Tomorrow Toni and John fly to Gotzis ready for John’s big weekend. It strikes me that it’s also Toni’s big weekend. He may not be running, throwing and jumping but in every other sense he’s just as involved as John.
To get a better feel for what it’s like anticipating one of the most significant weekends in your career (that just happens to be watched thousands of people) watch Toni’s reflections,
Toni talks about the upcoming trip to Gotzis
I ask Toni what it’s like for him at competition. He’s in an unusually self-reflective mood (he’s always reflecting on the team),
“There’s almost a parental aspect to it. To some extent you can’t help but live vicariously through your athletes…”
“It’s a bit weird. Everything you do as a coach is defined by the performances of those you coach. There’s almost a parental aspect to it. To some extent you can’t help but live vicariously through your athletes. Obviously it’s not as much as a mum or dad. But in some ways it’s more”.
I’d never thought of it like that. I do some reflecting of my own.
We all know what it means to compete. At least we think we know. What we do know is what it means to be a fan. We’ve all sat on the edge of our sofas or gripped our steering wheels as we’ve willed our team, or favourite star, to get the win. It’s the buzz of sport.
But when it comes to understanding what it means to get ready to compete, against the best in the world, we don’t even see the tip of the iceberg. Or even the penguin sitting on the tip of the iceberg. What we see is the feather on the head of the penguin sitting on the iceberg. That’s the extent of our understanding. Everything underneath that feather is the years of training, banter, injuries, rehab, arguments, constant drills, discipline, refusal to compromise, the acceptance of pain. I’ll stop there. You get the picture. Everything underneath that feather is where the coach lives.
Since we started our attempt, in February, to show what it’s really like to prepare an athlete for the world stage I’ve come to appreciate a whole other dimension to Toni. It’s not that he’s changed. The blunt, honest, slightly grumpy and genuinely amusing character is ever present. With Toni what you see is what you get. What has changed is my view on what it means to be a coach. Or at least what it means to be Coach Toni Minichiello.
Dr. Dave Alred, the rugby and golf coach says, “those who say I’m obsessive don’t understand the meaning of the word commitment”. Having probably spent more time with Toni over the last few months; in training sessions, via Skype, on the phone and by text than with anyone else (including my family) I now get that phrase. Toni doesn’t fit coaching into his life. His life fits into coaching. Coaching is a constant, a state of being. It never stops. Everything provides a reference point to become a better coach to help forge better athletes.
I point this out to Toni. He looks at me like I just got out of a space ship.
“Why wouldn’t you want to be the best you could be?” He seems genuinely surprised, “Besides look at this lot”,
And just like that Toni does what Toni does best. He cuts the crap.
Just watch the film.