s Finish this list    

"No Dad, I’m not joining the Air Force".
I went home over the weekend... “Lachlan, I don’t think that’s the best shirt for you to wear, do you?” “No Mum. Good point. I’ll go change”.

In amongst our top shelf, witty and often highly satirical conversation my Father produced some old video tapes that he’d had transferred from an even older 8mm film he’d taken of my Brothers and I as children. Now I won’t be showing this at any pizza night for my friends soon but to see yourself and the rest of your family from 30 + years ago and the activities we undertook brought a whole range of memories flooding back.

A huge yard, trampoline, tyre swing, sand pit and a new Greg Chappell Gray-Nicolls Scoop for Xmas! Yep, there was no way I was avoiding sport in a place like that. I double skipped when I bowled, was a speed bump when trying to tackle and had a slice forehand (not good folks, not good) but it was obvious the child in the footage was having a great time. It wasn’t Dad in every shot telling what or how to do, it was he and Mum watching me grow and learn in a safe environment and just letting me play. Not a bad way to go.

Sport for children should be innocent and pure. So we all need to support the fight against betting on out television screens, being led by Peter Fitzsimmons. Check out his stuff if you get the chance at the Sydney Morning Herald.
And you may not be able to control the angry, irrational parent on the sideline but you let your own kids enjoy their game without the yelling. I guarantee they’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

Now the final 10:

41. New Equipment – Yes a bit like new tennis balls but not exactly. A Club friend of mine worshipped Andrew Symonds who used to say he played better with new gear. Fine when you’re getting it for free like Andrew, but a little more expensive when you’re in 5th Grade….still every week he turned up with a new something. Thigh pad, gloves, shoelaces, anything so long as it was new. Not sure if it helped statistically. He did play 4th’s a bit one year but a lot of the Uni students had gone home for the Xmas holidays….

42. Enjoying Sport in difficult times – There’s a great book titled “The Sportsmen of Changi” by Kevin Blackburn if you’re looking to read something other than obligatory sports Autobiography. It shows how sports can transcend so many other issues, even mentioning matches between guards and POW’s. Bradman became more than a sportsman during the great depression when his batting deeds gave enjoyment to so many around the country. When times are changing or difficult sport can give us something to enjoy.

43. Disabled Athletes – Do you ever have those days when you’re sulking so much you can feel your bottom lip underneath your feet….no. Just me then? But when you look around and see others like Kurt Fearnley, Karni Liddell and hundreds of others giving their all and getting involved it a) quickly heels your lip issue and b) shows how sport provides and should continue to provide opportunities for everyone who wants to be involved. London was a showcase of some extraordinary people and athletes. These guys are inspirational at any level.

44. The Team Photo – When your team mates had hair (peroxided) wore coke bottle glasses and were 15kgs lighter. Priceless.
 Fold Arms

45. Passionate Supporters – A friend used to take me to Brisbane Broncos home games and show off his “trick”. He told me that you only need one actual word or name and a strong tone to get the crowd going. So off he’d go: “nnarrfy doooogoo rrriiifffi Broncos!” in a positive tone and inevitably people around him would cry out, “Yeah that’s it Broncos!” Or “fooglle gaaarnnner hhootspa Ref!” in a negative tone and off they’d go again, “Yeah that’s crap ref, let 'em play!” Hours of fun right there.

46. Sports Debate – Yes we should be doing something more worthwhile but sometimes it’s so much fun to talk sport and debate team selection, style, people involved. Go to a pub, bring up Watson and Clarke and sit back and enjoy that beer as you’re entertained for the next 15 minutes and then some pending on who you're with.

47. Introducing a newbie to a local sport – Explaining the rules (even if you don’t them – who does know every rugby rule?), taking them to the ground on public transport, pointing out the players, telling a young, na├»ve Aussie to turn up in the opposition colours to the Dublin Gaelic Football home game and giving him a ticket to sit with the home team’s support group so you receive death threats until they work out you’re from another country. Thanks guys.
 Always wear this to Dublin Matches

48. Saturday Mornings – Awash with kids of all ages participating in sports of all types. I knew a kid who used to cry when his sports was washed out on Saturday mornings. Crying not ideal but the sentiment, brilliant.

