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Bob Woolmer - A Dream Coach

Published: Thursday, October 2, 2003, 18:23 [IST]
 
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Bob Woolmer - A Dream Coach

How essential is it for a coach to have first class cricket experience and how does it help?

I believe it can be both help and a hindrance. The plus side is that if you have played first class cricket for a period of time you will have gained knowledge of the game that other coaches cannot possibly experience. It will give you credibility the higher the level you play.

However, it can be a poisoned chalice, because many cricketers go into coaching because they didn't quite make the grade and they want to stay in the game and they pass on the negativity that they experienced. This is a problem. Sometimes coaches with uncluttered minds are better.

My experience is that for me to coach internationally I needed to have that experience. It helped me deal with situations and to read situations better. It didn't however make me a better coach of 8 year olds, which I had to learn and discover myself.

Whom would you rate as the top five coaches at the moment?

Not an easy question because I have not experienced their coaching. Judging by results, I would think that Dave Whatmore, Duncan Fletcher, John Buchanan, are all there, sometimes there are coaches in the wings doing fantastic roles. Andrew Kirsten made a huge difference to Kenya when he assisted Sandeep Patil.

John Wright has had a very positive influence on India. Good coaches will engender good results in a team, but should be judged not so much on results but on the time he spends and the knowledge he imparts. I would like to think that all coaches have their strengths and their weaknesses and that a good coach is prepared to acknowledge his weakness and let others in to help him.

Coaches differ on certain viewpoints. This creates confusion in the young trainees. Your comments.

Essentially coaches say the same thing in different ways. If there is one piece of advice I would give any player and I do. It is listen to what a coach has to say and then make a decision on what is the best way for him. There isn’t too much difference, just the method of putting the message across.

Coaching the basics to a beginner or finer points to an accomplished cricketer - which is a more difficult job - How and why?

Again a question that is not as easy to answer as you think. The basics of the game are vital. The Australians swear by them and practice them assiduously. Youngsters have the ability to learn quickly but it takes 10 years to make a senior player, which is a long time in anyone’s life! So by that statement that is going to be hard work.

A senior player has everything ingrained in him over a period of time so change is almost impossible maybe a 2/3% change at the most but it is more how you address the problem with the senior player that is the tough part. Some players are not technically orientated some are and some just make excuses. So to answer your question, probably the older player. Again, if he is at international level then he should have the right attitude to listening.

How does the initial movement help a batsman? What movement do you recommend?

The initial movement also known as the rhythm or trigger movement is beneficial to players who believe it to be. What movement is better again is an individual choice. I would teach them all and let the player decide, however the key to the initial movement is not what but when!

Does an up-right stance help? If yes - How?

Again it can help some people and not others. It is an individual preference and it is nice to be able to try it. Sir Donald Bradman did not favour it. I believe in the words comfortable, balanced and a position ready to be able to move back or forward once the length of the ball had been judged.

What gives you maximum joy as a coach?

From a team perspective a tactic that works, victory, from an individual, overcoming a problem and scoring a hundred, getting someone to bowl an outswinger or a googly or something that he has never done before. Seeing my boys with a smile on their face-enjoying cricket. My most enjoyable coaching moment was watching the SA team receiving their gold medals at the commonwealth games in 1998.

In England and Australia a coach is a friend while in India a coach is a guru and held in reverence. What should a coach - trainee relationship be? Your views

A coach cannot be everything to everybody, so he is either a friend or foe or a guru. I believe that he should be seen as someone who has knowledge worth extracting from a river full of water, a mine full of coal. Exhaust the coach's knowledge and hope to that he keeps filling the river and that he has an inexhaustible supply of coal.

Brain or Brawn, temperament and technique what are the factors that you would stress upon?

Hopefully a combination, but cricket is a game for intellectuals, sporting intellect I mean so a brain is necessary but not imperative. Brawn can be an advantage take Botham and Flintoff as examples.

What is the difference between a bowler's and a batsman's thought process?

In an ideal world the batsman should think of nothing but just watch the ball. The bowler however has to think the batsman out and at the same time remain in a concentrated state so that his action remains smooth so he can deliver what he is thinking. The bowler asks the questions the batsman has to make the correct answer.

How do you teach mental skills to cricketers?

Repetition, experience,! By learning the hard way. Using a sports psychologist, by relating experiences. The bottom line the mental skills come at a young age. Determination, never giving up, these are genetic traits. They can be learnt as you would any skill. As I said by repetition.

Are reflexes in-born or can they be developed?

Some children have better reflexes than others at a younger age but in general, if there is co-ordination it can be improved.

Physical fitness, mental strength and cricket skills - what would be the required proportions in your view?

The stronger the body the stronger the mind the fitter the body the more one can practice the more one can practice the better the skill levels. It is a never-ending loop! The proportions are equal.

What are the coaching / training aids you would advise?

Coaching takes place through Reading (eyes), Listening (Ears), Understanding (Brain) Watching (copying), Repetition, practice. The digital video camera has short- circuited a lot of the above. The use of computer technology will outline the problems but the answer lies within the player. Bowling machines, slip-catching cradles are all a help but video technology has revolutionized coaching. Some of the many myths of the past have been exposed and some have been confirmed.

What do you think separates the Aussies from the rest?

Understanding that working together towards one goal gets them there quicker than bickering about how to spend money. They have set their goal to be the best have identified how and spent the money making themselves the best.

Your advise for up and coming cricketers

Always think you can get better, always enjoy the game, always be humble in victory and defeat and always want to be part of the game.

Your message to the coaches

Well. That was Bob Woolmer answering all the intriguing questions. He comes straight and simple. I guess this is the secret of his success. His simplicity proclaims his greatness. There have been many coaches and more will come along, but the coach who helps a budding talent realize his potential and helps him enjoy the game should be deemed as a dream coach. And I guess I found BOB WOOLMER to be just that.

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