Bèchet looks back

2015-03-10 00:00

AFTER almost two years in limbo, one of Maritzburg College’s most successful coaches has finally moved on to new pastures after a three-decade career at the Pietermaritzburg boys’ high school.

Michael Bèchet, known by many as “Bech”, parted ways with College last year on a somewhat sour note but the talented cricket and hockey specialist told The Witness last week that he will always cherish his years at the school. He joined Jeppe High School in Johannesburg at the beginning of the year.

Born and bred in Durban, Bèchet matriculated from Durban High School in 1973 and went on to complete a ­Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical ­Education and Psychology coupled with a teaching diploma.

He put that to good use joining College back in 1981. Bèchet taught mathematics while getting stuck in on the sports front, taking over as head coach of the 1st XI Hockey side in 1982 — a position he would hold for 30 consecutive years.

That amounted to 661 games, with 503 wins, 89 draws and just 69 losses over three decades while six of his teams had unbeaten seasons. He coached 15 eventual Protea men’s hockey players, while 68 of his players earned SA Schools hockey caps during his tenure.

He was an equally capable cricket coach and spent 10 years as U15A coach from 1982 to 1992 before taking over the 1st XI from 1993 until 2013. His cricket records are equally as impressive; in 562 games his teams won 379 games, lost 95 and drew 88 — while recording two unbeaten seasons.

Proteas Jonty Rhodes and David Miller, England’s Kevin Pietersen and Ireland’s John Anderson were coached by Bèchet, while nine of his players earned SA Schools/U19 caps.

The 59-year-old put his impressive record down to his philosophy on sport, which he believes differs from many other school sport coaches.

“My philosophy is quite simple. I try to prepare guys for opportunities after school, while many coaches focus on ­unbeaten runs and team records. For me, the focus was always on developing my players so that they could go onto to play provincial, franchise and national sport,” Bèchet said.

“It is important to properly prepare these boys for professional sport and I genuinely tried to engender a love for the game into each of them … [so] some will carry on playing sport after school even if they are just playing casually.”

A small minority of school coaches will get to see their players make it to the international stage and Bèchet said it was privilege to have coached and been involved in developing their careers.

“It is emotionally rewarding to see guys playing at an international level. When you get texts from guys like Dave Miller while he is busy at the World Cup — it’s extremely humbling,” Bèchet said.

“There are also many players that played against my teams that are now internationals or domestic players. I remember Dolphins batsman Cameron Delport smashing us all over Goldstones and my boys playing against the likes of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis. To see them go from youngsters to some of the world’s best is a privilege.

“You also build up camaraderie with coaches from other schools and I still call up other coaches to congratulate them if some of their former players are performing well.”

Bèchet’s time at College came to an end last year after two years of controversy. In January 2013, the coach made an inappropriate comment about a spectator in a team huddle and found himself suspended from his coaching duties until he left the school.

While Bèchet admitted he regretted the situation, he felt aggrieved that he was ousted from coaching and relieved of his director of sport position. He remained house master of Hudson house until the end of last year.

“It was a messy and hurtful situation. My plan was to teach at College right until the end. I had given myself until this year to coach both sides and I wanted to get to 700 games as hockey coach and move into a consultancy role.

“I sacrificed quite a lot and I gave up so much for the school and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was the 30 happiest years of my life, while the last two years were hell.”

Bèchet, his twin sons and wife have since moved up to Johannesburg, while his eldest son is studying at UCT.

Bèchet is Jeppe’s director of cricket and runs Tsessebe boarding house.

“I am also teaching physical education and I’ll be coaching hockey when the season gets underway. I’m enjoying it here, there is a positive environment and my kids and wife are happy,” Bèchet said.

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