Cricket coaching is booming in South Africa with more people sitting exams and qualifying through its four stages than ever before – giving hope to those who believe the lack of quality coaches at grass-roots and even provincial level lies at the heart of the game’s on-field decline.
A level-one certificate deals with only the basics of the game and enables aspirant coaches to teach at junior club and school level. A level-two qualification includes physical conditioning, injury prevention and even some biokinetics in its syllabus and requires a considerable commitment. It is usually a sign that the graduate is considering coaching as a profession.
Level three is a prerequisite for all professional coaches and level four is attained only by the elite and requires a range of assignments to be completed, including projects on sports psychology.
Certificates are not merely handed out for attending. The pass rate even for level-two courses in South Africa is only around 90%. An academic background is not essential but physical and mental effort is – it is not for everyone and those who enter a course half-heartedly, or because somebody else thought it was a good idea, inevitably drop out.
There are some individuals, of course, who are either unsuited or disinclined to study for the course – but need the certificate and will resort to whatever methods necessary to get their hands on one. People, perhaps, such as former international off-spinner Prosper Utseya.
The one-time Zimbabwean captain used a Cricket South Africa level-two certificate, signed on May 6 2009, to apply for a place on a level-three course in Australia. But the Mail & Guardian has ascertained that he never attended the three-week course, which was conducted at the Maritzburg Oval.
CSA’s head of coaching, Anton Ferreira, confirmed that there were eight graduates from that course but that Utseya was not among them: “I double-checked with KZN Inland and on our central data base – there is no record of him,” Ferreira said. “Although I have been told he was in Maritzburg around that time playing club cricket for the university.
“It looks like an authentic certificate,” Ferreira said, having identified his own signature at the bottom alongside that of the supervising coach who conducted the course, Paul Attkins. “I have no idea how it was done – a fancy scanner, perhaps, and some forgery?”
There were two other Zimbabweans on the course, however, one of whom – Prosper Tsvanhu – also confirmed to the M&G that his namesake was never present and, to his knowledge, had never enrolled on the course.
Utseya enjoyed a 12-year international career spanning 164 one-day internationals and four Test matches until he was banned from playing by the ICC for having a suspect bowling action. He attempted to reinvent himself as a medium pacer and was included in Zimbabwe’s squad for the 2015 World Cup, but never played. At the age of 30 his playing days were over and he was advised to consider coaching as an alternative.
When contacted telephonically by the M&G, Utseya said: “I have a level-two coaching certificate with Cricket South Africa, which I got in 2009.” When asked whether it was legitimate or a fake, Utseya said: “Obviously people will say whatever they want. I know there are people out there who are trying to tarnish my image. I’m qualified to coach and I won’t comment any further on the issue.”
He hung up but called back two minutes later to ask who had supplied the information and that the story not be written.
Ferreira is well aware of the value, perceived and practical, of coaching qualifications and says Utseya is not the first to produce an illegitimate certificate. “A couple of years ago we heard about a West Indian player who was brandishing a CSA level-four certificate in the Caribbean and applying for jobs.
“We had no record of him ever doing a course or sitting an exam here, but we resolved the situation in co-operation with Barbados cricket authorities,” Ferreira said.
Although Ferreira – popularly nicknamed “Yogi” for most of his life – is unhappy about the fraud and any possible breach of security in his department, there is also a great deal for him to feel excited about.
“There used to be just a handful of level-four coaches in the country. Now we have level-four coaches at provincial level, not just franchise teams. Mfuneko Ngam, Roger Telemachus, Enoch Nkwe, Geoff Toyana, Paul Adams, Rob Walter, Malibongwe Maketa and Lawrence Mahatlane are all level-four-qualified while Shane Burger, Ryan Bailey, Cliffie Deacon and Richard das Neves are all amongst the latest group to qualify with level three,” Ferreira says.
There have been only six level-four courses since 1997 with around a dozen coaches on each one and for some candidates it can take two years to complete every assignment to a satisfactory standard.
Excluding those who are no longer with us such as Eddie Barlow, Bob Woolmer and Clive Rice, and those no longer resident such as Mickey Arthur, Ferreira estimates there are around 50 level-four coaches in the country.
Some, such as Gary Kirsten and Rudi Steyn, work privately, but CSA must make the domestic game as attractive as possible to make sustainable use of the coaching talent becoming available.
Confirmation that conventional academic ability is not essential for a career in coaching comes with the tale of a Southwestern Districts coach who recently qualified with level three despite what might have been crippling dyslexia in a different walk of life.
“You have to write exams, obviously, but we’re only interested in the correct answers, not how they’re spelt so we set up a special system where he could dictate his answers. He passed comfortably and is now doing really well working at an academy in Knysna,” Ferreira says.
Like most good things in life, there are no shortcuts. Not even fancy scanners work.