JUSTIN LANGER: Four coaching principles I’ve brought to the Lucknow Super Giants as we strive for IPL glory

Justin Langer
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Justin Langer shares four coaching principals he's brought to the Lucknow Super Giants as they strive for IPL glory.
Justin Langer shares four coaching principals he's brought to the Lucknow Super Giants as they strive for IPL glory. Credit: Supplied

Mel Heron is affectionately known as the mother of the WACA. Christina Matthews was the boss, but Mel is the Mum, especially in the cricket department.

A couple of times, Mel has told me a story, we both laugh about today.

Apparently, on my first day as the head coach of Western Australian cricket, I called everyone into a room and said something along the lines of: “From this moment, you are all in the circle of trust. Stay in it and you will be there for life, break it and you won’t.”

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Mel recalls she wasn’t sure whether to be petrified or happy, but she confesses the point was well made and everyone got the message loud and clear.

Happily, Mel and I are still great friends, and she has played an important role in Western Australian cricket being the powerhouse of Australian cricket for more than a decade. Often, I would ask Mel to walk a lap of the WACA with me. That lap often turned into five or six.

Mel was so admired and loved by the boys she would know all the gossip and goings on within the group and was, therefore, a brilliant barometer for how the environment was around the squad.

Her insights were invaluable, and while she never broke any faith, she would quietly encourage me to be aware of important things I may not have known about or issues I needed to attend to.

When building strong teams, the Mel Herons of the world are like gold. Often unheralded, I have learned that it is the untitled leaders who are as valuable as those in the spotlight. Every great team, family or office has them. They should never be underestimated.

Lucknow Super Giants' coach Justin Langer gestures during the warm up before the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 2, 2024.
Lucknow Super Giants' coach Justin Langer gestures during the warm up before the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 2, 2024. Credit: IDREES MOHAMMED/AFP

Great teams are built and operate like a family. Life is not always rainbows and butterflies, but if your environment has the security, trust and love of a strong family, the results can not only be astounding, but the journey will also be so much fun.

Over the last few weeks, I have re-entered the world of professional coaching. After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from a world I know so well, I had my personal anxieties about returning to the game I love.

Let’s face it, my exit from my last coaching assignment with the Australian team rattled me a bit, but when I was offered the job as head coach of the Lucknow Super Giants in the India Premier League I knew it was time to get back into the cauldron and face those apprehensions head on.

Like entering any new environment, I had my self-doubts and insecurities; this is a natural emotion of being human.

On top of these, I had a couple of small private hurdles to conquer, but what I banked upon was that the formula of success doesn’t change, it never does. My challenge was to remember what matters and then to implement those principles and procedures.

The benefit I have is that experience has shown me the blueprint of how great teams operate. I have lived, breathed and learned from successful teams all my life. For that I am blessed.

I have also benefitted from being a part of teams that don’t work as well. These experiences have been as important to learning the recipe for success than the being a part of the best ones. They were nowhere near as fun, but they were valuably informative.

When I first addressed the Lucknow squad a month ago, my message was as simple as my first at the WACA 12 years ago. Whilst I didn’t talk about the ‘circle of trust’ this time, I was very clear on how our team should operate.

After setting the vision that we were all here to WIN the IPL tournament, I then talked of four major principles.

The first was that our 10 weeks together must be fun. I told the boys that the more laughter I heard, the more I knew we were moving in the right direction. The first slide I showed them simply said, ‘laughter is the music of the best teams’. When you are relaxed and enjoying yourself on and off the field, your performances generally improve. That’s my experience anyway, professionally and personally.

The second principle was to know and understand your role in the team. Whether you are the captain, or the Mel Heron of the group, turn up every day being the player of the match. Get the job done and you _ and we _ will be OK.

Next, I encouraged every player to prepare well. We have 24 players from all around the world vying for 11 positions in the team. Opportunities are limited, but at any stage, one of them might have to step up and perform under immense pressure. The theme is simply, “stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready”. This is an everyday discipline. Working physically and mentally every day, so that when your chance comes you are ready to grab it. Preparation is the key to any success. Most times anyway.

Lucknow Super Giants' Mayank Yadav (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Cameron Green (3L) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 2, 2024.
Lucknow Super Giants' Mayank Yadav (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Cameron Green (3L) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 2, 2024. Credit: IDREES MOHAMMED/AFP

Finally, I talked about the concept of letting go. By this I explained that the more we get caught up in what’s happened in the past and what might happen in the future, the less we stay present in the moment. Peak performance is attained when we perform and concentrate on the now. “Be where your feet are”, is an easy way to visualize this.

Four weeks into this project and the family environment we are building is palpable.

My message to a good friend this week sums it all up: “Honestly loving every minute of it mate. Challenges every day, but I have a great crew of coaches and players. The owners are very supportive which helps. Really enjoying it. The IPL is insane. Strong competition. You see different pressures at all levels. Personally, benefitting from the time away from the game and the different perspectives that brings.”

Watching the interactions of the group is priceless. We have three West Indians _ Shamar Joseph, Nicky Pooran and Kyle Mayers _ who all wear gold changes like Mr T, but their energy, skill and passion for the game are infectious. Shamar, who made a name for himself in Australia last summer, gave me a hug during our third game on Tuesday and with a beaming smile told me: “I have never been in a team like this coach. It’s like a big family. I feel so happy.” This warmed my spirit.

Lucknow Super Giants' Shamar Joseph warms up during a practice session on the eve of their Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match against the Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 1, 2024.
   (Photo by Idrees MOHAMMED / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --
Lucknow Super Giants' Shamar Joseph warms up during a practice session on the eve of their Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match against the Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Lucknow Super Giants, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 1, 2024.    (Photo by Idrees MOHAMMED / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- Credit: IDREES MOHAMMED/AFP

Naveen-ul-Haq, from Afghanistan, is quiet and observant off the field, but a warrior on it. He has seen life so foreign to most of us, but the game of cricket has brought him into this environment; he is a joy to have around.

The connection between the South Africans, Australians and our New Zealander Matt Henry is strong, and our Indian hosts within the group vary in personality, style, and experience, but they are the glue that will keep us connected.

Before our last game, we all came together for what was an amazing life experience and bonding opportunity. Letting go of any language or cultural barriers, we joined in and celebrated the Holi tradition. As I have learned, Holi is celebrated as the Festival of Colours, Love, and Spring. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil. In essence, people throw water and colours over each other. They laugh, hug, and have the times of their lives.

Justin Langer at The festival of colours.
Justin Langer at The festival of colours. Credit: supplied/supplied
Justin Langer at The festival of colours.
Justin Langer at The festival of colours. Credit: supplied/supplied

I can’t remember having had so much fun since I was about five years old. The activities were so innocent and childlike that you had to let down any barriers or masks and just go with the flow. Silly as it sounds, moments like these help build that family environment because if you don’t trust and respect those around you it is hard to act like a child in front of adults.

When you are in a circle of trust, you can be yourself and will therefore perform at your best.

You will also want to keep getting better for the benefit of your community (or tribe), you will let go of your fears, and you will enjoy going to work every day.

Success is all about the people you have around you. Everyone brings with them different strengths and perspectives and they all add richness to your team if you encourage it.

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