Indian Premier League (IPL) inaugural champions Rajasthan Royals (RR) are preparing to play their seventh match of the ongoing season as they face Delhi Capitals (DC) on Friday.
Having rejoined the Rajasthan-based franchise for his third stint, Paddy Upton, who is serving as the Team Catalyst, sat down to share his thoughts on the new role as he looks to build cohesion and bring everyone together to create an environment which enables the team to excel on the field.
“As the Team Catalyst, my role is to help bring everyone together. In a new set-up, you’ve got 24 players and about 10 coaches that haven’t always worked together. So, my job is to try and get the players together – to understand each other, communicate better, understand the game plans and be clear with our objectives. And the same applies for the coaches,” expressed Paddy, addressing talks and opinions around what the role of Team Catalyst in cricket involves.
“It is about getting everyone aligned with our philosophy, with our game plans, and how we are going to operate. I think whoever can do that better and faster is probably going to, at least in the first half of the tournament, do better than other teams,” added the 53-year-old.
Asked to identify the difference between the roles of a mental conditioning coach and a team catalyst, Paddy stated, “As the Team Catalyst, mental conditioning becomes one aspect of it where you are taking care of the mental well-being and keeping them fresh. Whereas, when I deep dive into my role as the Catalyst, it involves other things which help me pull everyone together as a tight, cohesive unit.”
He continued, “It is very much man-management. But it also involves working with the coaches and aligning the work that I do with what the coaches are doing, and how that directly impacts training and on-field performance. So, man-management is one thing, and cricket expertise is another, and one of the arts is actually marrying them and making it a seamless process between the two of them.”
An important cog in the backroom staff, Paddy has guided some very successful outfits across cricket, and believes the key to creating a positive atmosphere also involves avoiding over-analysis. “I think it (analyzing players after every match) is a very old school and naive approach. To go talk to a player after one bad game about what they did wrong, is no longer the way forward. The nature of the game is such that sometimes things don’t go your way even when you play really well, and vice versa. So, we don’t go in and over analyze a bad over, or even a bad game.”
“Every game, we follow the same process within the team and look to focus on our preparation, our plans and our execution, which are the most important aspects for every team and every player.”
Giving insights on the kind of sessions he conducts within the group, Paddy said, “I have three different groupings that I talk to. So, during the start, I’ve done group sessions with all coaches and players together, where each of us will have a conversation and we walk away with personal game plans within the context of the whole squad.”
“Then I would sit with individual players and say: ‘Okay, so what are the areas you want to work on, where you need more communication and better understanding?’”
“Third is that sometimes I take it into sort of mini groups, where then I work, for instance, with the bowling or batting unit. So, to get a proper analysis of how we communicate and understand each other better, what questions have the players got for each other, etc,” expressed Paddy.
The South African also highlighted the importance of uniform messaging when dealing with the players. “Having a number of coaches with a team can sometimes dilute your messaging. However, that is where I come in. I can highlight and make sure that we are all delivering the same message to the players. Therefore, being familiar with what our philosophy is, and then aligning as a coaching unit is also important before we impart guidance to the players.”
“For me, what’s important is that every player at least has somebody who they can talk to about their game and be really honest about their game. It really doesn’t have to be me, it could be any one of the coaching staff here. And in fact many of them would have a coach or potentially even a mental coach back home in another team and I would really encourage those players to talk to somebody who is helping in keeping them in a good mental space,” he signed off.