The eventual credit for any sporting team’s success is always directed towards the performance of the unit. But the strategic contribution of the support staff led by a coach is always less spoken of. Times have changed that trend lately, with the recent historic Cricket Test win by Bangladesh against Sri Lanka. One of the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Players should get the credit

Harnessing talent, honing skills, mentoring attitudes
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Any coach would like to win all games but winning is not everything says Nawaz - Pix by M.A. Pushpakumara

The eventual credit for any sporting team’s success is always directed towards the performance of the unit. But the strategic contribution of the support staff led by a coach is always less spoken of. Times have changed that trend lately, with the recent historic Cricket Test win by Bangladesh against Sri Lanka. One of the talking points is the contribution of the coach which made a huge impact on a less fancied team.¬†¬†

If Chandika Hathurusingha, a Sri Lankan himself, made use of his experience as a player and then coached to mould Bangladesh to a much talked sporting team in the world, Rugby has quite a few examples. Australian born Eddie Jones is one such character. After a string of failures as a coach, he transformed Japan, already the Asian heavyweight in Rugby, into a world stage performing side. Presently, Jones is in charge of the highly successful England Rugby team.  

Sri Lanka Rugby too have some who come close to that echelon. In the ongoing Singer Schools Under-20 Division I Rugby League Championship, one coach stands out from the rest. He is none other than former Isipathana College, CR&FC and Sri Lanka wing-forward Shamly Nawaz.  

Beginning his coaching career in 1998, soon after ending his school career at Isipathana, Nawaz took charge of his alma mater’s junior Rugby sides, as an experienced player, not as a qualified coach. For 10 years he roamed the local Rugby circle as a player representing CR&FC and Sri Lanka, while coaching lesser-known sides, mainly Universities, before becoming head coach of the Isipathana First XV side in 2008. By then he had obtained the Level I Coaching Certificate and hads matured with failures and experience.¬†¬†

“When I look back, my coaching improved mainly with losses. Losing gave me the space to reflect on what I should have done as a coach and learned from my mistakes to improve as a coach. When fingers are pointed at me, it puts me under tremendous pressure as a coach. My personal view is that if a coach cannot take that challenge, he should not coach. I took it when I joined Isipathana and survived there for 5 years. At Isipathana, Rugby is a passion, from the youngest to the ones who left school, where even staff members take the game seriously. I think, handling that pressure while coaching, was a huge challenge itself. I have managed to succeed and it has helped my coaching career,” Nawaz, elaborating a common anguish any coach would face at the beginning of his career, told the Sunday Times.¬†¬†

Like any other coach in the local Rugby scene, Nawaz too has been subject to criticism when his team flopped, and a hero, when his team succeeded. In Sri Lanka the glory side of the success always has a short lifespan, while the defeats are often remembered for posterity. Despite all this, coaches move ahead in levels and the coaching fraternity, mainly at school level, has grown with many of them well paid for their services. Nawaz too moved ahead as head coach of Isipathana for 3 years since 2008, and another two years from 2012, while taking 2011 off. In 2015 and 2016 he was part of the CR&FC coaching staff. In 2014, he took a major gamble with his career, by taking charge of Zahira College, a side with a rich history, that was in Segment ‘C’ of Division II. No other coach would think of making such a move, unless he is mentally tough and has the knack to be a mentor. Nawaz being one such mentor, explained how proper coaching can be a vital cog in the wheel of a team’s success.¬†¬†

“I obtained the Level I Coaching Certificate before taking over Isipathana and later completed Level II in Hong Kong. Then, when a coaching staffer from New Zealand came down to Sri Lanka, I did the Level II Certificate again. I have worked with foreign coaches too, and that has helped my career tremendously. Coaching a side like Isipathana at the beginning was tough. I managed to take Isipathana to 3 Knockout Championship finals during my 5 years there. In the League, Isipathana finished among the top 4, besides in 2012 when Isipathana emerged double champions. A championship title, especially a double title, is more than a feather in the cap of any coach. In 2014, I joined Zahira and it was a hard choice, because the team was in Division II Segment ‘C’ at that time. I still cannot explain clearly why I took this challenge,” Nawaz recalled.¬†¬†

“A coach is always a teacher. At Isipathana, the skill level of a player is almost complete when he reaches the First XV stage, because of their Rugby culture. But Zahira was a totally different story. I had to go back to basics. I had to refresh them as a coach, which was a huge challenge. At Zahira, I was able to learn more as a coach, and it always had a payback. Each year the team jumped up a level and the results were visible. This is my 4th season with Zahira and today, they talk Rugby, they have created a Rugby culture of their own, which is overwhelming. If I analytically look back a couple of seasons, and compare with the present situation, the players have matured. That’s what a coach always expects and that’s when he feels that his hard work has paid off,” Nawaz explained gleefully yet humbly.¬†¬†

Coaching goes beyond teaching players at times

How he managed a low-ranked side to become a present day threat to the top ranked teams among schools, is a secret any coach would like to be privy to. But Nawaz easily pointed out that the whole exercise was all about planning and executing strategies.  

