The Next Coach by Rudi Webster

4th September 2014

Picking the Spin from the Rough – stuff well worth reading

Professor Rudi Webster is renowned for his intelligent, insightful analyses of sport and sportsmen, and his discursive writing on cricket is a must. His recent book, Think Like a Champion is ‘required reading’ according to the great Sir Wes Hall – and he is right.

Following Ottis Gibson’s departure from the role of Head Coach of the West Indies, Professor Webster has written an important article identifying what qualities are required of Gibson’s successor.

The article appeared today in publications in Guyana, and can be found and read here:

I read the article a day or so ago (with thanks to Reds Perreira who sent me a copy). I dropped a line to Professor Webster with my own thoughts and response. Here’s what I said:

Dear Dr Webster

May I say how much I enjoyed your article which Reds was kind enough to forward to me. It should be out there for people to digest and consider the points you make. It should especially be required reading of the WICB!

Your piece addressed several of the key issues and decisions that must be addressed whenever any organisation selects a new figure within their management structure. If the organisation does not know ahead of the appointment what it’s immediate needs are, and, more importantly, its longer term aims and objectives, how on Earth can it properly identify the best candidate for the job? If you don’t know what the job actually IS, how can you even consider initiating the recruitment process? You may as well advertise for an unspecified, unidentified job, sift applications, interview candidates, recommend and confirm the appointment, and then find you’ve employed a road-sweeper as the District dentist. Organisations generally, and the WICB specifically, need to know what the Head Coaches’ job is, and what they want him to do.

A few of the things you mention in your item characterise required areas perfectly:

“Our last 3 coaches seemed to have a limited and fuzzy picture of what they wanted the team to achieve.” This of course is a fundamental prerequisite. Wherever the bar is being set – impossibly and unrealistically high, or underachievingly low, and whoever it is who is ultimately setting it (whether by Coach, Captain, team, WICB, in collaboration, whatever) – it MUST nonetheless be set! You can’t attempt to vault or limbo a bar that isn’t there.

“Good coaches create environments in which players learn, grow and play to the best of their ability.” Important. Creating the right environment is vital, and is a foundation stone of the building. Without beginning with that the edifice will crumble. And in the present structure that is the WI cricket team this may be the biggest challenge. Ottis Gibson attempted to rebuild – and some feel that some of the materials he had to build with were old, or rotten, or even rot-spreading. The new Head Coach must be allowed to build using his own tools and materials – which may include older masonry if he so wishes – but not because outside influences (the Board, regional politicians) foist them upon him.

“Playing better is often more about unlearning or removing bad habits… than about learning or adding new ones.” A very simplistic and profound truth. A ‘back to basics’ policy would certainly assist the development of WI cricket and cricketers. For this reason I personally think it is vital the WI appoint a homegrown coach in the vacant role, and would like to see Phil Simmons in charge. But that doesn’t mean a ‘foreigner’ is incapable of making an equally positive impact. It just means he has the additional challenge of translating his knowledge, good & bad habits, learning & ‘unlearning’ into a Caribbean culture.

Anyway, enough of my opinions! Thank you once again for your thought provoking article.

All the very best to you,

Kind regards,

David Oram

David Oram is the resident ‘statto’, and sometime presenter of ‘Mason & Guests’ – Voice of Barbados’ weekly cricket talk show, the leading cricket radio show in the West Indies – hosted by the Caribbean’s principal  radio commentator, Andrew Mason. You can tweet me at DavidOram@colblimp1983.


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