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Soup of This Day #301: No Use Complainin’ When It’s Over

March 24, 2013

Kimi Raikkonen
The Iceman, Kimi Räikkönen. He knows what he’s doing – Photo: Morio, 2012. Morio is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

For a couple of years in the early 90’s I boarded at a college in Narrogin.

They were not the best years of my life. Partly because I was permanently homesick for a city I couldn’t remember living in – Yeah, I was a complicated kid – But mostly because my Mum died during my 2-year stint in that Wheatbelt town. Narrogin could have been heaven on Earth but not even Saint Peter himself could have squared the ledger against those deficits.

And Narrogin was not heaven on Earth.

At least not for me, and the years since have not done a lot to soften the edges on that view. I can still remember the paucity of hot water, the awful food (Including a barely microwaved fish dinner that caused the fish to come back to life in protest – It wasn’t going out like that) and the casual brutality of a dormitory life with no privacy.

Those were lowlights, but not the 2 things I remember most vividly.

The honours instead go to Sunday nights and Monday mornings. The latter because I’d wake up densely, initially believing that I was at home, tucked up safely in my childhood bed. Not wrapped up under a doona in a badly heated dormitory and supported by less springs than I’d had the week before.

The shock was completed by an announcement over the public address system for everyone to rise and shine. This irked me – Not so much the rising bit, because I knew that had to happen, but the shining thing – Nowadays I’m acutely aware of my war with depression and so I’ve learned that shining is not something that just happens because it’s been ordered. Back then I couldn’t have articulated that in any meaningful way but I did have a strong desire to rock up at 2:00am with a 50-gazillion candle power spotlight which I’d point at the Warden’s house while screaming out that I was @#$%ing shining on my own terms.

I may have been complicated but I was very literal.

Sunday nights were worse. At least you got to believe ever so briefly on Monday morning that you were ok at home. On Sunday nights you knew you were not ok or at home and you got that status reinforced incrementally as you were driven back to college. Beverley to Brookton, 33km. Brookton to Pingelly, 20km. Pingelly to Popanyinning, 17km. Popanyinning to Cuballing, 19km. Cuballing to Narrogin, 14km. 103km or roughly 1 hour on the road by car, most of the journey spent slumped in the back of the Kingswood, listening to Barry Bissell do the ‘Take 40 Australia’ radio show.

Thanks Barry.

Some times I didn’t even get a car ride. Once in a while I had to take the bus – The Westrail coach from Perth to Albany would pick me up in Beverley and drop me off in Narrogin.

This then is the theme of this post – Coaches. But not the bus kind – I was more thinking of the folk who guide our sporting teams, mostly from the sidelines. I know that this is a fairly tenuous segue but; a. I’m all grown-up now but still very literal; and b. Former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell once had this to say about coaches:

‘The only coach a top cricket team needs, is the one that takes them to the ground’

This simple mantra does overlook that, as far as transport goes, the team will probably need a coach to take them away from the ground as well. Not to mention to and from the airport and maybe if they want to do some sightseeing, particularly if it’s on 1 of those safari tours with the lions – You want some good solid coachwork between you and those cats.

It also bypasses the obvious statistic that pretty much every professional team in the world of sport has at least 1 human coach of some sort. Not every team has a bus for transport though – The following team for instance seems to rely on a motorbike to get themselves to the game.

And around the pitch during said game:

And no, that’s not even remotely legal – Even if he put on a helmet.

If everyone uses coaches then they must be worth something to the team. I guess though that what their value is depends on how the team uses them. If for instance you don’t respect the coach’s opinions then you’re liable to not get the best out of a mentor.

And this is not a smorgasbord either – You can’t really pick and choose what serves of knowledge that you’re going to take in. A coach is someone you have to put your faith in wholeheartedly, or you might as well sod off home.

On a coach.

It pretty easily follows then that a coaching role comes with a certain amount of implied authority – It’s their way or the highway, with the mode of transport optional.

Recently the Australian cricket team had to face up to this kind of dilemma. They have a head coach in Mickey Arthur who is not everyone’s cup of tea. Love him or loathe him though and it’s fair to say that he is overseeing a team that is in transition. There is only the 1 stand-out world-class bat in the outfit and the bowling stocks, while brimming with potential, are short on consistency. Throw in a young captain and a posse of former greats, including the afore-referenced Chapelli, who believe that the key to success is to revert to the past, and Mickey is in some ways on a hiding to nothing.

Which is exactly what Australia have been getting in India – An absolute hiding with nothing to show in return. They lost the 1st Test by 8 wickets. Which is bad but still better than the innings and 135 runs by which they lost the 2nd Test.

At this point Mickey, along with his on-field skipper, Michael Clarke, understandably decided that something wasn’t quite right and that changes needed to be made. They therefore implemented a process whereby the team was asked for ideas on how to turn the situation around – This would seem to be smart – It’s generally better to bring people willingly along with you rather than have them forcibly dragged to a well where they might not be amenable to drinking the firewater they need.

To facilitate this fresh take on things each player had to do some homework – They had to provide 3 ideas that they could bring to the team to get things back on track. They could meet this fairly simple objective in a variety of different ways, ranging from a presentation to scribbled notes shoved under a hotel door.

They did need to get the right door.

4 players decided not to bother with even that minimalist effort. Vice-captain Shane Watson, fringe bat Usman Khawaja and strike-bowlers James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson did not respond at all.

And so they were dumped from the 3rd Test. This was a contentious move – Some, like Chapelli, expounded the view that the best 11 should always be picked to play, even if they weren’t aligned with the team’s leadership. Former Western Australian and Australian batsman Damien Martyn even opined that the punishment would give succour to the enemy, in the form of England’s famous supporting group:

‘..all we’re doing is giving the Barmy Army a million new songs.’

Which may or may not be a bad thing. I’ve never had a song written about me. Although I did once have a girl sing Oasis’ Wonderwall to me, which felt pretty special.

That’s probably not the same thing though.

Meanwhile Australia lost the 3rd Test by 6 wickets across 4 days. They regained the potential services of the 4 renegades for the 4th Test and again lost by 6 wickets, this time lasting just 3 days. For that latter match Michael Clarke was out injured and so Shane Watson captained in his absence.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m open to the idea that a coach might not be completely in tune with what’s happening in the heat of the contest. Take this example from driving ace Kimi Räikkönen who received some advice from his race director during the 2012 Abu Dhabi F1 GP:

Hands-free is still a distraction people.

Kimi just wanted to be left alone because he figured that he knew what to do. And he did – He won the race. This was not out of the blue either – Kimi was the 2007 World Champion and this was his 19th win in motorsport’s premier category.

He’d probably have gone alright in the family Kingswood back on those darkly fateful trips to Narrogin. For 1 journey to college though, not even the ice-cool Finn could have made it ok…

It was some time after Mom had died and Dad chose to drive me back after a term break. He could have sent me on the Westrail coach. He’d just have had to call the college to let them know I was booked in and they’d have met me at the Narrogin bus-stop. He didn’t though, preferring to drive me in silence. We’d never been great at the communicating thing and Mum was the glue that had made it work. Without her it was just awkward and so for once I was a little bit relieved to get to Narrogin on a Sunday night.

Except that the Monday was a public holiday and the college wasn’t taking in boarders until the following night.

We made the journey home in an even heavier silence and then had to try again the next day.

I reckon we could have avoided all of that extra discomfort if we’d just used a coach.

No Use Complainin’ When It’s Over

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