49. Collector Cards – I quote the Simpsons, “Bart: Oh boy! Free trading cards!
Milhouse: Wow! Joseph of Arimathea! Twenty six conversions in A.D. 46.
Nelson: Whoa, a Methuselah rookie card!”  
Exactly…..well sort of. You know what I mean.

50. Itchy Feet – So that’s it, the season is over and you’re retiring. It’s been a long year. It’s too much time and effort and you’ve got better things to do with your weekends or Monday nights than play social volleyball. But you won’t announce anything to your team mates yet……just in case you've got one more in you.....

Thanks Sport.

Talk later.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Old notions in Modern Sport

Sporting Exile V

Sometimes intelligent and well spoken, sometimes....not so much. The modern day athlete.

Hearing from a Primary School Teacher the other day, she told me of some Professional Athletes who came to encourage students in years 1, 2 & 3 to read books by, yep, reading out loud to the class. By the time the third of her Year 1 students looked up at her to correct another mispronunciation of the book aimed at 1st to 3rd year reading levels she decided it was time for some Q&A of the athletes instead.

“Do you enjoy going to schools to meet the children?” One of her class asked.

“Definitely, yeah. It’s one of the funnest things we do.” Came the response. That's lunch Year 1.

She wanted to take the Athletes aside and give them a speaking and reading lesson. My argument was at least they turned up on time and in their sporting team’s clothing. Small victories.

So what has sport put forward this time:

31. The Team Song – I can’t remember all of the games I’ve been a part of. The good, bad and completely embarrassing but I have vivid memories of the great song renditions lead by some very amusing and enthusiastic people. Also great to sing the team lyrics when the team you support has another victory….or in the case of the Melbourne Demon fans, practice them. Sorry Dan.

32. Team Clown – Everyone’s got one and if you don’t then it’s highly recommended you hire one. Stats don’t show how effective this person can be, especially when things aren’t always going your way. A day in the cricketing version of hell (Valley’s Cricket Ground in Ashgrove, Brisbane at 38 degrees, and 90% humidity in the middle of January) was looking long. Our clown volunteered to run around the wicket block after every delivery of a six ball over and be back in place for the next ball. Sure he was cooked but totally worth it.

33. Great Strategies – When Duncan Armstrong rides the Matt Biondi stroke wave to create a draft that saw him over power Biondi for the gold in the 200m at Seoul the story of how the win was planned just blew me, and most definitely Laurie Lawrence away, “Stuff the silver, we came for the gold!”. Pat Cash breaking down the Ivan Lendl forehand in the 1987 Wimbledon Final, The UQ Med XV deciding to not drop the ball in a distinct game plan change for a sub districts semi-final are some of the best. Would love to hear some of your favourites?

34. Duets – Lennon & McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Abbott & Costello, Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David,  Kylie & Jason from Neighbours. Every industry has its great combinations. Sport lends itself to some terrifically entertaining duos: The Williams’ Sisters and the Woodies on the tennis court. Horan & Little for the Wallabies, Kenny & Sterling for the Eels, Lillee & Thompson opening the bowling for Australia, Lexcen & Bond for Australia II.  When great combo’s come together it’s something you never forget.
Dynamic Duos

35. Girls Playing with Boys – Something uplifting when in junior (and senior when it occurs) when the girls get to play with and against the boys. Equality on the sporting field in terms of payment and viewership (unfortunately) doesn’t remain in many cases as they mature but the girls more than hold their own when they line up against the boys in junior tennis, league, AFL, cricket, basketball – you name it. And it’s just great to watch.

36. Admitting Your Opponent Was Better on the Day – Yes, I know. It’s an old fashioned notion but it still happens and when it does it warms my aging heart. Is it just me or are some of the best at the moment the big four on the Men’s Tennis Circuit – Nadal, Federer, Murray & Djokovic?

Sure something may have gone wrong for you, not gone your way or even something that wasn’t called by a referee or umpire. But when you give credit to your opponent for their victory you also do yourself the same.

37. Sporting Poetry – No, not the latest jingo, rhyming beat your chest stuff. I’m talking the classics. The likes of Henry Lawson and for your reading pleasure, Banjo Paterson, “BRING me a quart of colonial beer, And some doughy damper to make good cheer, I must make a heavy dinner; Heavily dine and heavily sup, Of indigestible things fill up, Next month they run the Melbourne Cup, And I have to dream the winner.” Apologies if that's a bit too Tom Waterhouse.

