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Talking Tactically

October 2006 Generosity of Spirit (column 200)

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Lachlan Tighe…..Talking tactically
Weekly coaching column

(column 200, October 2006 a view on bowls coaching)
Generosity of Spirit

John Snell is one of the icons of the fabulous game we enjoy, bowls. Icons by definition are both rare and great. I attended his recent September presentation at Montmorency club and on this 200th and final column edition, I wish to make reference to anecdotes to show the value I have gained from knowing John and the following greats in bowls

John Snell World and Commonwealth games medalists
John Dobbie Australian player
Paul Richards Australian player, SASI state coach
Robbie Dobbins Commonwealth gold medalist ,Australian coach, Malaysian coach
Geoff Oakley Australian player and Australian coach
Jim Yates World champion and Victorian state coach

Knowing all six greats as icons and gentlemen meant there was some chance something would rub off even on a dimwit like me. Here is an insight into each top bloke.

Snell – John told the story of someone who always went fishing rather than bowling. The fellow always seemed to go fishing with a person called ‘Perse’. ‘Perse’ turns out to be perseverance or persistence. And John has that in spades for he reminded a group lately that at 72 years young he was still able, more so willing, to learn about his game. An inspiration especially to us who are slow learners.

Dobbie – John and I knew one another from the sports world well before I took up bowls. While we were together at an Australian Sports awards in the late 1980s I bounded up to him and said with glee I had started bowls. People, his one great tip to me was so simple…enjoy the game, enjoy the people. I have never let that saying leave my side.

Dobbins – Robbie soared the international heights as both player and coach. However in the 24 years since his gold medal his keenness to coach, to share, to encourage has enabled me and others who he supported that includes Karen Murphy, Steve Glasson, Kel Kerkow to advance in our respective areas in bowls. He was probably the first paid coach we had in this country; in our time together setting up the High Performance program at Bowls Australia that partnership with Robbie was one of the thrills of my career in our sport.

Richards – Paul was a revelation to me when we met in 1991, my fourth year in bowls. At the time he was the Australian bowls captain, though it was his role as the first ever coach of bowls at an Institute of Sport in Australia that enticed me to approach him to learn a new and better way to approach our sport. He flew to Melbourne and met my sports science colleagues and shared / exchanged so much information. It was exhilarating stuff, especially for the time. Due to that first of many exchanges, until his untimely early death in his late 30s, I devised the idea of forming a squad similar to his state concept, and, ‘Elbows’ as a squad was conceived in my tiny brain. I will always relate the concept and everything I do within ‘Elbows’ back to this man.

Oakley – Geoff like these other great blokes is among the VERY BEST who ever played the sport in and for Australia. And like all the rest he is a top person as much because of this willingness to share. I met Geoff in my very first year as a bowler as he had come over from WA to our club, reasons why I have no idea. As a new bowler I did not know ‘bee from a bulls foot’ and not much has changed 20 years on probably. Anyway continuing on back to Geoff. He gave me his time that day, and many days and times since over 20 years but especially in the first 4 years until I met Paul who added to the richness of advice I received from Geoff. In those few years when you are surrounded by the more experienced ‘Coodabeens’ or ‘might have beens’ it takes a bit to see through the bull dust. Geoff shared his mental skill ideas willingly and I will always remember the ‘black box’ concept for focusing. (Snelly this is equivalent to your sitting on the throne pre a game). Coincidentally in those early years John, Paul and Geoff all had reason to talk to me at various times at the Richmond Union masters event where years later I now belong as a club member.

Yates – Jimmy is that bubbly former world champion who typifies the dinkum Aussie character with a ‘..g day, how are ya’ greeting. My fond memory of the first of numerous meetings with young James, a mountain of a generous man, was at Melbourne club in a pairs or triples tournament in my early years on the rink nearest the clubhouse on a cold, drizzling afternoon. I knew who he was as a player / opponent so asked his advice during the game as to how to grip the bowl with the wet conditions. I remember Jim responding, with his cheery laugh, that I was maybe the first player who earnestly asked his advice. Heck he was a world champion. And all these years later he, like the other icons above, remains a regular source of advice and opinion for me to soak and consider and apply to ‘Elbows’ or the state and national sides I coach(ed).

On this occasion of the 200th and final column edition, it gives me enormous pleasure to publicly thank all six icons. Three of these guys (John ,Rob and Jim remain as my Elbows coaching advisors). Only one other person Neil (NB) ranks with these blokes in the level of inspired advice to assist me coaching toward a grasp for excellence.

Along the way many others in bowls, and sport, have encouraged me, supported me, advised me, joined in what I tried, and the early Elbows fraternity where we had 100 players in the squad, and I thank all of you.

A special mention also to other present and recent Elbows members - Bear, Daz, Maryanne, Jude, Deno, Chris, Rowan, CJ, Neil, Nev, Craig, Jessie, Chooie, Safuan, Boy, Lina. How much fun we have had as a squad, and success we have enjoyed in recent years. Nothing compares to that friendship.

To all of you I met in bowls I hope the legacy inherited from my icons has duly been passed on by me to anyone else willing and wanting and prepared to set sail in the enjoyable pursuit for sharing and reveling in excellence.

Thank you for reading my stuff these past 200 columns. I don’t want to hang around beyond my use by date, thus think I shall set my timeline as a coach for no more than 4 more years setting my sight on the possibility of securing a berth to be coaching at the Commonwealth Games in India, 2010. I hope I have worked hard to ensure that baton from the six icons of sharing knowledge is handed over to the next generation of coaches who will have the fire to coach at their very best.

Thank you all the website publishers and especially Gary Andrews who initiated the idea for me to write for his web site those 5 years and 200 columns back.

Goodbye and good luck.

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