Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jake White

Interview with Jake White: World Cup winning Rugby Coach



Date : 11 November 2007

Producer : Victoria Cullinan

Presenter : Derek Watts

Researcher : Quereshini Naidoo

It was the match that millions gathered to watch, it was the match that every player in the Springbok squad had played their hearts out to be in, and it was the match that Coach Jake White had dreamed about for 17 years.

Jake White (Springbok Coach): “We wanted to play on the Tuesday. We were so ready to play. That whole week dragged and dragged and then the 78 minutes flew by. I realised that is it. They can’t score twice. They had to score nine points and I realised that physically they couldn’t run the length of the field and back again in two minutes. I realised that we had won the World Cup. The amazing thing was that in those two minutes I thanked the coaches, I thanked the reserves, thanked the non-paying reserves, thanked the security guards, I had time to walk down the stands and get to the field. It was almost like that went in slow motion.”

Jake and the team came back with the most coveted trophy in rugby.

Euphoric South Africans hailed the sporting heroes. Eleven days later while everyone in country was still basking in the glory, Jake held a press conference to tell the world that he was quitting.

[Press Conference] Jake: “I walk away with no regrets but with plenty of sadness.”

A visibly upset Jake told the world that he had not been given the option of renewing his contract as Bok coach.

[Press Conference] Jake: “I’m not surprised because there is no history of loyalty and trust in South African Rugby.”

South African Rugby accused him of playing the victim, claiming he had missed the deadline. His job was advertised while Jake was at the World Cup. The deadline was the 19 October – the day before the Final.

Jake: “One of the things that I always realised in this job is that you are going to get fired, that’s inevitable.”

Jake has had a roller coaster ride as the Springbok Coach and now he has written a book about his rocky relationship with the SA Rugby Union.

Jake: “When I heard BA 643 to London and then to Paris, and I got on that plane and I was on my way to the World Cup, it was probably the first time I realised that I had survived. I never knew what to expect, Derek.”

He has faced accusations of racism, been threatened with dismissal a number of times, his coaching decisions questioned and he even faced attempted blackmail. It all started at the end of 2003 when Rudolph Straeuli was fired.

Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): “The call asking Jake to apply for one of the most demanding and controversial coaching jobs in the world came out of the blue and strangely enough while he was at the Canberra home of a South African star who headed down under, Clyde Rathbone.”

Jake: “And it was quite ironic because I was literally on my way there to see what other opportunities there were abroad. I finished two years with the under-21s. I got the feeling that I probably wasn’t going to go any higher. So I was looking at going to get some knowledge in Australia and then maybe going to go coach in Europe.”

He had a tough task. The once mighty team was ranked sixth in the world. They had suffered a long string of defeats, been subjected to the humiliations of Kamp Staaldraad and had collapsed in the quarterfinals of 2003 World Cup. Jake had to reintroduce a culture of winning into the demoralised team.

Derek: “Jake, you couldn’t have asked for a better start, I mean, winning the Tri-Nations in 2004.”

Jake: “There’s no doubt winning the Tri-Nations and getting South Africa behind you again because we had come off the disaster of the 2003 campaign.”

Then they made a clean sweep at the International Rugby Awards, winning coach, player and team of the year. Jake was rewarded with an extension of his contract up until the 2007 World Cup. But the honeymoon was soon over. Jake had constant rows over attempts to meddle in his team selections. In June 2005, during the French Tour of South Africa he was ordered to substitute Schalk Burger with Solly Tyibilika. He refused.

Jake: “There was a bit of sentiment that Solly should play because he comes form that area. I said, ‘You can’t be making emotional decisions like that. We play for the South African public ... you can’t leave out the player that has been voted the world’s best rugby player because you are playing in PE.’”

Derek: “So there was a crisis meeting with Bryan van Rooyen?”Jake: “I didn’t go to that meeting. But I was told that on Sunday I was going to get fired. We played on Saturday, in fact, some of the guys got text messages from journos saying win or lose he’s gone.”

The Boks won the match and Jake stayed. The confrontations and threats would set the tone for the next two years.

Derek: “2006, you call the year from hell?”

Jake: “That was close to it Derek, let me tell you. We lost seven test matches. We lost disastrously in Brisbane. I had never experienced that Derek. Even as a school teacher I had never lost a game by 49 points to nil.”

