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: 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'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’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.