Sunday Times

The key to coaching is to be both a leader and a follower

- KHANYISO TSHWAKU in Buenos Aires

HISTORY and accounting are two subjects that most teachers find incompatib­le.

But if there is a common trend in those subjects it is the attention to detail needed in the theory and statistics-based subject matter.

Yet these were Springbok forwards and attack coach Johann van Graan’s favourite subjects at Affies in Pretoria, shedding light on his meticulous nature and scrutinisi­ng of detail to the finest point.

“I know they are not connected but strangely they apply to me. I believe in meticulous planning and that everything is in the detail. Rugby players cannot always focus on emotion. The only way to be perfect in your execution is to be perfect in your detail,” Van Graan said.

A coaching disciple of Sir Alex Ferguson would have discipline and respect at the top of their personal skills table.

Van Graan also believes in investment in players and how coaches should be able to follow, not just to lead.

There is an air of a seasoned human resources practition­er in Van Graan, who has a BCom marketing degree from the University of Pretoria.

A year spent with the Dallas Harlequins after he matriculat­ed in 1998 opened his eyes to the world of American football.

Time spent with New England Patriots guru Bill Belichick and the San Francisco 49ers helped to mould his thinking with regard to highly physical forward play, but also, importantl­y, a different approach off the field due to that sport’s associatio­n with profession­alism.

“I wanted to coach because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and I love the game. I have a passion for people and I have a passion for the game. You have a responsibi­lity as a coach, not just to make better players but to create better people. Once you have a player’s heart they will (do) anything on the field for you,” Van Graan said.

“You can't be a leader if nobody leads you. As a coach you need to be a leader and a follower at the same time. The balance between leading and following as a coach is massive. Coaching is not always about teaching players, it is about setting an environmen­t and bringing out their strong points.”

Internatio­nal sport is often harsh on coaches who have not walked the internatio­nal playing path. Rugby seems to have bucked the trend, with many examples of excellent coaches having little or no test match experience.

Gaining the respect of seasoned heads like Jean de Villiers and Schalk Brits has come naturally, as he crossed paths with them at under-21 level in a semifinal that proved to be an epiphany in Van Graan’s profession­al life.

It proved to be the accelerato­r in his coaching career and also inadverten­tly took care of the respect aspect that tends to blight internatio­nal sport.

It made his job easier when he joined the Bok coaching staff in 2012.

“Jean and Schalk were my opponents that day in 2001. When I walked off the field I realised that I was not going to be a Springbok, but my dream was always to become a Springbok coach,” Van Graan said.

“It has been both a difficult and an easy task regarding respect. When we started the journey together in 2012 we did not know each other, but that did not count for much. It has been a journey I have enjoyed. As a coach, it is not about me telling them what to do, but also about developing as a unit.”

 ??  ?? METICULOUS PLANNER: Bok forwards and attack coach Johann van Graan with Heyneke Meyer
METICULOUS PLANNER: Bok forwards and attack coach Johann van Graan with Heyneke Meyer

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