Derek: “You were booed?”

Jake: “That was probably the least that happened to me, being booed.”

It was the worst ever defeat for the Boks against Australia. Jakes relationship the board had deteriorated so badly that he was being publicly criticised.

Jake: “I remember reading an article saying that the coach is in a 49 metre hole and it was written by a South African Rugby employee.”

It was in November that things hit rock bottom. After losing seven tests in a row, The Blue Bulls Rugby Union declared a vote of no confidence in Jake. In middle of the tour Jake had to fly back from England to defend himself. He was made to wait for five hours like a naughty schoolboy outside the headmaster’s office before he faced a grilling from the presidents’ council.

Jake: “I literally flew all the way back for a 45 minute meeting. I will never forget the one president said that he goes to a lot of bars and restaurants and he just knows that the people he speaks to there don’t think John is a good captain ... what do I think? I thought it was incredible that I got asked that question.”

Derek: “Jake it is funny now but at the time you must have thought that this could be the end of the road?”

Jake: “I always knew that they wanted to. But I never thought they would fire. I was always fortunate to have the players’ backing and to have the sponsors’ backing. Those were the two groups of people I had to keep happy because those are the two groups that know if you are doing your job or not.”

Derek: “And your management team?”

Jake: “There is no doubt about that. I never had to look over my shoulder to see if there were people trying to take my job or sabotage something within us.”

Derek: “What do you say to critics who say that you made all the right noises about transformation but that you didn’t deliver?”

Jake: “Well, I would say that they are living in a dream world, Derek. I picked a player of colour for every position in my four years, except flyhalf. The reality is that I have done more than any other coach has ever done in terms of being representative at test level.”

Jake was ordered to use more black players but he never had a strong pool to draw on.

Jake: “It’s very difficult at national level to make it more representative if you are not going to get people in the provinces playing there.”

Jake suspected that President Mbeki’s name was often used to pressurise him into making certain decisions.

Jake: “The reality is if our government wanted to instil quota systems, and if they wanted to make sure there was x-amount of players, it would be law. People who say that the government interferes or this person interferes, you know it is nonsense. The reality is that there are certain people that are involved in the decision making in rugby and they use the powers that they have to put pressure. They continually say that the government says or they say but nobody knows who ‘they’ are.”

He got so fed up that he made an appointment to have tea with the President to discuss his problems. But Oregan Hoskins accused him of bringing the game into disrepute. Jake was forced to cancel.

Derek: “With all the niggles and the full blown confrontations of the selection of black players, it was ironic that one of the biggest dust ups, of his four year coaching career, was over a white boy.”

In May, team manager Zola Yeye and President Oregan Hoskins announced the 46 man World Cup training squad. The only problem was that Jake had selected only 45 players. Luke Watson had been added in just before the announcement.

Derek: “How did you feel?”

Jake: “I was flipping disgusted. I was livid to be honest with you. I thought it is unbelievable how this happens in this country you know.”

Derek: “What is the history between you and Luke?”

Jake: “It’s quite simple. I don’t think he is a good rugby player. I think he is the most overrated rugby player I have seen at this level and that’s it, full-stop.”

Derek: “Jake, who were the officials putting you under this pressure?”

Jake: “Pumelela Tshume, who is the chairman of the board. Oregan Hoskins, who is the president. Mike Stofile, who is the vice president. I think there is no doubt about it looking back there was an agenda on their side because of the connections they had with his father. They felt that they had to push him to get him into a team.”

Luke’s father, Cheeky Watson, was an anti-apartheid activist in the 70s who refused to play rugby for whites’ only teams. He joined a black team and played with Zola Yeye. Today Cheeky is a business consultant with friends in high places.

Derek: “And your own team manager Zola Yeye attacked you and the two other selectors.”

Jake: “Ja, I mean he did. Zola knows the family very well. I think there is a story that he actually held the little guy when he was born. So there is a deep rooted connection there as well.”

This intervention was tame in comparison to an offer Jake apparently received a couple of months earlier from the Watson family themselves. He got called to a meeting with their lawyer.

