Guiding the Dolphins

2013-10-18 00:00

AT the Dolphins season launch a few weeks back, a new face was introduced to the franchise; a man wearing John Lennon type glasses looking more of an accountant than an important and vital cog in a cricket franchise’s engine room.

Step forward Christo Spies, a man who specialises in mental toughness, specifically hired by the Dolphins this season to improve mental attitude and get the players believing in themselves, the brand and that winning feeling. He is currently a consultant, but has been part of discussions to make the Dolphins the best franchise in the country over the next three years.

It’s been far too long since the Dolphins rose up as a serious force in domestic cricket and obviously in the off-season, after another barren effort last time around, discussion focused on how to re-invent that hunger in the players, the killer instinct that would have other franchises taking note of an outfit that wants to win and means business.

“I am a Free State boy born and bred and received a call from coach Lance Klusener in regard to the mental approach for the coming season,” said Spies.

“I flew down, had the interview and now I visit Durban far more than what I used to. My wife and two children are still in Bloemfontein and this early in the season, find the travelling more challenging than I anticipated.

“Obviously, the wish is to be closer to them and be able to spend more time with the players for longer periods, but so far it is working well and producing the desired results.”

Spies has spent quality time with the players, fine-tuning them into becoming better human beings and instilling that spark of confidence. “My goal and dream for the players is to see them live up to their potential, keep focused on what they want to achieve, and help them overcome any unexpected distractions or emotional events in their lives,” said Spies.

Spies has a track record that eliminates any doubt relating to what he can achieve. He has been involved with the Cheetahs rugby team, the Knights (cricket), netball teams, Maties Varsity Cup team, Free Sate judo, badminton, karate … the list is endless.

“History could be repeating itself this weekend but being closer to Durban than I have been in the past, I need to be careful what I say,” said Spies.

“In 2009, I was involved with the Cheetahs when they beat the Sharks in Durban in the semi-final of the Currie Cup. Already this week I have had a call from Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské and players Adriaan Strauss, Robert Ebersohn and Hawies Fourie ahead of tomorrow’s big showdown at King’s Park. I hesitate to believe that history will repeat itself.”

Last Sunday, the Dolphins started their domestic one-day season with a strong six-wicket win against the Lions. For those watching the game it was clear to see there was a different approach from the side. Up against the ropes with three wickets down for fewer than 30 runs, they rose from the canvas, boxed clever and eventually found themselves in a position to deliver the knock-out blow. It was a refreshing breath of fresh air and Spies was there, in the pavilion, quietly watching it unfold.

“Being positive about what you do and what you have in life is a key ingredient to success and taking steps forward,” he said. “Each player needs to know what he wants, then he must plan on how he expects to get to where he wants to be.

“On the journey, he must be able to deal with the so-called curve balls which will come his way and not just throw his hands in the air and call it best. It’s a test of character and in essence, that is what the game of cricket is about. You go from highs to lows all the time and a champion is a player who can ride the good and bad waves and still believe he can stand tall at the end of it all.”

For Spies, trust is also vital. As a newcomer to the franchise, he has to sow the seeds of trust with administrators, players and coaches, being the “go to” man when the road becomes fraught with danger.

“My job is a combination of watching the players, connecting with the coach to discuss his and my observations and connecting with players at a level where they know I have their best interests at heart and am passionate about them succeeding as professional cricketers.”

So far so good for Spies and although it’s early days in the season, it’s clear to see he has made an impression.

It’s another feather in his cap as his previous involvements with major sporting teams have borne rich fruit.

Some of achievements include making Grey College the number one schoolboy team from 2007 to 2010 while he worked with them; Sentraal netball team ranking number two in SA in 2009/10; the Knights reaching the domestic T20 final, playing in the Champions League and winning the domestic four-day and one-day series (good omens for the Dolphins here); the Cheetahs making the biggest comeback in Currie Cup history in 2009 and the Free State netball and badminton teams winning national titles.

“I love competitive sport and work in the ideal environment,” said Spies.

With tongue in cheek, it’s perhaps fair to say that this looks like one signing that the Dolphins have got right. People may scoff at Spies’s mandate of making the Dolphins the powerhouse of domestic cricket in the next three years, but in his mind, Spies knows better.

“Attitude is the key. Everyone is saying it will rain this Sunday for the one-day match against the Titans in Durban, but I say it won’t rain on match day. That’s the attitude to have. It keeps you focused on producing your best,” he said.

Spies Facts

• Was a Springbok athlete and broke two world records in the apartheid era. The records were not recognised but he was awarded the State President’s award for his efforts.

• Consults American performance coaches when he needs help.

• Has degrees in commerce, education and theology from the University of the Free State.

Advice to Youngsters

Potential is not enough. It’s all about getting mentally tough.

Spies Lifestyle

• Keen on kayak fishing and playing squash with his sons.

• Enjoys non-alcoholic drinks.

• Reads mainly mental performance coaching books.

• Likes true life movies and Braveheart is a favourite.

• Listens mainly to gospel music and plans to use music to inspire.

• Scariest moment was wanting to get up after a motorcycle accident and seeing his leg lying next to him.

• Most daring thing he did was face Alan Donald when Donald was at his fiery best.

• Plays golf socially.

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