I ask Pete to expand and he obliges, “You can look at coaching in two ways; some think ‘I’ll give you all my information to try and make you a better player’ – I’ve never found that very attractive. The other way is to say, ‘I think all that brilliance is within you so I’ll come with you and help you get it out’. I’d like to think I’m that way around so the method they develop as a player starts to fit them”. (Read Part One HERE)
“How do you go about bringing that brilliance out?”
“There are the foundation blocks that don’t go away – so helping a player find their rhythm is one of the massive parts. I go and watch a trial see these kids absolutely crapping themselves but they’re being judged technically. If you try and get them relaxed and do two or three sessions, you can see the real person and then judge if they’re any good or not. Pro sport is no different. How do you spot rhythm? It’s about relaxed efficiency. It’s who is enjoying it. Sometimes you look around and people aren’t having a good time and then maybe you’re doing something wrong”.
How do you spot rhythm? It’s about relaxed efficiency. It’s who is enjoying it.
He continues, warming to his theme,
“Sometimes as a coach you focus too much on the technical and that’s not right. Coaches by nature are carers with a critical eye, which is a bad combination. You’re spotting weaknesses but sometimes you’re missing the goal which is that they’re brilliant in their own way. When I was at Lancs, most the guys could name what they had to work on but not many could name what they were good at. It’s not easy to say things like, ‘I can handle pressure really well’ etc.”
Focusing on what we cannot do versus that which we can is a common malaise that often gets worse the older we are. I make a mental note to write a list of the things I’m good at. Pete continues,
“That’s why coaching for me is difficult to understand because everyone wants it to fit in a box. You live with a group of players and you get to know them in a certain way. At times you can help them get better and at times you can’t. It doesn’t always work in an exact scientific way. Coaches are good, bad, average and brilliant but we’ve created this idea that if we’ve all done the badge then we’re all really good. That would be mythical, you go in and out of form as a coach just as a player does”.
I wonder what Pete ‘on form’ is so I ask him, “What is you at your best?”. He chuckles,
“When there’s an enthusiasm to do it that takes away any negativity. DP (David Pearson), said to me at Warwickshire: ‘Mooresy you know you’re at your best when you are your natural child and when you’re having some fun’. Part of that fun tempers the desire to push and win. I’ve always had both but you try and get that balance right. Pushing too hard can be quite detrimental for players because it’s not sustainable – they have to do the pushing and you assist.”
Yes, we play football; does it make us better cricketers? No. But if it connects us, it might make us a better team.
I recall watching the England Team, whilst filming in South Africa, take part in what I could best describe as an ‘enthusiastic’ kick-around. That said, they were certainly having fun. I put it to Pete, whose own team is keen on the occasional soccer match, “What about playing football as a part of warming up? That seems to split opinion”.
“We may be doing it because it’s good fun but that in turn might make you better because it just makes you feel better. Yes, we play football; does it make us better cricketers? No. But if it connects us, it might make us a better team”.
Improvement in any field very rarely occurs in a straight line. The critical elements are context and relevance combined with the ability of the coach to constantly revisit, appraise and where appropriate: experiment. Finding the correct blend of experimentation and tried and tested principles is an ever present challenge for the forward thinking coach. As is the balance between technique and expression in a player.
It’s evident the concept of ‘having fun’ is as misunderstood as the ‘what is coaching’ conundrum. Perhaps it’s a peculiarly British thing – struggling with the concept than ‘fun’ can deliver great results. Perhaps it’s embedded in the Protestant work ethic or Catholic guilt. I drag my wandering mind back to the present. “In the context of the team dynamic, how do you support the individual?”.
Winning is a by-product of everything that’s been done. When looking at the whole of it you get cues.
“You try and support each individual the same, but at different times people need different things. The ‘whole’ is a different set of dynamics. Winning is a by-product of everything that’s been done. When looking at the whole of it you get cues. The longer you’ve coached teams the more you notice those cues – it might be seemingly stupid things like guys wearing the wrong kit. You take it all in and you tweak things. Sometimes teams just need to relax: go and have a meal together”.
Join us very soon for the final instalment of my interview with Pete.