Coaching from the pedestal

Cricket coaching is indeed a complex subject and deserves a close perceptive of it. Today a coach plays a pivotal role in every team he is involved with. This is not just in the cricketing aspect but in the whole gamut of things. And occupying a pivotal part in the overall context speaks of the importance of a coach and unless he is right up there in upholding values this great game has, his role could be as negative as one could imagine and could end up as a huge detriment to the player!

The level of cricket doesn’t become an issue when identifying and understanding the value a coach could add to his team. It could be a coach of a U 13 team or of a National team, however the importance and the responsibility one carry’s is definitely the identical!

Carlton Bernadus

Now let me also digress a bit further on this topic! Let me reiterate that my focus here is nothing to do on skill development though it is a most important aspect of a coach’s job. However my attempt here is to understand the importance of a coach’s job outside the boundary! This is his ability to handle matters of meaning which is other than the game of cricket itself!

To begin with, in this day and age and from the very lowest level coaches have commenced directing traffic from outside the boundary and not allowing captains both young and mature to think for themselves. This part of the coach’s involvement has become the biggest bane in the modern game. Even as this topic would naturally involve the wider subject of school cricket in Sri Lanka and how games are played I don’t intend to take that route for now!

Having said that a good and a proper coach would be expected to play an enhanced role in a players life as besides being a coach he is also a motivator, a manager, a fatherly figure, a role model and also a teacher of significantly valuable principles of life which exists beyond a bat and a ball and the perimeter of a ground, though unfortunately not understood by cricketers both budding as well as the mature one’s.In that context understanding the critical role of a cricket coach will be vital! Carlton Bernadus the well known former Josephian Cricketer, Coach, Sri Lanka U 19 Asst. Coach, Chairman Tournament Committee of the then BCCSL, Australia advance level 2 coach and Sri Lank level 4 coach and finally former Deputy National Game Development Manager of Cricket in Bangladesh was one person who is well qualified and versed in the subject matter.

Bernadus’s vast experience in the relevant field was naturally beneficial in compiling this column on the subject matter as he himself had been exposed to many challenges a modern day coach would be called to encounter. His comments on the subject was both interesting and also educating to any coach irrespective of his level in his chosen field. Bernadus outlined some very interesting thoughts which were both logical and significant. “A coach has to be aware of many aspects and facets of his job” “he has to respect the rights, the dignity and worth of every individual player to be acceptable to his team as its coach” He has to be a person of very high standards of integrity and also look to protect his players from abuse and offer them a safe environment to enjoy their game”

Without doubt absolute gems in the context of coaching for any individual to hold on to and to put in to practice! I am sure these are areas which contain a vast reservoir of information which warrants a closer scrutiny. Moving on when one looks at the current day and age where we have read of players and students being abused by coaches and school teachers, and with games being played for just one purpose and that is to win at any cost, the fact that the principals outlined by Bernadus is hitherto in existence at least amongst a few is a hugely comforting factor.

I must also recall that in the past and especially in the decades of the seventies and eighties many great men indulged in the job of coaching for the love of it and to ensure that the player and the game benefitted. Hence what such coaches imparted to their pupils was always very well accepted and did sink in not just to the player but to his parents too and the culture of the coach mingling with parents which is quite common today was never the case then. Alas what a change we see today! And what a change from then! Its not a refreshing change but one for the worse with money also coming in to the equation! I am not in any way suggesting that coaching should be done for free! No not at all!

But what I am suggesting is the method adopted by some coaches of enticing rich and powerful parents for the sake of the son getting in to the playing Xl should be stopped forthwith. I also don’t intend to taint all coaches with the same brush either. Let’s not forget that there are some great coaches amongst us in both schools and clubs and it has been their efforts and unstinted dedication that have kept the flag of discipline and integrity flying. Such coaches have always upheld the rule of law in everything they do even at the expense of losing their job or being abused. Hats off to those gentlemen once again, as cricket is alive and kicking due to their pains!

But my issue here is with the one’s that don’t belong to the said category! Let’s not forget that a good coach is not always a great cricketer. Sir Garfield Sobers was never a good coach though he was easily one of the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen! Hence it takes more than only being a cricketer to be a good coach!

To me a good or a great coach would have to possess qualities beyond cricket and definitely the type Bernadus is talking about! No wonder we find some players speaking of their former coaches with great reverence and respect and in glowing terms whilst some of the other players with not so much of passion or respect. As much as the hand that that rocks the cradle rules the world a good coach holds the key to producing not just a great cricketer but a great human being and an ambassador of sport too. Well-done to coaches who are in to it! They have made their profession a highly valued and a respected one. But to the others its time you recognize the value of your sacred duty or otherwise it wouldn’t be too long before the red line of no return is past by young ones of today which is not a good omen for our future!

* Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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