Former Proteas coach Gary Kirsten has spoken about his coaching philosophy at a CSA coaching conference in Pretoria.
Kirsten was joined by the man who helped captain the Proteas to No 1 on the Test rankings during his tenure, Graeme Smith, and the pair spoke to delegates at the conference about the pressures of coaching and leading.
‘I don’t have one specific coaching philosophy,’ Kirsten said. ‘I just try to be a credible coach to the players and lead by example. Getting buy-in from your players is extremely important if you want your vision to go anywhere.
‘Everywhere I work, I try to build strong relationships with my players so that the team wants to play well for themselves and also for you as their coach,’ he said.
Kirsten also spoke of the importance of knowing your limitations, and making plans to fill any gaps in knowledge. ‘As a coach, you know what skills you have and what you thrive in. If there are elements to the job that you know you are not strong in, then get someone who will come in and fill that gap.
‘There is no shame in not knowing everything – that’s why a really good assistant coach is key to your success as well as the team’s.’
Smith then took to the podium, and spoke about the impact Kirsten had on the Proteas when he took over. ‘We had reached a point where we needed someone who could take us to the next level.
‘We had done really well as a side up to that point but we needed something to take us further. His coaching approach was more team focused, rather than results-driven,’ he explained. ‘This meant that we had freedom as a side that we never had before, and it allowed me to really grow in my role as captain.’
That growth eventually resulted in the Proteas being the world’s top-ranked Test side, a position they recently regained, after losing the accolade briefly at the beginning of the year. Smith said one of the main contributor’s to that success was the team’s culture, based on the concept of Ubuntu.
‘As South Africans, our biggest unifier is the people,’ he said. ‘We are a friendly nation and we love that added human element in whatever we do and whoever we engage with and we, as management, thought it was important to instil a culture that made players more aware of their role as role models and members of the community.
‘It is something that made us more aware of our influence as people and heroes of young people and put the focus on the pride that we felt to be part of the Proteas brand, rather than being focused on material things. We laid down the foundation for this culture and I hope to see it grow from strength to strength.’
Kirsten is currently a coaching consultant with the Proteas, as well as an IPL coach, while Smith was recently made the director of South Africa’s Domestic T20 competition.