I don’t like cricket…

“Now I’m the first to admit I’m no A.B., if truth be told some days I struggle just to get from A to B”. In this blog, with the cricket season upon us, Tim Jarvis runs through his application to make his school staff team and reflects on the contribution schools make to the sport.


The Michaelmas term is behind us which means it’s cricket season. Many school coaches love this time. For some of them it’s because they have an intense passion and love for the game. For others it’s because the weather is invariably glorious all week, before giving way to pouring rain on Saturday creating a free weekend.

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Last year, our Master in Charge of cricket organised a 1st XI v Staff match and sent out an e-mail asking which teachers would like to be considered for the staff team. “Now I’m the first to admit I’m no A.B., if truth be told some days I struggle just to get from A to B”, let alone from wicket to wicket, but I am an enthusiast. I know my Arsenal from my Edgebaston, so to speak, and my Duminy from my de Kock.  So nothing daunted I sent in my reply. It went something like this:

Dear Sir,

I would like to make application to be considered for this team. I have included below some of the highlights of my sporting and cricketing CV.

All round ability:

  • In my high school I once ran the 100m in a wind assisted time of 16,97s. Although I don’t have the same turn of pace today I can still cover good ground when tea is taken.
  • I consider myself an all-rounder but not only because of my aforementioned enthusiasm for tea. 

Fielding:

  • It should be clear from the above that my work in the field needs to be seen to be believed.
  • In terms of catching, my last Captain remarked that I have the uncanny ability to always be in the right place for catches as the ball unerringly finds me.  He adds that it’s a pity that I have not actually caught any of them, but as I always say you have to be in it to win it.
  • I do struggle to get the ball into the keeper but the same Captain now insists on placing me right on the boundary (sometimes even over it if we have enough for a 12th man). 

Bowling:

  • I bowl right arm around the wicket, although I can bowl over it and, on a couple of memorable occasions have even bowled through it.
  • I have a very good slower ball. I don’t agree with my Captain that I need more variety as I believe in playing to one’s strengths.file-1
  • Due to my high levels of energy conservation I have the ability to bowl for long periods of time to hold up one end. I have been known to bowl for as long as three and even four over spells when in peak condition.
  • Although in limited overs cricket I go for an average of 14.1 runs an over I feel that this is a misleading statistic. Batsmen actually find it very hard to score off me, as a lot of these runs are in the form of extras.

Batting:

  • This is where I really come into my own. From an early age I have occupied the Number 11 position on the rare occasions that I have been promoted up the order from Number 12.
  • My career best score was achieved back in 1999 where I built an almost chanceless innings to get to triple digits. (By triple digits, I mean three singles.)
  • I once faced a full over of slow to medium pace as effectively as an opening batsman, in that I did not score but saw off the bowler (Despite my Captain’s protestations, I feel that the fact that it was the last over of a T20 game is not relevant).
  • My batting average is statistically 0.72 but I believe this is artificially low due the fact that I once got 5 golden ducks in a row (itself a Herefordshire County schools record).
  • I can play the pull shot very effectively. In fact I can only play the pull shot, this make for clear, unambiguous shot selection.

As you can see I have much to offer your team. I hope you will consider me for selection and I look forward to your reply.

Needless to say I was not invited to play (my intention all along of course), so an enthusiast as opposed to an exponent I remain. Cricket is not an easy sport to take up or maintain. It demands lots of time (from both coaches and players), requires lots of technical skill, needs lots of space, the right playing surface and equipment. Schools, it would seem uniquely positioned, to provide just that.

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Sean Gilson (Dolphins U19) batting in the nets

According to Paul Guthrie, schools representative of Cricket South Africa, “Schools in New Zealand, Australia and England are envious of the South African Schools’ set-up due to its competitiveness and solid structures in place. Many Protea players have come through this structure over the years and it continues to serve South African Cricket well. Players such as Kagiso Rabada , and the recent inclusion of Lungi Ngidi are a good indication that the schools system is producing top cricketers for our national team.”

Long may this situation last. For all the coaches out there this term, I hope you get enough good weather for plenty of play, along with the odd rain induced free weekend to keep you sane.

We don’t like cricket, we love it.

 

 

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How to build a winning team

I am usually a calm and measured person, thoughtful and considerate for the most part. However put me on the side of a sports field and I have the potential to transform into a ranting,  raging and rude maniac. I once told an opposition coach that people like him were the reason South African soccer was in such a mess. Much of the impact of my words were lost I think given that my team were 7-1 down at the time. A few years before that I saw red in more ways than one as I disabused the referee of the notion that he was impartial, fair or in any way competent when it came to officiating a football game.

Sport has the ability to raise one’s blood pressure exponentially, especially if one is involved in coaching. I have reflected on the alter ego that appears whenever I am near a white line and I have come to the conclusion that it is most likely to manifest itself when I care too much about winning. Winning is of course important, no one should play sport to lose, but when it becomes everything we are already losers.

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The last unbeaten season was 1909

Last year our school 1st XV rugby side had an unbeaten season. Much has been made of this and rightly so. The only unbeaten seasons prior to this were in 1902 and 1909 when staff still played in the team and there were only 4 matches a year! There are I think so many variables in creating a winning team that it is impossible to predict how well a team will do in terms of results. Not only do you need to have the right players, you need the right players in the right positions, you need them not to get injured, you need them to get on with each other, you may need the opposition, or their star player to have an off day and you may need a few 50/50 calls from the referee to go your way. Any coach that says otherwise is fooling themselves. It is why an unbeaten season is such a special thing.