38. Roy and HG – When seasoned broadcaster HG Nelson and retired athlete turned expert commentator ‘Rampaging’ Roy Slaven get going on any topic is there anything better….I think not. I miss them doing This Sporting Life.
 Anyone who listened as these two called the Greco-Roman wrestling during the Sydney Olympics with moves including “The Battered Sav”, “flat bag” and “hello boys” and didn’t laugh….well no one can help you I’m afraid.
"Do you listen to Roy & HG?"

39. Your Health – Again it’s an old fashioned notion but there is supporting evidence everywhere that being active helps you both mentally and physically. What better reason do you want?

40. Knowing useless and or useful statistics – Who owns the following…..99.94 runs per innings, 18 golfing majors, 17 for the men and 24 for the women, 6 NBA MVP’s (I hope I’ve got this one right…) and 426 AFL games played? And they’re just some of the big ones. Stats in sport keep going and going and going. So much so that if you do it properly there’s little time for number 39. So it’s win/win really.

Thanks Sport.

Talk soon.



Monday, 22 April 2013

Sporting Exile IV

Ok, this is meant to be an attempt at promoting the positives of sport and our sporting communities… but if I could just for a moment point attention to anyone who’s interested to the Four Corners story this week (22.04.13) on some of the drugs in sport stories that are prevalent at the moment.

It’s really important that sport is for ALL Australians. Not just for those who think it owes them and for those people who ONLY want to be associated with winners and names. We need to create organic environments for children, and adults for that matter, to enjoy and develop a whole range of skills on sporting fields, gyms, courts etc. From skill acquisition and problem solving through to socialisation and understanding of others.

What is dangerous is that some of the people who receive the platforms to comment on sport too often come from an ignorant, arrogant or one dimensional point of view. So therefore the problem is not necessarily what they say but who and what they ignore, put down and the negative connotations that have towards other opinions that have merit and deserve to be heard.  

At the moment we are falling short of some standards and ideas that reward skills, integrity and honesty. Administrations, Boards, Player Unions and Player Managers, Television rights and promotion of gambling are creating false gods out of people and a misunderstanding of the learning and development process – we’ll talk later, but interested in any views on this.

Of an even greater concern are the events at the Boston Marathon last week. Sad for so many reasons. The words of Robert Kennedy on violence ring as relevant as ever, “Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet……No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason”


So, where were we…..oh yeah, happy thoughts…..sorry! Our next Ten things Great About Sport:

21. Sporting Movies – Come on, it’s ok to admit you have one or two or in the case of someone I know “The Entire Mighty Ducks franchise mate”. For me I’m a bit of a sucker for some Baseball action. Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game, The Rookie, Moneyball, Bad News Bears….throw in a bit of Major League and you won’t see me until Monday. I know there’s a lot of Rocky People out there too which leads us to no 22…..

22. Sporting Montages – The boys from Team America World Police had it right you do have to love a montage. Particularly a sporting one:

The hour’s approaching, just give it your best
You've got to reach your prime.
That's when you need to put yourself to the test,
And show us a passage of time,
We're gonna need a montage (montage)
Oh it takes a montage (montage)

Show a lot of things happing at once,
Remind everyone of what's going on (what's going on?)
And with every shot you show a little improvement
To show it all would take too long
That's called a montage (montage)
Oh we want montage (montage)

And anything that we want to go from just a beginner to a pro,
You need a montage (montage)
Even Rocky had a montage (montage)

(Montage, montage)

Anything that we want to go from just a beginner to a pro,
You need a montage (montage)
Oh it takes a montage (montage)

Always fade out in a montage,
If you fade out, it seem like more time
Has passed in a montage,

23. Crazy Extreme Sportspeople – Bless these folk who do all the things and more that your parents told you not to do and broadcast it for us to watch in amazement. Again you’ll all have your favourites but you’d have to agree that Felix Baumgartner freefalling from the edge of space recently is definitely something your Mum would have frowned at…..

24. Volunteers – The Australian Bureau of Statistics report recorded that 2.3 million Australians volunteered for sporting purposes in 2010. Whether they be parents, coaches, officials or that great club stalwart who is talked about for generations it’s so good to have people helping other people be involved.