“Coaching is actually about imparting technique and skills and man-management. It’s a huge task to manage present day schoolchildren, given that things are not the same as it were were, when we were schoolboys. Players nowadays are at a different level playing advanced Rugby, than what we played.¬† I had to jot down my strategy into 3 segments — Rugby knowledge, strength and conditioning, and attitude development. I had to look into these 3 areas at Zahira and they also had to go parallel. Expectations were highly demanding when an underdog comes into the top league, looking to make an impact and be a force to be reckoned with. I had a lot of help from motivators from this school who conducted programmes to lift their spirit and make them a tough unit, which was not a hard task when everything fell in place. I have always treated them as friends, so they could always come forward and speak out. Now their attitude level is really exciting. It easily explains that, if a coach is willing to learn from his mistakes, and have that attitude, creating an impact-making and winning outfit is not a hard task,” Nawaz elaborated.¬†¬†

Though never being talked about or given due credit, Nawaz easily joins the ranks of Hathurusingha and Jones, when it comes to grooming ‘wayward’ individuals into a committed outfit. As it happens nowadays, Nawaz is one of those characters who does not agree with the strategies of coaches to win games. He sees it as a task beyond a coach’s role to ‘bully’ players verbally and, at times physically. He points out that coaching is not only about looking into the team’s success and interest, but also about managing yourself as a coach.¬†¬†

 

“I have a good relationship with other coaches and I have learned a lot from them too. Others are unique in their own way and most of them are top coaches too, because they learn all the time from every game. As a coach, the learning process for me will never end. It’s about taking up challenges and sustaining among the best. I guess, my success is due to my motto which I adopted sometime back– ‘If the team succeeds, the players should get the due credit and, if the team fails, the coach has to take the blame.’ By this, you learn and make sure not to repeat it your mistakes.”¬† ¬† ¬†

