The Coach Education section at Cricket Leinster are producing a series giving an insight into the work of the Cricket Development teams in Ireland. We are delighted to be starting with Brían O’Rourke, the Leinster Development Manager, who has influenced and encouraged so many young Leinster cricketers to get started and also to progress further in the game.
The transcript of Brían’s recent interview with Michael Hingston, Cricket Ireland’s Coach Education Manager, presents a rare and fascinating insight not just into Brian, who has influenced his career, the depth and scale of the work he undertakes and shows we are so lucky to have him as his passion, commitment and dedication to Leinster & Irish cricket is so clearly the same, as the first day he started.
My coaching adventure started at 22, not in Ireland but in South Africa in 1993/4 where I was given a 6-month opportunity with the old Transvaal Cricket Board. My duties involved coaching in townships around Johannesburg and also assisting with their provincial youth squads. On my return, I took up short coaching positions at The High School and North Kildare CC while also setting up morning coaching clinics at my own club, Pembroke CC. Following this, I took up the position of youth coach at Merrion CC that gave me an early, practical insight into how the whole development and coaching process worked. I had a strong passion for the game and felt I was in an ideal position to pass on my knowledge and experiences to the younger generation.
For me, I am fortunate that as the full time Development Manager in Leinster this is my livelihood and my ‘hands on’ approach towards this role would see me coaching at a variety of levels throughout the province. It remains a tremendous challenge, no day is the same, and there is an ever-growing variety of player to coach, such as has been the growth of the game here over the past 10 years.
I am also very excited, like everyone in Ireland, about the impact the newly appointed Test status will bring to growing the game.It will be a proud day watching graduates of Leinster’s development programmes playing at the highest level in the world along with their efforts helping to showcase and promote our game further.
My own coaching philosophies and those very much evident within the Leinster youth programme revolve around (1) hard work (2) discipline and (3) respect. I must admit I have not changed much or drifted away too much from these important principals and in truth, having spent many years coaching in South Africa, their systems and coaching procedures have had a clear influence on my overall coaching philosophy. I think it is important as a coach to evolve but in my case, my core beliefs have remained intact.
A lot of the new modern-day coaching technology very much depends on the resources and personal you have available to you at your squad sessions. We are privileged in Leinster to have built very good working relationships with the local authorities, and that has been responsible not just for the rise in coaching opportunities, the rise in young people accessing cricket, but the opportunity to run specialist coaching sessions to help them advance as players. The game (along with all sports played these days) is changing all the time and we as coaches must keep up with these changes.
As a coach, you must keep up to date, use all advances that you can to help players and ensure you engage your players.However, the limitation on accessing the advances you mention is the resources to finance them.The costs involved are underestimated by many.
Again, all of the players mentioned started in our u11 programme, a programme that continues to grow to this day. Simple repetition drills under coach supervision helps to lay technical foundations in young players while the summer programmes offer good standard fixtures to help improve their cricketing ‘nouse’ and general feel for the game.
I always remember the way other coaches gave me opportunities, shared their experiences and helped shape me as a coach.It is something that I have always tried to give to new coaches as it is so important to help develop and inspire these new coaches.
Thinking back, Mike Hendrick invited me to assist him on a tour to England with the Ireland Development squad, that included Ed Joyce in 1997.Mike centred his philosophy on passion, drawing out his experience as an international player over the ‘coaching manual’ to help a player achieve his potential and that personal touch over textbook was something which has stayed with me.
In Ireland, like so many I need to acknowledge Adi Birrell whose friendship I will always treasure and who showed me the impact that top quality man management can have on coaching.Mark Garaway, who spent several years in Ireland is without doubt the best technical coach and cricket communicate I have ever worked with. I have picked up bits from all of these and other coaches I have worked with in other sporting disciplines i.e. rugby gaelic football, swimming and water polo.
What is the most important thing that you look for in a player?
Absolute commitment to cricket.
A great example of this comes from the players you mentioned above as having graduated through the Leinster programmes to international careers.A strong group of them, led by McCarthy, Kane, Dockrell, Getkate, Chase, Richardson, Tucker and Balbirnie decided after their Leinster U15 involvement, to fully commit to cricket.
This meant sacrificing opportunities in other sports. However, in making those sacrifices, and being committed, they accessed opportunities to make cricket their 12-month a year sport.They could take on overseas placements for example in South Africa, and like myself in 1994, be changed for life by it.I am always pleased to read how many of them acknowledge the impact of their Leinster programme, kindly talk to current groups about them, and encourage them to embrace every opportunity our young cricketers have.I am proud to point to all of these cricketers you mention, say to any Leinster young cricketer, they are the examples of absolute commitment being rewarded, and if you want to join them, then you must match them.
Talent of course is important to succeed, however being fully committed and possessing a burning desire to succeed (e.g. William Porterfield/Niall O’Brien) are key factors when trying to achieve your cricket goals.
There is going to be a squeeze on traditional long-form techniques as the pressures of T20 continue to grow.It will be the financing format for cricket and an ability to play it well will be life changing.
Ireland will face some new challenges.Test status means needing to produce batsmen capable of batting for hundreds of balls to achieve a hundred runs, while potentially just days later, needing to score the same number of runs in just 50 balls to enable Ireland to play in future World Cups.
I do not believe though how you coach will change.On the development level, it will continue to be about embracing the passion youngsters have for the game, engaging them with opportunities to grow that passion and encouraging them to see cricket as their sport for life.
At the elite level, it will continue to be about working with a player 1:1, building a trust like Adi Birrell showed to overcome the obstacles that will come up and to help the player achieve their personal goals in order for Ireland to be further successful on the world stage.
I am looking forward to the next ten years.My goal remains to be with Leinster, grow numbers playing cricket in the province, and to continue to be inspired by the players that I work with who have made the past 20 years unforgettable.
My thoughts are that we are looking at players becoming more involved in their own learning and development. Analysis is something that will be facilitated by coaches as opposed to done by them.
BO’R – Jan 2018