Derek: “There were all sorts of conditions laid down. Luke will be selected for the squad. He will play in a test. He will go to the World Cup. And the bonus for you was that you would keep your job after 2007?”

Jake: “The bonus wasn’t that I would keep my job because there were no guarantees about that. The bonus was that I would go the World Cup. The bottom line was that if this doesn’t happen you might not go to the World Cup yourself. So it was a hell of a thing to hear. I thought, Where is this coming from now?’ Then as I walked away I thought, ‘What way do I go now, is it worth throwing away three-and-a-half years of work literally before a World Cup?’”

The lawyer also allegedly warned Jake that he was being watched, his phones tapped and that he was going to be linked to a ‘third force’ that supposedly ran SA Rugby.

Derek: “The biggest surprise for me was that you were prepared to accept it.”

Jake: “That was the tough thing. I went with my lawyer and afterwards at lunch I sat with him and I said, ‘Listen, what do we do now because this is big hey?’”But the next day they withdrew the deal. Two months later Luke’s name was added to the list. He made his debut in a test against Samoa in Bloemfontein. Fifty minutes into the match Luke was injured and had to leave the field. The matter of Luke Watson was never brought up again.

Derek: “How did the players treat him?”

Jake: “There’s one thing you can’t do and that is bullshit a rugby player. They know if they rate a guy or not. They also found it awkward because they knew under what circumstances he had come into the team. I remember Derek some of the senior players came into my room during the week and said they have got a problem because they are not going to initiate him. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and they just said they don’t think he is worthy of getting initiated because he wasn’t picked and he got forced in and all that sort of thing.”

Derek: “What is the Springbok initiation?”

Jake: “It is not something we talk about obviously. It is an induction into the Springbok family.”

Derek: “You can’t tell us what they do?”

Jake: “No, I can’t tell you what they do. It is something that is unique to South Africa. It is basically a passing down of traditions from Doc Craven and his dog.”

Derek: “You don’t get smacked on the butt?”

Jake: “There is a little bit of that but it is nothing like playing a test match, so it’s okay.”

For once Jake’s selection of the World Cup squad in July was accepted without a murmur.

Jake: “I got the feeling that they sort of said, ‘Let him go to the World Cup and when he gets back it is finished. We are going to move. We don’t really need to be fighting with this guy too much more. We don’t really get on with him all that much. He doesn’t get on with us. So let him go to the World Cup and if he loses in the quarter-finals or the semi-finals then we are all happy. Then we move.’ They didn’t think that maybe South Africa could win the World Cup. I think that is what has happened ... we came back winners. But I did say that I don’t have energy to continue on fighting with you guys for another four years.”

Rumours are flying about what Jakes next career move will be. Australia, England, Wales have all been mentioned.

Derek: “So where to now for Jake White?”

Jake: “I don’t want to go. I really would like to add to the brand over the next few years. There are some great times ahead for these players if they stick together. For the next coach I say stick to the same principle I did in my four years. You are going to get fired. If you get fired make sure you do because of the way you want to do and not the way everybody else wants you to do it. What happens is if you listen to all the other voices and it goes wrong they fire you anyway. So you might as well go to bed at night knowing you are going to get fired but it was because of what you wanted to do.”

Swimming with Randy

On The Pool Deck – Swimming with Randy
By Jeff Grace

It was a morning after a night rain fell cooling the normally hot and humid Austin air that I arrived at the Circle C Ranch Community Pool. I walked on deck at 5:45 am to find a man staring intensely down that pool. This is exactly how I pictured Randy Reese from the descriptions I had read in previous years and from his past swimmers and friends, a man extremely confident and extremely focused. I introduced myself to him, he said a quick “Hi,” and continued to stare down the pool completely concentrated on how he was going to orchestrate the morning’s events.

The swimmers began to come into the pool, walking out in the dark morning gathering their equipment and their practice on single sheets of paper which they soaked and placed on the deck behind their respective lanes. As soon as Randy began to describe the first set the focus of the athletes turned directly to their coach for they knew the displeasure that they would experience if they didn’t. Randy gave his instructions and quickly shouted “We are going on the 45 minutes,” which was 2 minutes from the time on the clock. Each swimmer entered the water on time for once again it was an obvious expectation that no one was going to challenge.

