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Back You are here: Home Sports Cricket Kwa Zulu Natal Cricket: Maritzburg College’s New Director of Cricket – Michael Smith
Friday, 11 October 2013 00:00

Cricket: Maritzburg College’s New Director of Cricket – Michael Smith

Written by  Jonathan Cook
Coach Michael Smith in his playing days Coach Michael Smith in his playing days

Michael Smith is the newly-appointed director of cricket at Maritzburg College, the first person to hold such a position at the school, which educated the likes of Jonty Rhodes and Kevin Pietersen.

Born in King Williams Town, and educated at Dale Junior and Selborne College, Smith has come through the schools system in SA.

Maritzburg College is looking to Smith to ensure the continuous improvement of the cricket programme and structures at College, coach education within College cricket, and coaching of the 1st team.

“The school is in the process of setting up a High Performance Indoor Centre that will have a 5/6 lane dedicated indoor cricket facility in it, with video equipment and more for analysis,” Smith says. “So from next winter we will be starting a new HP cricket programme for our players. This will be my main project during the winter months.”

 

Smith sees putting good structures in place through the age-groups as the bedrock of development.  “To have a strong cricket programme, it has to be done from the earlier age groups so that when the boys finally enter into senior cricket they know what is expected of them and how the programme works. Coach education becomes a vital cog in this wheel. We will be getting more of our coaches CSA Level 1 and 2 qualifications within the next 2 to 3 years, so that ALL our boys can benefit from this, not just the boys in the A and B teams.”

And Smith’s new post is no free and easy ride. “I will be taking small groups of boys U14/U15 during their Phys. Ed classes. Then every afternoon from 3-5 pm I will be with one of the cricket teams or 2 depending on the days and how many teams are practicing. In all likeliness I will be with the U14 A/B’s on 1 day, the U15 A/B’s on 1 day, 1st/2nds/U16A on 2 days per week.”

But how important is the quality of coaching at U14A, to your success at first team level? “I am a firm believer that the 2nd best coach in the schools SHOULD be the U14A coach as this year is when the boys will 1st be introduced into the College Cricket programme and most of the fundamentals will be taught from a high school perspective. Luckily at College there are numerous coaches who want to do the qualification courses through CSA, we are just trying to organise days/times for this all to happen, because a teacher who is very keen to do these specific courses can’t really do them over weekends etc due to school commitments.”

 

It is difficult for the former first-class cricketer and top-order batsman to give his opinion on the strength of school cricket in SA as he is new to the scene. “I will be able to form a better opinion of this over the next year or so, but judging by some of the talent that is coming through the U19 and provincial system, the schools system has to be decent for these players to be developing as they are.”

 

Smith who captained Eastern Province in a career that included playing for Border and the Warriors, is guarded about a proper KZN Schools’ U18 League. “There are pros and cons … I haven’t spent enough time in the KZN schools system yet to form an opinion on this, but I am in favour of more exciting structures in place to promote the game.”

 

Now 33 and having played in 89 first-class matches that included nine centuries, Smith will at the time of viewing this article be well into the new season with the College first XI. This will have already included the prestigious Oppenheimer Michaelmas Week that College hosts annually. So how did he prepare the team in the short space of time since his appointment and what did he say to the squad?

“We had 3 weeks’ prep and the players have bought into a slightly different way of doing things. I want the 1st team to start to play a better, more positive brand of cricket. So that is our goal as a squad, we obviously want to win every game we play, but if we see a continuous improvement individually and as a team, then I will be pretty happy.

“I think if the players believe in their coach and his coaching ideals and buy into what you are trying to do for them as individuals and as a team/school, then trust, motivation, discipline all go hand in hand. Coach/player relationships are vital, if you have an idea of what drives certain individuals in the team, then getting the best out of your players becomes easier. Some guys need a quiet word and a softer/quieter approach, some players like to be dealt with straight up and to the point, some like to be put under pressure to bring the best of them. As a coach it is your job to find out as quick as possible what works for each individual.  To try and get each player mentally ready and in a positive and confident space.”


The 2014 winter months will be busy. “That’s when there is more time for technical issues to be dealt with, especially now with a superb Indoor Centre with a winter HP programme. Video analysis and technical work will then be done when the players have 2-3 months to work on specifics.”

Coaching the College coaches is a big factor? “My first challenge is to get more coaches qualified, so that when our new training methods and structures are in place, it will be easier for these coaches to understand what we are trying to do and how we will be doing it.”

But coaches are only successful if they have willing, promising players to work with.

“Getting the top cricketers to come to Maritzburg College is a challenge as a lot of private and government schools are after the top cricketers after primary school. So our job is to put together a cricket program whereby the top players will want to come to College. The new HP Centre will definitely be a huge plus factor in this regard.”

Who has been the greatest influence on his cricket career?

“Firstly my Father, from a young age he has always encouraged, supported  and guided me when needed. It is always nice to be able to come home and have a “quiet” beer and chat about this and get some advice, although a lot of that is now done on the golf course.

“Secondly my wife Niki, she has been my rock since I first debuted in 2003, she has helped me through the toughest and darkest times in my career, as well as keeping me grounded when things were at their peak and I sometimes got ahead of myself.

“Lastly my son Trent, whether you come home getting a duck or a 100, he doesn’t care, he just hugs me, smiles and wants to play. So he taught me the valuable lesson that there is more to life and cricket is really just a game.”

Smith knew from his early 20’s that he was going to go into coaching after his cricket-playing days were over.

“I really enjoy working with players and watching them grow and develop.”

That’s good news for Maritzburg College’s aspirational young cricketers.

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