Coaches of the past
A sportsman who spent many, many years coaching cricketers at all levels was laid to rest last week end. Gerry Goonaratne lived a complete cricketing life and was involved with coaching almost to his last breadth. His final assignment was coaching juniors at the S.S.C.

He was well into his eighties in age and in the final few years was physically very frail. Yet the mind was in order to pass on the knowledge and teach the basic lessons to youngsters now taking the initial steps in their cricket career.

Gerry Goonaratne was a typical coach of the past. Almost all the lessons were based around the techniques of the game. Naturally, this meant that most of the time was spent with batsmen. They were drilled on the stance, backlift, correct decisive foot movements, co-ordinated use of the arms, a still head, watching the ball was communicated until it became second nature to the players.

As a coach my connection with Goonaratne was during the two short stints he had as national coach in the mid nineteen seventies. The approach was similar. A lot of emphasis on the basics. This meant that the bowlers had to work a lot out for themselves. Then, bowling was considered necessarily a side on act. So that was preached and the importance of keeping to the correct line and length. Again, a lot of basic stuff without too much of variations.

Fielding was then a neglected art. Some catches given, together with ground fielding at the end of a practice session. As long as you caught and slopped what came to you, then the job was done satisfactorily. In terms of practice it is about ten percent of what is being done today. Unquestionably, the standard of fielding has improved tremendously these days.

Physical training of any nature was more or less left up to the individual. There were training camps time and again but that was rare. The thinking was to get fit by playing and practicing, spending time batting and bowling for long periods.

The coach often maintained discipline and upheld the game being playedwithin the traditions and sporting spirit. Not too many took up to coaching in the past. Those who did, did so for the love of the game. There was little or no money in the job. Many served in honorary capacities. Therefore, immaterial of their ability to coach, they were accepted and respected.

Like all else in the game, the role of the coach has changed to different proportions. Today, a coach must have a sound knowledge of the game immaterial of the level he has played up to. In addition he has to be a good communicator, a motivator, an up to date planner, have a vision for the future, a psychologist, a father, or brother figure, an avid reader of the game and a clever tactician. The responsibilities are mammoth. It has therefore moved into the professional category.

There are just a handful of survivors of the Gerry Gooneratne era of coaches. They played their part in an era where the coach was the unforeseen hand behind a players success. Yet their role must be forever appreciated as they guided the destinies of so many.

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