This was my introduction to the Circle C Swim Club, which has grown from a seven member team to a team of 175 and one of the premier clubs in the world coached by one of the premier coaches in the world. I spent the next week with Randy on deck for 8 hours each day (Randy stayed on deck 9¼ hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays) in the hot Austin sun.

At the end of the week I spent with Randy, we traveled to a meet at SMU in Dallas where we watched a great deal of swimming and a prize fight on TV that Saturday evening, Gatti vs Ward III. Watching the fight with Randy can sum up the time and what I learned about his views on swimming and life.

As we were watching one of the warm-up bouts between two heavy weights, Randy articulated how he felt about boxers and boxing in general, “I’ll tell ya something, this is the toughest sport there is. No sport tougher. These guys are the toughest SOBs in sport. Don’t ya think?”

“No argument from me, Randy.”

“Head to head, they have to kick the crap out of each other. It’s not like swimming if they let up they will hurt more. If a swimmer backs down they will only hurt less, there is no sport tougher, these guys are big time.”

This would sum up how Randy feels people need to approach things in their life and swimming if they are to be successful: plain and simple they need to be “tough SOBs.”
“Matt Cetlinski, now there was one tough swimmer, he left his heart in the lane after every set, gave you everything off of every wall; he was big time.” Randy has a simple philosophy when it comes to swimming fast and achieving athletic potential: you have to learn how to be tough.

The practices and the way that Randy plans, are based on the premise that you can teach people to be tough. One of the most consistent pieces of equipment that Randy uses in his training is kicking and swimming with shoes. His philosophy of perseverance and toughness comes out when he describes why he does this training, “The shoes just kicks the crap out of them, you really have to bust your butt, get the feet kicking large and fast to get going. Everyone can make one minute per fifty that is about perseverance and toughness; they just need to learn to get it out of themselves.”

He not only sells this philosophy to the athletes but he is up front with the parents in the club that this is something that each athlete needs if they are going to reach their potential in the sport. Randy is extremely upfront with the parents and they respect that. As his brother Eddie expresses, “When you get old you can say what you want to parents as long as you say it nicely. Randy is at a point where he can say what he wants however he wants.” In a discussion with one of the parents of an athlete whose attitude he described to the boy in the morning as “Your attitude is as bad as I think I have ever seen anyone’s,” he expressed. “He just needs to bust his butt for three weeks, go through a lot of pain and once he gets through it he will feel the same paces that he thought were hard as easy; he just needs to be tougher.”

Back to the main event now where ESPN is showing highlights from Gatti vs Ward I and II. “These little guys have skill. This is the toughest sport in the world. You have to be an athlete to do this. “Absolutely these guys need to be quick and are so skilled. I love watching the little guys fight (maybe because I’m little),” I responded. “I’ll tell you something - these guys are big time.”

Skill and technical efficiency are two things that are at the core of Randy’s philosophy of swimming. He believes that the best performers will most often be the best technically as well. Through his personal experience he has seen that the best pick up on technique the quickest, which is a huge sign of their potential. “Tracy Caulkins was just amazing with it. You would tell her to put her hand in this way or that way and it would be done the first time. She would stay with the change consistently until we figured out if it worked.”

The major aspect of Circle Cs’ technical training is the use of stroke drills. Randy believes that you must change technique through drills and that there must be a large focus put on specific drills. “To truly teach technique you must use drills a lot and consistently.” Randy will most often use a variation of drills in all of his workouts. The most common way that he uses these drills is to mix them with swims so that the athletes take the time to implement the changes that he is trying to make through each drill.
As Gatti and Ward were battling in the first half of the fight using creativity and skill, my mind switched to some of the creative thoughts on teaching technique Randy shared with me through the time I had spent with him. “Do you think if you were able to turn the lights off in the pool and use glow sticks so the swimmers could see the wall but nothing else, that their feel for the water would improve?” When it comes to teaching technique this is only one example of how Randy has a large tendency to think outside the box and do what ever it will take to make sure that the swimmers are going to learn how to do things right.

It is now in the seventh round of the fight. Gatti is continuing to dominate, despite hitting Ward in the hip with a right hook during the third round re-breaking his hand. Randy inquires, “What do you think, is it age or fitness that is not allowing this guy to take advantage of Gatti’s broken hand and win the fight?”

