My first cricket coach, as I recall from the fond sepia memories of schoolboy cricket, used to sit our team down before the start of every match and tell us a story, a slow, but interesting tale which we hadn't heard before. They were usually success stories revolving around perseverance and teamwork. In his way, he made us all aware that we were never to lose faith in ourselves or each other. Another thing he always made us do was to figure out two strategies before the game to accentuate any weaknesses (that we might know of) in the opposing team's armor.
This had a rather remarkable calming effect on us youngsters, and we slowly became very gracious in defeat. I think all of us understood that we had lost simply because the other team played better than us, not because of a lack of effort or strategy on our part. That's not to say we didn't mind losing, but we understood that basic tenet of life which so many grow up without learning: even if you give your best, it's not necessarily going to turn out the way you hope sometimes.
One other important thing we learnt was to appreciate class and talent, and the unique way it manifests itself. In our ninth year, a new student named Gary Frank joined us. Gary was a very gifted batsman, the best we had ever seen in our little world. Beautiful technique, graceful stroke play, and a calm temperament. With him, we had a fantastic 14 game winning run. More than anything, he brought with him a positive aggression as a by product. He would do something wonderful with the bat, and that would somehow lift us all onto a slightly higher plane of performance. It was a great season. I remember the day we lost our winning streak, Gary, who had been left stranded on 73, went slightly berserk and ended up splitting his bat in two. It was the first time our coach allowed such behavior without interfering. After calming down, Gary apologized profusely, but our coach led him to the middle of our changing room and said," Gary Frank, everyone," and started applauding. It was the most remarkable thing, the emotions that artistry had invoked in all of us.
I am, to this date, always skeptical of the 'temperamental genius'. For me, the genius was in the way Gary inspired us to go above ourselves without ever saying a word. For it was us, I realized later, who had won those matches, not him; but he was, as they say, the first among equals.
- An Old Schoolboy, South Africa