We need specialist coaches at school levels

2016-11-11 14:33
The Witness newspaper's sport editor, Lunga Biyela, writes about how having specialist coaches at school level could stop young talent going to waste.

The Witness newspaper's sport editor, Lunga Biyela, writes about how having specialist coaches at school level could stop young talent going to waste. (File)

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Writing a weekly sports column is hard at times as it’s often difficult to come up with a relevant subject at the time that hasn’t already been touched on.

The Springboks are playing England this weekend, but I’ve already touched on that, about their inadequacies, and how they’re on a hiding to nowhere.

I’ve written about Shakes Mashaba and his obvious failings as Bafana Bafana coach, and if we are to qualify for the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia, he needs to be shown the first door out, and the powers that be need to look for another option.

And, with the Proteas being currently the greatest sporting team that ever walked the earth, we’ve sort of run out of ways of describing just how awesome they bloody are right now, and that if aliens landed on Earth to challenge the best team on the planet in any sport, all seven billion of us would point to Faf du Plessis and his men, who have made South African cricket great again.

What about transformation?

I’ve written on it so much and spoken my mind that I’m now convinced that there’s a dartboard in Pietermaritzburg with my face on it. And, that’s okay; everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe.

So, in times when finding a topic to write about, I delve into the vault of my memory, and speak about one of the favourite things I like to speak about, my fledgling cricket career that never quite took off, and died a very horrible death 20 years ago when I was in Grade 7.

Has it been that long?

I wasn’t a bad little cricketer back in my day. The very first match I played for my primary school team was in Under-11, and no one in the side knew that I was quite handy with the willow, and if I was in the mood, I’d launch a couple of balls into the trees, and the game would be halted for a while as we try to find it.

In my first game in Port Elizabeth, I was put down to bat at number 11, because my coach and team-mates assumed that I was a pretty terrible batsman. When I came in to bat, the opposition captain brought back his main strike bowler, hoping to end our innings quickly. What he didn’t know was that I was a little Sachin Tendulkar that day, playing strokes all over the field, and generally making life hard for everyone.

Eventually, we were bowled all out because my batting partner, one Brent Bailey, couldn’t play cricket to save his life.

From then on, I opened the batting in every game. I was pretty chuffed at the time.

But, it was the worst thing to happen. Under-11 was easy, but the problem starts when I got to Under-13.

The players we played against were older, faster and stronger as some of them had already hit puberty, while my 11-year-old self was not ready for the stage. The balls came at me faster, and some of them hit me. It was painful, and I developed a habit where I played off the back foot too much, and my cricket ability was gone. No longer was I looking to take fast bowlers on.

Unfortunately, the teachers who were in charge of cricket were just teachers, and hadn’t the foggiest idea about how to coach and mentor a young cricketer.

Just like that, a swashbuckling Under-11 year where I made runs for fun became a distant memory.

When I got to high school, I made a list of things I needed to improve in order to make it, but in reality it was too much to ask for, and my dream of scoring a double hundred on Test debut at Lord’s was well and truly dead.

It’s actually very depressing when I think about it.

Since then, I’ve always thought it’s very important for schools to have specialist coaches on their staff who would be able to spot and guide talent early on, and we could see a lot more kids coming through the ranks and making it. Sure, education is the most important part of going to school, but we have to realise that while some kids might be more gifted when it comes to their books and studies, others just want to be put on a patch of grass and be left alone to play.

I feel as though the current education system does not allow enough of that.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that goes: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

While the kids who make it big and end up representing their country at various sports are the exception, there are countless others whose talents are not spotted, and they are lost to the world.

I mean, if my talent with the bat was spotted when I was 10, chances are I might be in Australia this very moment preparing for tomorrow’s second Test in Hobart.

Chances are I’d be a veteran in the side, and second on the list of most Test runs scored to the little master that is Tendulkar. Who knows, I might have been captain of the side.

But, instead I’m exploring my love for sport in other ways, mainly writing about what a great sportsman I could have been.

Identifying talent early is of the utmost importance. But, talent alone cannot get you to the top; hard work, determination can help you get there, but every young potential star needs a senior figure who will be encouraging and backing them all the way.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sports

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