Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Black And White - The Story So Far

Reading the first few chapters of Jake White's book it is interesting to retrospectively examine all those little details (like his finding a job coaching across the road from where he was studying) that appear on the face of it to be lucky. You do wonder, how much was luck, a mere confluence of events? I'm not saying the oke didn't work hard, or that he wasn't the right man for the job. I'm just implying, you get a giddy sense of destiny at time. I dunno, I thought so, based on how things unravelled, but then maybe one would, knowing the conclusion.

Then again, Jake knew early on (based on his school essay) what he wanted to be, and what he wanted to do. So maybe you make your own luck. It helps having a clearly defined purpose.

There are more personal insights that are surprising in a general sense. White said he changed his name from Jacobn Westerduin to Jake White when he was 13 years old (the year he enrolled at Jeppe Boys High. He says it was a shock to suddenly - at the age of 13 - have a different name, and he says he still feels funny sometimes signing his name Jake White. His mother, having remarried, insisted on it at the time.

It is also interesting what a strong influence 'broederskap' - male camaraderie played in his life. Rugby, as he says, was a way to get status at school, and of course, it also helps if you love the sport, for that reason and besides. Going to Grey I probably ignored rugby for that exact reason. I was a provincial athlete and a swimmer (soccer once too) and these sports required you to be lithe, not large. I wasn't particularly large, but I was fast and always fit. I would have schmaaked playing rugby. For various reasons I didn't, including the fact that I loved swimming, and being a year younger than the other dudes at school, was probably more intimidated by man-boys than I would otherwise have been. Wearing external braces also deconstructed the rugby ethos, not just in terms of me, but in terms of prospective coaches and players.

Also interesting is that White is actually more Dutch than Afrikaans, and his success reminds me of the Dutch coach - Gus Hiddinck - that coached the South Korean soccer team so successfully, for the 2002 World Cup.

So what makes a good coach?

He knows how to make a team. He knows how to cut through the egos of big-name, multi-millionaire players [and officials]. He knows how to make a team play both for him and themselves. He knows how to transmit the vital importance of fluent movement and deep understanding. He knows to build teams from game to game. He doesn't grant caps as though he is doling out sweeties. He wouldn't dream of nurturing a club within a club, one run by the captain and president, David Beckham/Oregon Hoskin. He would have a simple imperative: a demand for signs of a developing team and always a growing understanding of what was expected from individual players.

White said something else. He defined success not necessarily by victories, but by a decent record of growth and improvement. Obviously, if you're growing more and improving more than your competitors are, you ought to start enjoying the symptoms: winning. But you have to start somewhere else.

I'm only 10% through the book. It's going to be a great read over this Christmas period.

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