Cape Town – Their sporting obituaries were written before they had even begun their tenures. Too young, their critics cried. Others were concerned with their lack of top-level coaching experience, and there were those who bluntly stated “not good enough”.
But halfway through the 2011-12 domestic season, and here we have Paul Adams (Cape Cobras) and Geoff Toyana (Highveld Lions) at the top of domestic cricket’s wave, about to lead their respective teams into a faceoff today at the Wanderers for the 1-Day Cup crown.
They will be making history in South African cricket too. It will be the first time that two franchise teams will be contesting a final with two black coaches at the helm – a fact Cricket South Africa will surely be proud of.
Beyond that, though, the duo have earned the respect of not only the cricketing public, but most importantly, that of the players under their tutorship. We caught up with both men this week in the build-up to tonight’s final to find out a little more about what makes them tick ...
High school: Plumstead High
Best Bowling: 7/128
Favourite quote: “Action is the foundational key to sucess” by Picasso
High school: Orlando High
First-Class matches: 84
Runs: 3 037
Highest Score: 113
Favourite quote: “The more you sweat at practice, the less you bleed in battle”
1 What is your coaching motto that you live by?
Adams: I always try to look for the solution. In doing so, you create a performance-enhancing environment. For me, it’s all about concentrating on the positives.
Toyana: Enjoyment. That’s my number one. I understand that it is a professional environment, and the importance of winning trophies for a franchise, but sometimes, so much energy and emphasis is ploughed into that that teams lose focus, and the reason why we are playing this game is because we love it. So, enjoyment is a key factor, and that filters through to positive cricket.
2 Have you been surprised by the amount of success you have achieved this early in your coaching career?
Adams: I feel I haven’t achieved anything yet. There are still many ups and downs to experience this season and ahead. Of course, it’s a positive that we have put ourselves in a position to win a trophy tonight, but we haven’t done it yet. The Sunfoil Series still has a long way to run, and there’s the Twenty20s to come. The important thing for me is that we are preparing well to give ourselves the best opportunity to succeed.
Toyana: To be completely honest with you, I’ve been very surprised. Before my appointment, and Gogi’s (Adams) actually, I read so much negative press about how young and inexperienced we were. But I decided just to get stuck in and not concentrate on those things, and reaching the Champions League T20 final at the beginning of the season gave us, as a group, a lot of confidence that we can succeed. We are in another final now, and that’s a positive, but we also know there were some down days, but as a group, I think we’re prepared for that now.
3 Are you more of a motivator or a task-master?
Adams: I think you need a balance of both to be a successful coach. Find the right areas between the two. You can’t be going around shouting all the time in the dressing room, but at the same time, there are times when professional cricket requires you to be stern. Likewise, there are also times when you need to lighten things up a bit through positivity.
Toyana: (Laughs) I am definitely not a task-master. I would like to view myself as a motivator. I’ve never been one to get all excited about things. There are guys in this Lions side that I’ve played with and against for a long time, so it would be silly for me to start barking orders at them.
4 How much do you lean on the senior players within your team for advice?
Adams: Very much. I’d like to think we’ve created a culture where everybody is confident enough to express their opinions. We’ve created a forum where vigorous discussions are held in terms of gameplans and strategies. I think that creates a mutual respect for each other within the team. Ultimately, though, the decision-making does lie with myself and captain Justin Ontong, after we’ve gathered all the information.
Toyana: Like I said earlier, I’ve played with many of the guys, so I value their opinions greatly. In the past, there was a culture of “me me me” here, and a big part of what I wanted to achieve was to transform that mindset. I wanted to give guys like Neil McKenzie and Zander de Bruyn greater responsibility in terms of mentoring young players like Quinton de Kock, who can hopefully benefit from playing with stalwarts like them.
5 Are there any other coaches who have a played a pivotal role in your development?
Adams: I’ve had different coaches at the various levels I’ve played at who have all left some sort of an influence on my development. So, I would like to think I’ve taken a small bit from each one, which has helped me deal with different situations that has arisen.
Toyana: My dad, Gus Toyana, who played for the South African Blacks XI during apartheid obviously played a big role in my development. So, cricket’s always been in my blood. People like Khaya Majola also helped me a great deal, and the biggest thing he instilled in me was that I should never doubt myself, and that gave me a lot of confidence. Recently, I have learnt a lot from Ray Jennings and Dave Nosworthy.
6 Do you have any ambitions to coach South Africa?
Adams: That is the ultimate goal. You always try and reset the goal-posts after having achieved one goal, but that is still a long way away. I’m still very young in the coaching game, and at the moment, I’m loving coaching the Cobras.
Toyana: Is that not why you get involved in the game? Whether it is as a player or a coach, you want to test yourself at the highest level. However, saying that, if that happens in the next 10 years, I’ll count myself lucky. I know I still have to pay my dues to my coaching career, and if I stay true to my principles, these things have a way of sorting themselves out.