25. Oranges at half time – It’s been a tough first half. The Centre Half-Forward, Wing Attack, Lock Forward, Opposition’s Key Weapon who you’ve been specifically asked to shut down, is all over you. A good coach might take you through some options and see what you’re thinking but you know the one you’ve got is more likely to send you a verbal spray. It’s going to be a terrible half time….hang on, someone’s brought oranges cut into quarters. Yes! Problem solved.
That'll fix it

26. Under 7’s Playing Football – Of any code, anywhere in the world is there a better sporting moment than this? No matter how you try to structure or spread them out it simply turns into a game of pass the parcel until someone runs with it and gets chased down or scores. When you’re team is down at half time (should I mention the Brisbane Lions here Jim?) an Under 7 match on the ground is one of the few things that can make you smile.

27. The magic spray – He’s been hit. There’s no way he’ll be able to shake that off and continue. Every chance it’s a fracture. Yep, here comes the trainer, he’ll have to come off now. No, wait, the trainer has something in his bag. What is it? It’s magic spray…he’s putting it on now. Compound fracture issue – solved. Play on son.
 That'll fix it
28. Finishing a marathon – As a tribute to any and all involved this week gone and marathon runners in general. How amazing was it to see Bill Iffrig, the 78yr old runner in Boston who was blown off his feet during the bomb blast get back to his feet and finish! His thoughts, “After 26 miles you’re not going to stop there”. Fair point. Anyone competing in and finishing a marathon is worthy of praise.

29. Playing for Your School – Although in some regimes where sporting scholarships and recruitment to win trophies and premierships is growing there also remains something special in playing with your mates at school and the memories they generate. I had a drink the other night with a true rugby and sporting fan. He was the First XV openside flanker at my high school the year ahead of me and in a well beaten side (most times – sorry guys) he gave his all every time. He still looks like tearing up each time I ask how hard it was to miss the game with our great “rivals” through injury. After his children I believe his School No. 7 jersey is his next favourite possession. If I asked him to choose between the jersey and his medical graduation certificate I wonder which one he’d pick…..?

30. The Smell of Dencorub – Amazing how smell can evoke such strong memories. Playing a game of touch football with old (very) friends the other day and one of them broke out the deep heat. It took me back to a time of dressing room pranks and preparations. Great moment.

Thanks Sport.

Talk soon.




Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Sporting Exile III - The Teens

Firstly, let us recognise here today Adam Scott. There’ll be enough written about him over the next bit of time for me not to go into details but in light of such a fantastic achievement I will share the tweet of Peter Fitzsimmons, “CLASS OF ADAM SCOTT IN VICTORY: "There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers and that's Greg Norman, & part of this belongs to him." Nice.

It’s amazing how in such a vast area one can become claustrophobic but spend some time in IKEA and I think you’ll appreciate this (maybe it’s just males). There’s just NO…..WAY…..OUT. Every time my female friend stopped and commented on the next display, “Oh now that would go nicely with a beach house in Noosa”, my mind kept wondering back to Edward Norton in Fight Club, “Like so many others I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct. I’d flip through catalogues and think ‘what kind of dining set defines me as a person?’” I may also have been thinking of ways to knock myself out so as to avoid looking at any further sets.

This led me to the next 10 things I still think are great about sport. I’ve also included a couple of ideas suggested – thank you!

11. Being in a team – It almost reads a little too simply….but finding yourself in a team for the first time can be one of the really great moments. Perhaps it goes to the human condition of wanting to belong? Many things are improved when shared. A long day in the field, an amazing victory, the telling of a joke, a stupid error or a devastating loss. To look across or listen to a room and know that you’re in it together is like having Mike Hussey coming in at no.6, very reassuring.

12. Knocking in a New Bat – Being an extratec man myself (you mean I can use it straight away if I just put the contact on it?!) I certainly appreciated the suggestion of knocking in a cricket bat. Taking it home from the store and starting the process of readying it for action. There’s a pride and discipline involved and it’s yours. The tapping, the oiling and the tapping again. Driving your parents crazy as you sit in front of the television night after night until it’s finally ready to go. Just imagine the joy of discovering extratec in a house of four cricket loving boys. Still, not the same as knocking in your own.

13. The Hours Leading Up to the Melbourne Cup – Even if you’re not a huge racing person there’s that special feeling about a race that stops a nation. All of a sudden people who don’t breathe of a word of horse knowledge for the other 364 days suddenly appear like a winter snow. “Oh, I think he’ll run well, it’s little heavy out there today”. “Should finish stronger than the others given its track work over the last 12 months”. “I like the one in Pink and Blue, I’ll have a dollar each way thanks”. Sport, creating experts since the joust.

