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The General’s back

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The “General” is back! Wendell Smith has officially taken over the coaching job at St. David's for the 2011 cricket season. If history is anything to go by St.David's are in for a treat. Smith's professionalism and passion for the game will enhance St.David's chances of regaining their status as one of the top two teams in Bermuda.

Wendell who many will remember for his playing and coaching days at St.George's is one of the most respected coaches on the island. All Wendell has to do is show up at a training session and the players know they are in for a high-quality, intense training session.

While at St.George's in the late 80's and 90's, Wendell took a mediocre team and turned them into champions. With a focus on improving the fundamentals of the game, he also focused on the mind, as he wanted his players to be well-rounded and knowledgeable cricketers. The St.George's team that he produced was by far the hardest working team, and probably the best fielding team I have ever been associated with.

So excited I was to have my brother back to coaching full time, I called to congratulate him before questioning him about his new post. The following is a Q & A with St.David's new coach Wendell Smith:

Q: What has motivated you to come back after so many years away from the game?

A: I am motivated by the fact that a couple of Islanders asked me to consider coaching their team. As you get on in life, I guess you start to realize that it would be a pity not to pass on knowledge gained or to give something back to those who aided you, during your development. Also, coaching is very much an art, and you have the ability to shape and mould characters as well as enhance performance levels significantly.

Q: St.David's made a bold decision to not play Eastern Counties last year, what are your views on that matter?

A: I am very cognizant of the principled decision that St. David's took last year in respect to the Eastern Counties, and I was very much in favor of the decision. It is my wish to play a role in helping them reclaim the coveted Eastern Counties trophy.

Q: This is a new challenge for you having been at St.George's all your life, many people will want to know why St.David's?

A: Why St. David's-I want to give something back to a community that welcomed me with open arms into there Eastern County team. St. David's folks are a special breed, and over the years I have enjoyed their “plays” and Good Friday Community Days. I am also motivated by the fact that they have some talented players who truly love the game. I also recognize that by coaching St. David's, I will be helping St. George's, as half of our Cup Match team play for St. David's.

Q: St.David's has been known for having one of the best teams in the league, but somehow fell short of their standards last year. Does this worry you and how do you plan to get them back up to par?

A: It does not worry me about what transpired last year at St. David's. I intend to sit down with the players, form a Shared Vision of what we wish to accomplish (collectively first, and individually, second), and then I will quite simply lay down some ground rules in respect to training and match procedures. I am a strong believer in the concept that you do not have to be a professional to train like a professional. I will not waste their time and I do not expect the players to waste mine. Punctuality and preparation are key factors with respect to good performance.

As far as getting them up to scratch, we will concentrate on some key aspects of the game: fitness, fielding, running between the wickets, and playing intelligent cricket. The last point is critical, as you can transform a mediocre player into a good player if he is willing to put in the work and execute using his cerebral gifts.

Q: Many players have left St.David's recently will you be trying to lure any players back or will you look to breed young promising players?

A: It is a pity that St.David's has lost such good players like Chris Foggo, Fiqrue Crockwell, George O'Brien, and Chris Douglas etc. Truth be told I will not go begging any player to come and play for us. We will use whom we have. I wish to have players that want to be at St. David's and have their heart there. It is important to have a surplus of players, especially youngsters, so that no player takes their spot for granted. It would be wonderful of course to see St. David's at full strength.

Q: This will be the first time you and your brother Clay will be going head to head as coaches. How will that feel?

A: In respect to coaching against Clay-That will be very interesting. As a cricketer, Clay was by far a more accomplished batsman, as he excelled on the international stage e.g. two centuries at the Red Stripe and another against Kenya in the ICC plus tons of runs in the Intercontinental Cup matches. My best performances always seemed to be at Cup Match. With respect to coaching, I have much faith in my knowledge having had the benefit of attending four overseas courses in England (Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced N.C.A. certificates plus a special course in 1999 for World coaches). Additionally, I made a point to be a sponge when coaching with people such as Gus Logie, Doug Ferguson, Michael Holding and Darryl Cullinan. It will be fun to try to outcoach Clay.

Q: The last time you coached was with the national squad what was that experience like?

A: The last time I coached was in 2005 when I was asked to coach the national team, just prior to Gus Logie coming on board. That was a distinct pleasure as I had the opportunity to work with such players as Dwayne Leverock, Richard Basden, Janeiro Tucker, Dean Minors, Clay Smith, Irving Romaine, and Lionel Cann etc. Truth be told, those guys worked diligently and it was no surprise to me that Bermuda made it to the World Cup. In fact, at the very first session that we had at the Whitney gym, I told them there and then that there was enough talent in the group to make qualification a reality. That team had a lot of harmony, a good work ethic, and unity.

Q: What was it about the St.George's team you coached that made them special?

A: My best coaching stint was no doubt at St. George's where I had the pleasure of working with very committed and dedicated players like Ricky Hodsoll, Graham Fox, David Adams and Dexter Smith. These were persons who got the most out of their talents because they had strong work ethics and most importantly had cricket intelligence. It is a blessing to coach guys who know and understand the dynamics of cricket.

Q: Do you have any regrets in cricket?

A: It was a pity that I was to suffer a very serious bout of depression, brought on by the death of my mother and older brother, and a heart attack to my dad, all within three months. Cricket all of a sudden didn't seem very important at the time. That experience has humbled me and made me a better, more reflective and appreciative person. My one and only regret in cricket is that I was not allowed to go to watch my brother Clay play in the World Cup for Bermuda. Had I stayed employed in education, my true love, I would have been able to take personal days. We live and we learn.

Columnist: In closing, it is a pleasure to see my brother Wendell back coaching as the knowledge and passion he has for the game can only benefit Bermuda cricket overall. Welcome back “General”, you were a success at St.George's and I have no doubt you will do the same at St.David's. but this time the only thing different is you will have St.George's to deal with.

Quotes of the week: “Don't make the same mistake twice.” and “Life is a short walk so little time, so much to do.”

Blast from the past: In these pictures from The Royal Gazette archive, Wendell Smith during St George?s glory days......
.....and former St Georges and Bermuda batsman Dexter Smith, who played under Wendell Smith in the East End.

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Published March 25, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 25, 2011 at 10:00 am)

The General’s back

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