Top coaches no longer stand alone

Last updated 14:37 09/05/2012

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New Zealand has certainly embraced the cult of the sports coach.

It is an age ago since Glenn Turner became the New Zealand cricket team coach in 1985 and wasn't allowed to be called "coach". He was "cricket manager".

"The term coach is considered demeaning to the players," Turner explained to me. "At the point they're at in their careers, they don't like people to think they need a coach."

So Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Ian Smith, Jeremy Coney, John Wright, John Bracewell and the rest could take advice from a cricket manager, but not a coach.

Those days are long gone. International sports teams now don't have just one coach. They have a veritable army of them.

The cricketers have a head coach, an assistant and fielding, batting and bowling coaches, plus assorted other hangers-on.

Top rugby teams have coaches, assistant coaches, forwards coaches, backs coaches, defence coaches, lineout coaches, scrum coaches, kicking coaches and more.

Judged by how many there are - and how much publicity they get - coaches must be incredibly important. Amazing then that for many decades sports teams got by without them.

I've been scanning the newspapers over the past few days for New Zealand coach stories.

There's been the John Wright saga, of course.

Wright, the New Zealand cricket team coach, has quit because he doesn't get on with New Zealand Cricket's No 2 man, John Buchanan. The debate seems to be about which of them is more expendable.

In rugby, Wayne Smith and Pat Lam have been the coaches getting the most ink.

Smith turned down a plum coaching job in England, apparently because he loves New Zealand rugby so much "his blood is black", according to one writer.

Makes you wonder why he bothered to negotiate with the English officials, if his heart was in New Zealand to that degree.

Pat Lam is being held responsible for the Blues' appalling run this year.

Such is the lot of the coach. There's been little focus on the players' deficiencies - out-of- shape, poor attitude, insufficient skills and bad decision-making under pressure.

Stephen Kearney is copping it in rugby league. Just as he seemed to be over-praised when the Kiwis won the World Cup in 2008, now he is evidently the one person to blame for the Parramatta Eels' dismal effort in winning only one match this National Rugby League season.

Even netball has got into the act.

Two weekend papers ran stories about how Central Pulse (and former Southern Steel) coach Robyn Broughton had been hard done by because she wasn't shoulder- tapped for the Silver Ferns' job years ago.

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It's all terribly shallow.

Just think about Graham Henry. He is now Sir Graham, and in demand everywhere as a speaker, a coaching adviser and a sage on all things, really.

Yet if Stephen Donald's penalty against France in the World Cup final last year had swung one more metre to the right, Henry would be a figure of scorn, the only All Blacks head coach to lose two World Cups.

- Wairarapa News


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