14. Rivalries – McEnroe vs. Borg, Bird vs. Johnson, Frazier vs. Ali, Lewis vs. Kenny, QLD vs. NSW, Collingwood vs. Carlton, Warne vs. Lara. In Grade 2 it was Scott Campbell-Lloyd vs. Warwick Walsh on the handball courts at lunchtime. These great rivalries sustain us in our love of sporting support. Governing bodies try to create rivalry rounds but the great ones don’t need to be forced down our throats. They are the ones that echo through generations.

15. Not Having to Go to IKEA on Saturdays – Yeah that’s right, NOT going to IKEA is one of the greatest things about sport. I know this is meant to be a written format but sometimes a picture says a thousand words….
 This or Sport?

16. Your Favourite Commentator – Dennis Cometti, Ray Warren, Richie Benaud, Kerry O’Keefe, Quentin Hull, Bruce McAvaney, Bill Lawry….we could go on. You've all got your favourite quotes and impressions, go on, give yourself a moment...."She's going to do it Cathy....."
When you have a favourite you will go out of your way to hear him or her in your living room. For me it is the descriptive Gordon Bray, the voice of rugby in Australia. When Gordon gives me background beyond the touchline, "And Matthew Burke, lining up to convert the Kefu try, whose Grandmother is crocheting and watching tonight from the great sporting community of Wagga Wagga and cheering on the Wallabies, it leaves the boot...." I feel immediately at home.

17. Nicknames – Pup, Magic, Punter, Beefy, Nobody, the Black Pearl, Alfie. Sport lends itself to these types of names, and coming up with one that sticks is even more fun. When a former team mate of mine with an awkward stance and exaggerated grip on the bat came out and thrashed balls to all parts of the ground, throwing himself into every shot, it was suggested that he looked like Animal playing the drums in the Muppets. He hasn't been known as Mark since. 

18. Team Curses – The North Sydney Bears, Queensland winning the Sheefield Shield, the Collywobbles, the Curse of the Bambino, an Australian winning the Masters....oh wait. There's something quite fun about a team having this imaginary barrier that we can create in our minds that require something extraordinary for it to be broken. Of course the truth is winning anything requires planning, skills, work ethic and a bit of fortune but don't let that spoil the mythical curse - they're much more fun and the celebrations when they end are a joy to behold.

19. Playing Golf with Cane Toads – I wonder if we did a survey of golfers from Queensland (and now northern NSW), what percentage of them have ever practiced their pitching wedge on the ever growing cane toad population? My Brother and I found a few back in high school and each chose our favourite club. They both ended up in the wheelie bin - but only one remained there the next morning. Lesson being: Always complete your follow through.

20. The Comeback – When all seems lost for you or your side and all that's left to is pick up the spilt popcorn. Then from nowhere..... your team scores with still enough time on the clock to score twice. Australia II wins the 5th race of the Americas cup but still teeter on the edge of defeat at 3 - 2 down in the best of 7 races. Then they win the next race, score the next try and suddenly it’s even with one race or 60 seconds to go. And then…..from out of nowhere a moment you never forget, the length of the field try or Alan Bond lifting the boat to show Ben Lexcen’s keel and your Prime Minister declaring free days off work.
Thankyou Sport.
Talk soon.



Thursday, 11 April 2013

Reclaiming Sport – The Top 50


On one hand it was Abraham Lincoln who once said, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt”….

On the other, I think it was Homer Simpson who suggested, “How could you?! Haven’t you learned anything from that guy who gives those sermons at church? Captain Whatshisname? We live in a society of laws! Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing, did you? Except at that guy who made sound effects. Makes sound effects and laughs. Where was I? Oh yeah! Stay out of my booze”.

Both these quotes remind me of an athlete or coach talking from time to time. And how amazing that Lincoln could see that far into the future so as to warn Fullbacks from Canberra about their tweeting protocol?

But I digress. Thankyou to anyone who skimmed over the first five things great about sport. Some mixed comment on the Haka (sorry Tui) and some interesting suggestions as to what other people did and loved around their sporting youths that should be told. I can’t even count to 50 let alone think of a list that has 50 ideas and explanations, so any suggestions more than welcome.

