Sports psychologist Dr. Webster explains why Gibson failed as Coach
Many people might not remember that 75-year-old Barbadian Dr. Rudi Webster took 272 wickets from 70 First-Class
matches for Scotland, Otago and Warwickshire between 1961 and 1968.
Webster’s name in the cricket fraternity, especially among those under 50, would be more familiar as a sports psychologist. He worked at the Cricket Academy in Grenada and more recently with the West Indies team under Daren Sammy when they faced India at home in 2011.
In a first-of-its-kind in the IPL, Webster, who has influenced minds like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Greg Chappell, Brian Lara and Virender Sehwag, was appointed by Kolkata Knight Riders as their mental skills coach in 2012.
The respected Webster spoke of how sacked West Indies Head Coach Otis Gibson’s destructive criticism style of Coaching took its effect on some of the senior players in the West Indies team leading to his fallout with the players and the WICB.
“Coaches sometimes use destructive criticism to motivate their players after a loss or poor performance. This type of criticism rarely improves performance; it usually harms it” said Webster.
He continued “Destructive criticism is cruel and personal and usually results in anger, resentment, loss of confidence and poor teamwork. Psychologist Baron claims that the best way to repair that damage is with an apology particularly when the apology contains a credible explanation and an assurance that the accuser did not mean to be cruel or personal. If he does not apologize the accused might then retaliate by venting their feelings to a third party – the press or team mates – thereby intensifying anger and hostility.
What can we learn from Baron’s research? If a coach uses destructive criticism he should try to repair the damage by apologizing to the player as soon as possible, telling him that he did not intend to demean or humiliate him, even if it
looked that way. The longer the apology is delayed the worse things become and the player might then use that time to launch his own destructive criticism of the coach. Hostility and other destructive emotions will then escalate until or unless both parties apologize to each other.
In the 2011 Cricket World Cup the West Indies team played poorly and the disappointed coach, Ottis Gibson, publicly castigated the senior players for the team’s failure. He hardened his stance in the following days, weeks and months with the support of the CEO of the West Indies Cricket Board.
Gayle and the other players retaliated with their own destructive criticism of the coach. The coach then demanded an apology from Gayle and the other senior players. When Gayle did not apologize he was dropped from the team.
At the time Gayle was the most feared batsman in the game and arguably the best player in the team. His omission created a lot of fear, confusion and bad feelings among the players in the team who performed below their potential.
About a year later, the Prime Minister of Jamaica intervened and urged the Board to reinstate Gayle to the team only to be greeted with an arrogant and insulting reply from the Board. Angered by this response the Caribbean Prime Ministers closed ranks, became involved in the stand-off and eventually persuaded the two warring parties to bury their differences and accommodate each other for the good of West Indies cricket.
Gayle was later recalled to the team and team performance immediately improved: the team beat New Zealand in a Test and One Day series and then went on to win the 2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
One of the most important jobs of a coach is to create an environment in which the players can learn, grow and play to the best of their ability. Ottis Gibson is potentially a good coach but he failed badly in that area.
Autocratic coaches who abuse their power and rely solely on the power of their position to get things done often fall short of their objectives because of an inherent power gap that can only be bridged by cultivating honest, trusting, respectful and cooperative relationships with the players. Clearly Otis did not understand the limitations of his power and the importance of building and maintaining those types of relationships. During the crisis there was a clash of values and a change of the team’s first important priorities; power and control took center stage and trumped commonsense, team selection, team performance and the welfare of West Indies cricket.
When the stick is used to motivate it should be done sensibly, wisely and sparingly” Webster concluded.
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