Coaching is not instructing: Kirsten

Atif Azam

22 May, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Coaching is not instructing: Kirsten

World Cup winning former India National Cricket Team Head Coach Gary Kirsten is currently working hard to develop an online coaching platform named to groom coaches for the future. The South African was also engaged with BCB on advisory role for a short period of time. He spoke at length with daily sun exclusively regarding his online project along with his coaching philosophy which includes the need of good support systems for coaches and to feature a psychologist in the team set-up to help players handle the pressure of modern day cricket.

Here are the excerpts of the conversation.

daily sun: Tell us something about your online coaching platform?

Gary Kirsten: www. is a fully online coaching library and accreditation platform for cricket coaches, teachers and parents to further improve their cricketing knowledge.

daily sun: How do you intend to help coaches with it?

Gary Kirsten: Many coaches don’t get the opportunity to improve their skills. The CoachED library has hundreds of video drills across 12 modules providing sufficient content to give coaches the opportunity to gain knowledge on how to coach a cricket team.

daily sun: How can one enroll in this programme?

Gary Kirsten: Those interested can go to and find all the relevant information about the course.

daily sun: Do you feel interactive experience in the online platform will help coaches learn more from one another by sharing their experiences?

Gary Kirsten: Our elite course and accreditation which runs on a twelve week cycle does exactly that. There is a limit of twenty coaches per cycle. Our next cycle will begin in August.

daily sun: Tell us something about modern day coaching philosophy?

Gary Kirsten: Coaching is a leadership position which requires an in-depth understanding of how teams and individuals thrive and what sort of environment is needed for this. Coaches require a variety of skillsets which allow them to have oversight in every segment of running a professional cricket team. This includes season and tournament preparation, man-management, building a team culture, managing relationships, recruitment, contracting, strategy, recruitment and management of support staff, practice and training facilities, media commitments, team logistics, team feedback loops and debriefs, consultants and  all other services linked to a high performance professional sports team.

daily sun: How does a coach mentally cope with this hectic schedule and what can they do to keep their batteries charged?

Gary Kirsten: It’s difficult when you are travelling extensively throughout the year and trying to do the job properly and coaches need support structures to help them navigate the unusual lifestyle, especially if organisations are going to keep attracting the best. Without good support systems there will just be a high churn and turnover of coaches.



daily sun: What is the basic difference between coaching a national side and a franchise team? Which is more challenging?

Gary Kirsten: Both have their challenges. A national team requires extensive travel because of all the touring which makes it difficult for families. A franchise team coaching job is tough in terms of building a culture and a ‘way of doing things’ in an eight-week tournament, with high expectation on short term results.

daily sun: Some players are extroverts while some are introverts. How should coaches handle such different personalities?

Gary Kirsten: Coaches need to be able to successfully manage all different types of personalities so that each player has an opportunity to thrive. The coach is also trying to set a high performing team environment and has a responsibility for the success of the team and not only individuals.

daily sun: There is a saying that whenever any new coach is appointed in a country, he picks a few players as his own core group and some players start feeling insecure. Can you explain the reason behind it and how can a team breakout from this cycle?

Gary Kirsten: Every new coach needs support from players who can drive the new culture or way of doing things. This can take time and to win these players over, requires trust, transparency and good connections. We expect too much from coaches in a short time.

daily sun: In modern day cricket, technology is playing a huge role. According to you, what are some of the aspects of cricket which have been affected most by technology?

Gary Kirsten: I completely agree with the statement. It is becoming more important to decode, especially in T20 cricket. Every team is looking for a competitive advantage and the more advanced and relevant the data points, the more the coaches will embrace them.

daily sun: Do you feel a psychologist is required in the team management as mental health is also an issue that is more or less ignored in most part of the cricketing fraternity?

Gary Kirsten: I believe that qualified practitioners who can help players and coaches manage the emotion and stress of performance are a very important component to the well-being of a team environment.

daily sun: Do you feel man-management skills are more important than technical aspects of the cricketers in the national team?

Gary Kirsten: Most of the players who get selected to play for their country have a good set of skills already and hopefully don’t require help in any major technical requirements. Game intelligence and strategic awareness are big learning areas for young players and coaches can play a significant facilitative role in helping a player improve.

daily sun: It has been observed that some players in the national team are not ready to admit their technical flaws as they keep on saying that they came this far on the back performing with those flaws. How does one counter such an argument?

Gary Kirsten: Coaching requires careful facilitation of helping a player understand his own learning cycle and what are the factors which will help him become a better version of himself. Just telling someone that he is doing something wrong, because the coach doesn’t like it, and he must do it differently, is not coaching, it is instructing. This can be a limiting approach and delivers inconsistent results.

daily sun: When is the best time for coaches to work on the technical flaws of cricketers?

Gary Kirsten: The best time for coaches and players to work on any technical adjustments is pre-season and away from the competition space. During a tournament or series, the coach facilitates discussion to create awareness around potential other options.

daily sun: Do you feel your online coaching platform will help coaches gain that skill so that they can make the player understand even when when they are away?

Gary Kirsten: CoachED is designed to up-skill coaches and become better. This online platform will provide coaches with sufficient content to learn how to approach a player and help him understand what is required to improve.

daily sun: You had a fantastic relationship with Paddy Upton? Do you feel every successful coach need that right-hand man so that his plans can be executed to perfection?

Gary Kirsten: On hindsight, I believe sometimes even the right-hand man can come up with better plans. A strong trusting relationship where a Head Coach can be challenged and receive frequent meaningful feedback is vital for every team. Paddy was instrumental in this role in my three years with the Indian team.

daily sun: How important it is to have the mentality to receive suggestions thwarting one’s own ego? Do some coaches fail to do so?

Gary Kirsten: As coaches, we need to keep learning and realising that every team will require something different of you. The ability to re-invent thus becomes very important.