Anyone who knows cricket knows that Peter Moores was once christened the ‘coach of his generation’ by Paul Downton, then Managing Director of England Cricket, prior to appointing him for his second spell as Head Coach of the national cricket team. No pressure there then. His tenure ended in World Cup disappointment and an entirely unfair and disproportionate trial by media. Following an infamous misquote, Moores was labelled as a ‘data’ man: a coach by numbers. The irony. He’s anything but.
Following an infamous misquote, Moores was labelled as a ‘data’ man: a coach by numbers. The irony. He’s anything but.
I’ve known Pete, on and off, for well over a decade, including my time as Chair to the ECBs Fellowship of Elite Coaches. Pete was one of the founding members. During those years I got to know him for the driven, passionate and engaging man that he is.
He is the only coach to lead two separate sides to England’s County Championship title, including helping Lancashire secure that accolade for the first time in 77 years. That is a remarkable achievement. However, at International level he has developed an unfortunate reputation for preparing teams for greatness and then departing only for others to enjoy the fruits of his labours. That said, most of those who benefitted have had the good grace to give significant credit Pete for his part in their success; players and coaches alike.
From my perspective Pete is a what I’d call a ‘pure’ coach. The challenges of helping others improve; as players, as people and as teams envelope him. As does the desire to constantly drive himself forward.
The media feeding frenzy that followed his England departure would have seen a lesser individual crawl away to lick bitter wounds. Although Pete had a few weeks of quiet introspection he was soon back in the fray, building significant success with then struggling Nottinghamshire, including winning the T20 blast for their first time. When we sit down together, in a non-descript hotel in Worcestershire, he is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. For me, it is slightly strange to interview someone having known them for so long. Slightly strange but no less fascinating.
At 54, Pete cuts a youthful and perhaps it’s fair to say, leaner, meaner version of his previous self. Not many coaches, at least in cricket, take the knocks that Pete has and come back swinging; again and again. That said, despite multiple phoenix impersonations that have seen repeated domestic success and praise lavished on him from some of the world’s best cricketers, it’s not his career – for all its fascinating twists and turns but rather his coaching philosophy that intrigues me: his unique insight on the role of the coach and what it a takes to help an individual and a team fulfil, or even redefine, their potential.
First up let’s put the ‘data’ tag to rest once and for all. Pete has the advantage of several years perspective and although his humour has returned it’s evidently a topic that still has the capacity to frustrate him. He’s not alone in his sentiment, at least amongst other coaches, that over-reliance on data can stifle coaching,
A brilliant coach takes a big block of information, removes the irrelevant stuff and keeps the important things.
“Analysis by its nature is as good as that which you take away from it: a brilliant coach takes a big block of information, removes the irrelevant stuff and keeps the important things. Otherwise, the useful information is lost in all the other stuff and it becomes useless. If in doubt don’t use it at all. And if it ever kills a player’s instinct then it’s not worth it”.
The science versus the art of coaching is a topic I come back to time and time again with established coaches. The governing bodies of sport inevitably lean towards ‘science’ (and by default scientists), comfortable with data but nervous and misunderstanding of the ‘art’ side of coaching. In my experience the bravest and most effective coaches effectively blend the two: using science to inform, but never dominate, their ability to develop and release an individuals’ or teams’ potential.
Pete takes up the theme,
“You can have all the analysis in the world but the only thing that ultimately matters is: did they save, make or cost us runs? It can be done on feeling and it raises awareness of factors like speed off the mark, accuracy. You have to look a long time to find a gem in all the other stuff. In short, analysis needs refining. Without context it’s either ineffective, useless or, even worse, damaging”.
I shift the trajectory of the conversation, “What does it actually mean to be Head Coach?”.
“I think as a Head Coach you’ve got to be an all-rounder. When coaching you’re in the people business and you want people to get better. My number one priority is trying to help people build belief in themselves. I create opportunity for people to do that and let them feel it. You don’t want to be like the builder who says ‘ooooer I’m not sure about that – we’ll see what we can do.’ ”
Slightly surprised at the switch from coaching to building I ask Pete what he means.
” Some builders will tell you they can do something but emphasise how difficult it is, so you can only do what needs doing it if you use them. In coaching terms this creates an over reliance on the coach – which is where I’d never want to be as it can dilute the independence of the performer”.
“And it’s not as if you’re out there bowling or batting for them…”
“Exactly. So if you do that in coaching it can be incredibly negative. If a bowler says ‘what do you think?’, and you say, ‘that’s not great but I can fix it’, all his belief goes. But you must also avoid creating bullshit belief by telling a player how great he is without enabling them to practice in certain ways so they can then feel it. You help people make connections that work for them. There’s no exact science to that”.
You must also avoid creating bullshit belief by telling a player how great he is without enabling them to practice in certain ways so they can then feel it.