So let’s keep going and see if we can’t get to our 10th reason by the end of the read.

50 Reasons That Make Sport Great:

No. 6: ANZAC Day – I know things are not well at Essendon at present and we should not ignore that in any way. But as for ANZAC Day, sure the AFL Grand Final is the ultimate prize in Aussie Rules….but when the Pies play the Dons amid the honouring and acknowledgement of those who have served Australia throughout the world on the most difficult of stages, there is something spine tingling about this event. 100,000 fans, split 50/50, in silence to respect the haunting last post before the deafening roar anticipating a great clash between two tribes. A 35yr old friend, in his own right a terrific sportsman, doesn’t know it but his face lights up like a 4yr old on Xmas morning when you ask what he’ll be doing for ANZAC Day. He’s told me of the day the Bombers came from nowhere (I think it was 2009) to snatch victory away from Collingwood eight times at last count – and he tells it like the first time, every time. I’m sure Pies fans do the same. A great event on the Australian sporting calendar. Let’s hope it’s peptide free.


No. 7: Selling a Dummy – From Under 7’s, to Wednesday night Social Touch Football, to State of Origin is there a better moment during any match than pretending to throw the ball but not and have this new space open up in front of you. It matters not that you don’t have the pace to get through the aforementioned space, what matters is you have made the space through your crafty brain and slight of hand. It’s the equivalent of having the tennis ball in your hand, with the dog in front of you begging for the throw so it can go fetch. You fake the throw and the dog flies off to where he/she thought it may have gone and there is a moment you feel vastly superior to the dog. The dummy is exactly the same. Right up until you get crunched from the side, or head on by the fullback, or, in my case tearing your hamstring attempting to accelerate through the newly created gap. For that split second you are the smartest person on the field.

No. 8: Great Team Names – What can I say, I like the names a lot of teams play under at all levels of sport. I completely get supporting your team and enjoying a great team name. How much fun is it to say who you play for and who you’re playing against this week….? The Dragons, Pies, Eels, Demons, Panthers, Bookworms, Dolphins vs. the Rebels, Suns, Lions, Saints, Buffalos, Redbacks, Tigers. And then there's my favourite 3: The Columbia FIGHTING KOALAS, The Hiroshima CARP & The Cairo SYRUPMAKERS. I can hear the ground announcer now, “Come on Cairo, let’s hear it for your SSSYYYRRRUPMAKERS!


No. 9: The Poetry of Roger Federer – Granted I don’t have lot of adjectives in my vocabulary. Even if I did have a plethora (noun not adjective unfortunately) of them I think I’d still fall short of the mark to describe watching Federer in action. He’s no longer the best in the world from a ranking’s point of view but a lot of people still go out of their way to watch him play. The game was seeing end of the Sampras era to which I was saying, thank god! My favourite battles were those of Agassi vs. Rafter whose contrasting styles saw such raw and riveting contests – check out their Australian and Wimbledon semi-final battles if you have time. Then along comes the man from Switzerland upsetting Sampras in the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2001. Hitting one hand off both wings, deft touch, power, spin, gliding over the court, some of the best shots of all time. Just great to watch.

No. 10: Learning Something New – It happens at all levels of sport and is surely one of the reasons we keep turning up? The joy on a kids face when they learn how to drop punt, how to pace their 800m run, catch something for the first time (I’m still waiting for this moment, should be good though). There’s a fast bowler I know, loved everything about him from the moment we met. Big, strong, raw, country boy who was his own man. He bowled big inswingers to the right hander and his bowling coach (one of the best) wanted him to be able to bowl an outswinger to get “nicks at the ‘Gabba”. They tried everything, angle of run up, position at the crease, angle of wrist at ball release, fingers on the seam, velocity of arm speed….but they just couldn’t get it to go. So accepting this they reverted back to just letting him bowl his way and work with that. Then one morning of a match the big quick started bowling outswingers, getting nicks, beating the bat and keeping batsmen’s feet on the crease as they weren’t completely sure. When he came off we were all dying to know what he did….”I just turned the ball around” In the happiest voice you’d hear. A 26yr old with a new trick – how good is that.

So there’s another 5 reasons to go out and kick the footy, shoot the basketball and roll the arm over when you get a spare 10 minutes.