Interview with former Canterbury Coach - Garry MacDonald

Former Canterbury coach Garry MacDonald has arrived back from a successful season coaching in Holland; Hamish Barton caught up with Garry and had a chat to him about coaching in Holland and coaching in general.

Q1. Which club have you been coaching at?
I was coaching at Rood and Wit (red and white in English) which is a club in Haarlem just outside of Amsterdam.

Q2. How did your team go last season?
We won our league with 5 games to go so you could say we played very well, plus we won promotion to the highest league by winning a playoff series, best of three, we won 2-1.

Q3. Was this the first season you have coached in Holland or overseas?
No, this was my second season at this club.  Last year I was there for three months just to evaluate what we needed to do for this year.  This year I spent the whole season there. Before that I was player/coach for the Niimegen club on the other side of Holland for 4 years.

Q4. What is it like coaching in Holland?
Interesting, cricket is a very old game in Holland,infact they have been playing it longer than we have in NZ. You have to deal with many different nationalities, plus the Dutch mentality which is very different to ours. In my team we had Dutch, Pakistani, South African, Australian, West Indian and NZ players so it keeps you on your toes in regards to team culture and attempting to get the correct ‘buy in’ from the different cultures. The Dutch hold the coach very accountable in most things where we are inclined to look at the players as well as the coach so it keeps you sharp in many ways.

Q5. What is the standard of cricket like in Holland?
I believe that the Dutch can be very competitive in limited over cricket, especially 20/20 which suits their hockey type batting. They are athletic, strong and reasonably skilled. Their big disadvantage is a lack of grass wickets plus they struggle with the competetitive nature of the longer game. The frustrating thing about Dutch teams is their quickness to drop their heads if things are not going well. It is a constant battle to keep them fighting to the end when under pressure. We did this reasonably well which was the main reason for our success.

Q6. Are you still coaching in New Zealand?
Yes, I am still very much involved with the Lancaster Park Woolston Club here in Christchurch. We won the National Club Champs in Auckland last year which was a great thrill for all of us at the club. I still enjoy doing specialist spin bowling coaching at both national and provincial level.

Q7. How do you approach coaching different players from different countries?
It is crucial that all nationalities are aware that as coach I have no prejudices and that they all will be treated with the same amount of respect regardless. I must admit, at times I have to be aware of religious differences with the Muslim lads as they are can be a little touchy if they have been fasting for a couple of days and I start yelling at them to move their butts at practice or such like. The players must know that their interests are important but the team is more important than any individual. If you can get all of the different cultures to fully understand this then you will have a happy team who will play unselfishly for each other, then you are in business!

Q8. Do you have a coaching mentor?
Not so much now,,I read a lot of autobiographies of successful coaches which I find helpful. In my younger years I would give an old NZ fast bowler called Gary Bartlett a call if I was struggling with an issue.

Q9. You have been involved in coaching for a long time, has your coaching philosophy changed over the years?
I don’t think so however my approach has changed a little.  I definitely think I am a far better listener now than previously when I believed that instruction was coaching.  I have always been big on team being paramount over individuals; also I always try to be conscious of never seeing the players as a means for my advancement as a coach. My favorite quote in sport is ‘ it is amazing what a team can achieve as long as no-one cares who gets the credit’ With more money about now for coaches I occasionally see coaches who see the people in their teams simply as chess pawns to be used for the coach to advance. Any coach, no matter how skilled, will eventually fall at a later hurdle if he/she does not treat their players as people first and competitors second. It may be old fashion but the coach must genuinely care about his charges, both in respect to their sport and their personal life, and earn their trust. In turn, the coach must educate the players to respect the team above all else.

Q10. As a coach what advise do you have for coaches working with young players?
It depends on how young. For the very young, it is important for them to have as much fun at training as possible. Once we get into say 10 years onwards, then the coach will need to up skill to a decent level as from this age bad advice can be harmful. I know that I gave poor advice when I was starting my coaching career through lack of education, and just relying on my playing time and guesswork. The other side of coach education is that when you are confident in your coaching skills you tend to do less instruction rather than more. I spoke to Robbie Deans about this a couple of years ago and he agreed. Sometimes no coaching and allowing the player to express themselves in their own way, is best, but it takes a lot of confidence and experience to allow this.

Q11. If you could sit down and have a chat with any coach from any code past or present who would it be and why?
Hard Question! Unfortunately, my favorite coaches tend to be Australian. I have read a number of Jack Gibson’s books (the famous rugby league coach) and I really enjoy listening to the Aussie netball coach, Norma Plummer, probably because both of these people tell it like it is and it comes through that they genuinely care for their charges. I can see why their players will go that little extra yard for them. Both of these coaches would probably do the job for nothing if you asked them.


 

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