Paddy Upton, one of the leading T20 coaches in world cricket and a foremost authority on mental conditioning and professional development, says changing the coach of the South African national team is not going to solve the problems the Proteas face after their World Cup failure, although he did not rule out throwing his own name into the hat should Ottis Gibson be shown the door.
Upton represented Western Province through the junior age groups as a batsman and made a century on his first-class debut against Northern Transvaal B, but his studies in sports science at Stellenbosch University were always his priority and he retired from playing both cricket and rugby for Maties to become the Proteas strength and conditioning coach in 1994.
Having majored in sports psychology, Upton changed tack in 2003 and became a mental coach, being involved with teams and individuals all over the world. He worked alongside Gary Kirsten as India’s mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach, as they won the Wold Cup in 2011. He then became the Proteas performance director until 2014, during which time South Africa became the first team to hold the number one ranking in all three formats simultaneously.
He has since become a successful head coach for three IPL franchises and in two seasons in the Big Bash he took the Sydney Thunder from the bottom of the log, with a record of 21 losses in 22 games, to the title.
“It’s not about the coach, it’s about the processes put in place, about identifying not only the best coach but also the best support staff. That’s what I would question – how does Cricket South Africa ensure they pick the best people? It’s not about a complete overhaul or knee-jerk reactions. The Proteas probably prepared as well as they could, I’m sure they didn’t cut any corners.
“There needs to be an honest assessment of where things are working – and then don’t mess with those – and where South African cricket needs to improve. It needs to be a mature, honest remedial process. You can’t just hire-and-fire because then it might look like you’ve done your job, but it can actually make things worse.
“As for my availability, it depends on who the support staff are and what sort of system CSA put together. If it’s not good then it’s not something I’d be prepared to work with. If it’s set up for success then I would be willing to talk,” Upton told the Inside The Game podcast by Rayder Media.
Upton was also sceptical about comments that the Proteas were paying the price for poor mental preparation and not having a specialist mental coach.
“The mental side is very important, but how many teams at the World Cup have a mental coach? Probably fewer do have than those that don’t. I know this sounds weird given I am paid to do it, but a mental coach is not that important because what conditions the mind is the culture of the team. It’s difficult to comment on the Proteas’ attitude without being in the changeroom, but I really rate Faf.
“If the leaders shout and scream at the players then it creates a culture of fear; if the leaders constantly stress that winning is very important then they create a culture of pressure and winning becomes very difficult. Really healthy leadership makes a mental conditioning coach less important, and culture eats strategy for breakfast every time. I’m sure Faf is doing everything he can,” Upton said.
- The full podcast can be found at: https://soundcloud.com/user-95337829/inside-cwc-paddy-upton