I spoke to our 2015 1st XV rugby team coach about why he thought the season had gone so well last year. He said the following, “Imagine coaching a group of rugby players who love the game, who are keen to play, who are talented, who are humble and who want to be role models for the younger boys at the school. Well, in 2015, I was privileged to be able to coach such a bunch of boys. The result, my best coaching experience so far as a teacher. Not because of the fantastic results, but because of the total educational experience.” Mike Schwartz.

I think that last line is the key, building a winning team at school level must be in the context of the total educational experience not a “winning at all costs” mentality. To win every game in a season is insignificant, in the sense that it makes not a bit of difference to the world. So is using a club to push a ball in a hole, as is driving an expensive car or earning a large salary. In the context of the global and local challenges we face, all of these achievements pale into insignificance, success in these terms is simply not important or relevant to the world we live in. Boys playing sport need to know this.
Meadows benchesThis is a difficult lesson to learn for an adolescent when up to 10000 people are cheering you on in a schoolboy match. It is hard to see, given the adulation and fanfare reserved for players who make the Springbok squad. Impossible to understand perhaps when professional football players overseas can earn more in a week than many South Africans earn in a lifetime. A winning season is of course associated with success, but it is important that our boys know that success does not equal significance.

At the end of the season our 1st XV coach quoted Larry Gelwix, coach of the Highland Rugby Team and featured in the movie ‘Forever Strong’, in his after dinner speech, “It’s not about rugby, it’s about young men. It’s not about building a Championship team, it’s about building Championship boys; boys who will be forever strong.

That’s a great quote. As educators and coaches we must first be aiming to build boys into significant as opposed to merely successful men. This means that regardless of what happens on the field in terms of results we can see growth and development in the character of our teams. We can have winning teams and championship boys irrespective of their win/loose ratios.

What did this entail for last year’s team? According to the coach the following had to take place:

  • Commitment – This started with a hard and demanding preseason training.
  • Sacrifice – Time had to be put aside for the prerequisite training. Boys also had to learn to put the team’s needs before their own.
  • Goal setting – This was individual but done publicly to increase accountability
  • Routines – Before and after matches the team knew what to expect. “The chocolate milks that they received at the end of the match were a major highlight.”
  • Gratitude – Giving thanks for talents, their own and others
    , became part of the team ethos.
  • Relationship – The older boys did their best to ensure equality in the team as opposed to relating in a hierarchical way. They enjoyed each
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    Goal setting: An important part of development and growth

    other’s company. “The group of players was united and this made it easy to motivate them.”

  • Fun – The boys enjoyed their training and were happy. Music and singing were also important to them. The boys had a playlist
    that mostly consisted of One Direction. The year before that they told me that as they arrived at an opposition school they would sing ‘Story of My Life’ by the same band at full volume.

Our coach said, “The concept of making successful boys and not only successful players tied in well with the school vision. We have framed this as Success v Significance. The boys were just living what they had learnt for a number of years already.

If boys need to know that winning as an end in itself is not significant then so do their coaches.  Joe Ehrman in his book ‘Inside Out Coaching’ frames this as transformational, as opposed to transactional, coaching. A transactional coach has “their focus solely on winning and meeting their personal needs”, whereas a transformational coach “helps young people grow into responsible adults, they leave a lasting legacy.”

In a report by the Journal of Coaching Education it was found that coaches were ranked as the no 1positive influence on today’s sports playing youth. Given the critical role coaches play Ehrman says that each coach needs to ask themselves 4 questions:

  1. Why do I coach?
  2. Why do I coach the way I do?
  3. What does it feel like to be coached by me?
  4. How do I define success?

I know for myself that as I have introspected on these questions it has helped me clarify my own role as a coach and sharpened my focus. I am setting myself up for a fall here but I think I am less prone to fits of unbecoming rage and am more relaxed in my approach. I still hate losing (especially 7-1) but I am also more aware of an overarching goal that goes beyond winning or losing.

In my own small way I was also lucky enough (and I do mean lucky) to have my own unbeaten season last year with the Under 14A soccer team. In fact we won all seven of our games, the first time that has happened to me as a coach. I am fairly sure that, at least in part, it is linked to the fact that I am learning to stay calm on the side of the field, which in turn is a result of rethinking how I define success and why I coach.

Morning frost

In closing I want to retell the story played out in the American PBS documentary ‘Raising Cain’, narrated by psychologist Michael Thompson. Having examined the lives of teenage boys across the US, the series concludes by following the fortunes of Lincoln Sudbury, a High School Football team, and coverage of their final derby match against arch rivals Newton South,  upon which the success of their season will be judged. Lincoln Sudbury lose the game and anyone watching the footage can see they are truly shattered.

Thompson though, as he reflects on the game and the boys, chose to finish his broadcast with these words, “The boys thought today’s game was going to be a test of their manhood. They were right but not in the way they had imagined. These young men are going to have to prove they can cope with an immense disappointment…Today they showed deep compassion for each other. They’ve learnt that emotional courage is courage. Our job is to help them learn that lesson well.”