Monday, June 7, 2010

What makes ordinary players great coaches?

This is one question which makes me think after every successful campaign by a team or an individual. There are examples of very ordinary players who have gone on to become good captains and even more, a highly successful coach. Here is one list which I have jotted down:

Dav Whatmore
John Wright
Late Bob Woolmer
Bobby Simpson
Tom Moody

And as I write this, I can think of some ordinary players, who were brilliant captains: Mike Brearly, Hansie Cronje, Nasser Hussain. Even Steve Waugh, who many consider to be the best captain Aussies ever had, was a very limited batsman, but with his sheer hard work and mental toughness, went on to become one of the most prolific batsmen of his era, scoring most of his runs in the most difficult situations. Not far behind would be Allan Border and Mark Taylor, who were tough mentally and scored runs heavily in spite of their limited abilities, and yet were outstanding captains. And who can forget the great Ian Chappell, who has forced me to write a blog on him.

Some of the outstanding football coaches:
Sir Bobby Robson
Sir Alex Fergusson
Jose Mourinho
Arsene Wenger
Louis van Gaal
Guus Hiddink
Louis Felippe Scolari

I want to specifically make a point towards Jose Mourinho. He is indeed “THE SPECIAL ONE”. Having played football till the age of 27, he realized he wasn’t good enough, albeit as a player. So, he forayed into the world of coaching, starting off as an understudy to Sir Bobby Robson, himself not a very distinguished player, but yet again a successful England, Barca, Porto , Newcastle United coach. For Mourinho to have ventured into management would have surely come as a difficult decision to make. What a tough lad he would have been, when he decided to suppress his ego and take up a challenge. The man’s success speaks for himself. Porto, Chelsea and Inter. I fondly remember Didier Drogba in tears after “The special one” made a move from Chelsea. That is the kind of influence the man had on his players. Someone else said about him “He comes, he wins and he leaves”. That is with obvious reference to his latest challenge of coaching Real Madrid and bringing back the silverware that has been eluding Santiago Barnabeau for a while. But more importantly, this statement also drew parallels with Julies Caesar.

Interestingly, his Bayer Munich counterpart in the Champions League Final, Dutchman Louis van Gaal, was also an understudy of Late Sir Bobby Robson and a mentor for Jose.

And the list just doesn’t end here. Tennis is one sport that has been always in the limelight for individual accomplishments more than anything else. This list is too topped by someone who has bred the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin, James Blake, Maria Sharapova – Nick Bollitieri. Nick Bollitieri is the most low profile coaches in the world of tennis and continues to groom his protégés from his tennis academy in Florida. He is the most sought after coach when it comes to grooming tennis champions for the morrow. He is often referred as the Ramakant Achrekar (the man who nurtured SRT) of Tennis. Some of the more remarkable names that come to my mind are:

Brad Gilbert
Tim Gullikson
Paul Annacone

Some players like Gustavo Kuerten started with his grandmother being his first coach. While Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis were continued to be coached by their parents well in their playing days, the interesting point to be noted is the relatively unknown who have brought the talent from amongst these players.
So this brings to the poignant question that has kept me searching for answers. Why is it that they did not make it big as players? Is it that in spite of their great insight on the game they played, their limitations kept them away from the glitterati? And if they were so knowledgeable and great visionaries of the game, why weren’t they able to figure out their way out? These are some answers that still elude me and will continue to do so…

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