Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Orville Higgins | Smart coaches produce star players

Published:Friday | January 5, 2018 | 12:01 AM

The story was told to me a few years ago about a Jamaican cricket youth player who was 'forming the fool' on tour. The coach had to give him a serious dressing down after one particularly bad shot had cost him his wicket. The next innings, the youngster made a brilliant hundred and when he was on his way back he pointed his bat at the coach and said "hug up dat, coach" in a most unfriendly manner.

The coach told me himself that he didn't reprimand the player at all. Other members of the management team thought the boy should have been heavily sanctioned, maybe even sent home, but the coach would have none of it. He allowed the player to calm down and at the end of the day, he told him, in measured and friendly terms, that his gesture and words were inappropriate and that he was not pleased. After congratulating the player on a fantastic innings, he then explained to the player that he had only come down hard on him because he knew he was capable of much more. He told the youngster that he would not punish him in any way for the gesture and remark but he should not let it happen again. The youngster agreed. Mutual respect grew. The player went on to have a great tournament and then later had a decent international career.

Not every such story ends that way. Had the coach handled it differently, it could have led to the demise of a talent for good. The moral of the story is that the coach was not prepared to 'kill' the precocious young talent, but was prepared to understand and work with him. It is a lesson that needs to be reinforced by those who have to manage talent in sports; and, indeed, in life generally.

The successful managers and coaches will know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with players, especially the really good ones. One star player may need a tongue lashing to get him going; another may simply need an arm around the shoulder. I get complaints all the time from big players about how they were treated by those in authority, and there is a lot of bad blood between current and former players and those who were responsible for supervising them.

A few months ago, we had a new national netball coach. In her first week or two, she clashed with the star players about a new training regime. I predicted from then that her stint would be short-lived. Her 'my way or the highway' approach may have been more appropriate for kids, but a potential disaster for quality adult talent.

 

Lesson of coaching

 

That coach is no longer around. She didn't learn one of the most fundamental lessons about coaching, that the best coaches are the ones that get the players to respect them. Too many of these coaches don't understand that the star player is the product and that they are merely there to facilitate.

Too many coaches themselves want to be the star. There is one well-known local football coach who had a habit of calling out his players publicly after a bad game.

This coach is no longer coaching, and now struggles to get a top team to coach despite his well documented knowledge of the game.

I happened to be in Montego Bay the night before Orville Powell and his Montego Bay United team were planning their now infamous 'respect' protest. I was actually in the room itself when the discussions were being finalised. Whatever you wanted to say about the protest it, was obvious to me that the Montego Bay players would have walked through a wall for Powell. The fact that Montego Bay United is one of the most successful local clubs in the last few years owes in no small measure to Powell's ability to motivate his players. Players spend many hours per week trying to hone their craft. Sometimes, I feel that owners and managers need to do more training too.

Too many of these owners and managers are simply just ex-players who know very little about how to get the best out of people.

Quite often these ex-players who become managers or owners bring the same type of attitude that would have worked in the distant past. It doesn't always work with the modern players.

The owner or manager who doesn't understand this isn't usually successful. They mistreat and misunderstand star talents at their own peril. The truth is that star players make owners and managers and coaches, hardly the other way around.

Players train hard at how to get better at their craft. Those designed to manage and supervise talent should also spend a lot of time understanding how to work with people.

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