“Hard to say, Randy. To me it looks like the fitness is the major factor, but his age might have something to do with it.”

“Yeah, probably fitness. These guys are the toughest athletes out there. You have to be fit to be in this sport, a real athlete.”

One of the things you realize when spending any amount of time with the group of Circle C athletes during their training is that they are one fit group. Randy believes in working hard and being fit, including endurance, speed and strength.

When you ask him how he plans practices, his response is “I usually write out a whole bunch of stuff and than realize how hard it is and tone it down. It usually comes out to a point where they still think it is really hard.” It is incredible to see the intensity that the athletes train with day in and out. Randy judges the training by its’ intensity, since he feels volume can be looked at in many different ways, dependent on what components a coach feels important (kick, drill, swim etc...). Since he feels that the amount of rest in a practice is a better indicator of volume, intensity is what he uses to determine the training overload each day. Randy uses this sustained intensity to build the endurance base which he believes is required in all swimming events.

To develop strength and speed Randy uses a lot of creativity in his planning. One example of this is how he uses pulleys and shoes. Power workouts using this equipment are done two to three times a week in a short course yards pool set up. He uses both shoes and pulleys to develop both strength endurance and raw power by covering distances from 25s to 200s.

Dryland training at Circle C is limited by their lack of facilities such as a weight room and storage for equipment. For this reason the dryland is based on simple muscular endurance that has a mix of weights, abs, medicine balls and jumps. By having his dryland set up this way Randy also avoids one of the problems he sees with lifting heavy more than once a week. “When you lift heavy more than once a week, they start getting too big and too sore to swim properly.” These endurance based dryland workouts take between 40-45 minutes and are performed before each afternoon practice.

Once the fight concluded, Gatti had beaten Ward by a unanimous decision in a fight that the announcers felt would go down as another great showdown in the history books.
“What did you think of the fight?” I asked Randy.

“I didn’t think it was that good. I don’t know what the announcers are talking about. It wasn’t that good, but man this is the toughest sport there is.”

Expectations are always high when you are around Randy. From doing sets correctly and taking pride in one’s work to expecting himself to get off his butt and get in better shape, Randy expects the highest level of effort from everyone around him day in and day out. Communicating these expectations in a formal way through team meetings is the best way that Randy feels you can get your point across, “I need to get back to having meetings again to explain my expectations and let them know where we are going. We need to do this at least once every two weeks so that the team can create an environment where everyone is buying in.”

One of the things that many great coaches have been able to do is to convey high expectations on a daily basis and be extremely hard on their athletes, while at the same time letting the athletes know how much they care. “Once a swimmer swims with Randy for 6 months they will lay on the railroad tracks for him. They will complain about him and his ways, but they will understand how much he cares and go to the wall for him. ”This is how his brother Eddie describes the relationships Randy forms with his athletes. He does not smile much and very rarely, if ever, is he satisfied with performance, but it is evident in his interactions with the athletes that they know how much he cares.

Upon leaving Austin, I came to the pool once again at 5:45 am to thank Randy for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences with me. Once we said our good-byes he went back to the same spot where I had first seen him at the end of the deck on a dark and hot Austin morning, staring down the pool, contemplating how to make the group of swimmers in the water the most fit, most skilled and toughest athletes in the world.

Randy’s Favorite Stroke Drills:
Fly - Three kicks to each pull
Back - Double arm
- One arm
- Spin Drill
Breast - No breathing
- Two up one down
- Br pull with free kick
Free - One arm
- Catch up with stick

Power Workout Example:
a) Pulleys
6 x (4 x 50 @ 1:10 #4 max weight)
1) Kick
2) Kick with fins
3) Swim
4) Swim with paddles
5) Swim with fins
6) Swim with fins + paddles
b) Shoes
3 x 4 x 25 Kick Fly or Back @ 40
2 x 50 Kick @ 1:00 Free)
4 x 100 @ 2:00 as fast as possible

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recent Developments in Sports Science

Recent Developments in Sport Science
By Dr. Valery Kleshnev, 2001

Friday, November 2, 2007

Video Analysis

Video Analysis of Technique – Schleswig-Holstein Rowing Federation Video Evaluation
Original PDF's available from