The eventual credit for any sporting team’s success is always directed towards the performance of the unit. But the strategic contribution of the support staff led by a coach is always less spoken of. Times have changed that trend lately, with the recent historic Cricket Test win by Bangladesh against Sri Lanka. One of the talking points is the contribution of the coach which made a huge impact on a less fancied team. ¬†¬†If Chandika Hathurusingha, a Sri Lankan himself, made use of his experience as a player and then coached to mould Bangladesh to a much talked sporting team in the world, Rugby has quite a few examples. Australian born Eddie Jones is one such character. After a string of failures as a coach, he transformed Japan, already the Asian heavyweight in Rugby, into a world stage performing side. Presently, Jones is in charge of the highly successful England Rugby team. ¬†¬†Sri Lanka Rugby too have some who come close to that echelon. In the ongoing Singer Schools Under-20 Division I Rugby League Championship, one coach stands out from the rest. He is none other than former Isipathana College, CR&FC and Sri Lanka wing-forward Shamly Nawaz. ¬†¬†Beginning his coaching career in 1998, soon after ending his school career at Isipathana, Nawaz took charge of his alma mater’s junior Rugby sides, as an experienced player, not as a qualified coach. For 10 years he roamed the local Rugby circle as a player representing CR&FC and Sri Lanka, while coaching lesser-known sides, mainly Universities, before becoming head coach of the Isipathana First XV side in 2008. By then he had obtained the Level I Coaching Certificate and hads matured with failures and experience. ¬†¬†”When I look back, my coaching improved mainly with losses. Losing gave me the space to reflect on what I should have done as a coach and learned from my mistakes to improve as a coach. When fingers are pointed at me, it puts me under tremendous pressure as a coach. My personal view is that if a coach cannot take that challenge, he should not coach. I took it when I joined Isipathana and survived there for 5 years. At Isipathana, Rugby is a passion, from the youngest to the ones who left school, where even staff members take the game seriously. I think, handling that pressure while coaching, was a huge challenge itself. I have managed to succeed and it has helped my coaching career,” Nawaz, elaborating a common anguish any coach would face at the beginning of his career, told the Sunday Times. ¬†¬†Like any other coach in the local Rugby scene, Nawaz too has been subject to criticism when his team flopped, and a hero, when his team succeeded. In Sri Lanka the glory side of the success always has a short lifespan, while the defeats are often remembered for posterity. Despite all this, coaches move ahead in levels and the coaching fraternity, mainly at school level, has grown with many of them well paid for their services. Nawaz too moved ahead as head coach of Isipathana for 3 years since 2008, and another two years from 2012, while taking 2011 off. In 2015 and 2016 he was part of the CR&FC coaching staff. In 2014, he took a major gamble with his career, by taking charge of Zahira College, a side with a rich history, that was in Segment ‘C’ of Division II. No other coach would think of making such a move, unless he is mentally tough and has the knack to be a mentor. Nawaz being one such mentor, explained how proper coaching can be a vital cog in the wheel of a team’s success. ¬†¬†”I obtained the Level I Coaching Certificate before taking over Isipathana and later completed Level II in Hong Kong. Then, when a coaching staffer from New Zealand came down to Sri Lanka, I did the Level II Certificate again. I have worked with foreign coaches too, and that has helped my career tremendously. Coaching a side like Isipathana at the beginning was tough. I managed to take Isipathana to 3 Knockout Championship finals during my 5 years there. In the League, Isipathana finished among the top 4, besides in 2012 when Isipathana emerged double champions. A championship title, especially a double title, is more than a feather in the cap of any coach. In 2014, I joined Zahira and it was a hard choice, because the team was in Division II Segment ‘C’ at that time. I still cannot explain clearly why I took this challenge,” Nawaz recalled. ¬†¬†”A coach is always a teacher. At Isipathana, the skill level of a player is almost complete when he reaches the First XV stage, because of their Rugby culture. But Zahira was a totally different story. I had to go back to basics. I had to refresh them as a coach, which was a huge challenge. At Zahira, I was able to learn more as a coach, and it always had a payback. Each year the team jumped up a level and the results were visible. This is my 4th season with Zahira and today, they talk Rugby, they have created a Rugby culture of their own, which is overwhelming. If I analytically look back a couple of seasons, and compare with the present situation, the players have matured. That’s what a coach always expects and that’s when he feels that his hard work has paid off,” Nawaz explained gleefully yet humbly. ¬†¬†How he managed a low-ranked side to become a present day threat to the top ranked teams among schools, is a secret any coach would like to be privy to. But Nawaz easily pointed out that the whole exercise was all about planning and executing strategies. ¬†¬†”Coaching is actually about imparting technique and skills and man-management. It’s a huge task to manage present day schoolchildren, given that things are not the same as it were were, when we were schoolboys. Players nowadays are at a different level playing advanced Rugby, than what we played. ¬†I had to jot down my strategy into 3 segments — Rugby knowledge, strength and conditioning, and attitude development. I had to look into these 3 areas at Zahira and they also had to go parallel. Expectations were highly demanding when an underdog comes into the top league, looking to make an impact and be a force to be reckoned with. I had a lot of help from motivators from this school who conducted programmes to lift their spirit and make them a tough unit, which was not a hard task when everything fell in place. I have always treated them as friends, so they could always come forward and speak out. Now their attitude level is really exciting. It easily explains that, if a coach is willing to learn from his mistakes, and have that attitude, creating an impact-making and winning outfit is not a hard task,” Nawaz elaborated. ¬†¬†Though never being talked about or given due credit, Nawaz easily joins the ranks of Hathurusingha and Jones, when it comes to grooming ‘wayward’ individuals into a committed outfit. As it happens nowadays, Nawaz is one of those characters who does not agree with the strategies of coaches to win games. He sees it as a task beyond a coach’s role to ‘bully’ players verbally and, at times physically. He points out that coaching is not only about looking into the team’s success and interest, but also about managing yourself as a coach. ¬†¬†”I have a good relationship with other coaches and I have learned a lot from them too. Others are unique in their own way and most of them are top coaches too, because they learn all the time from every game. As a coach, the learning process for me will never end. It’s about taking up challenges and sustaining among the best. I guess, my success is due to my motto which I adopted sometime back– ‘If the team succeeds, the players should get the due credit and, if the team fails, the coach has to take the blame.’ By this, you learn and make sure not to repeat it your mistakes.”

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