JUSTIN LANGER: My hippie break has helped me prepare for stepping back into the coaching cauldron

Justin Langer
The Nightly
6 Min Read
JUSTIN LANGER: My hippie break has helped me prepare for stepping back into the coaching cauldron.
JUSTIN LANGER: My hippie break has helped me prepare for stepping back into the coaching cauldron. Credit: William Pearce

Growing a beard gets itchy. So itchy in fact that I had to shave it off on Tuesday.

Grand plans of a new look were quickly extinguished as the daily discomfort got the better of me. After two weeks, and a shortened version of my annual ‘hippie month’, it was gone.

An electric shaver did the trick and, like removing a splinter from the bottom of your foot, the relief was instant.

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Sadly though, the shaving of my beard was symbolic of what’s on the horizon.

In April last year, I wrote about my self-prescribed hippie month.

Hippie month? What’s that all about I am often asked?

Basically, I grow a beard, wear shoes as little as possible and bring down the volume of my life for a month.

Justin Langer grows a beard on his annual “hippie break”.
Justin Langer grows a beard on his annual “hippie break”. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

April has traditionally been my time of reflection and ‘hippiness’ due it being the end of the cricket season. This year it came a little earlier because of a new adventure I have just commenced. More of that in a minute.

Having worked over the summer on the Channel 7 commentary team, the Christmas period was hardly a time for chilling out. The festive season hasn’t really been a holiday period for me for 30 years because summer is cricket time, which means work.

The rest of the year has been taken up by various board and charity roles, corporate speaking opportunities and writing this weekly article.

My annual calendar is generally busy, and for that I am thankful. But that constant feeling of weariness is a reminder of the importance of rest, recuperation, and general care for yourself.

In essence, the philosophy behind the hippie month (two weeks this year) is to slow everything down, relax my brain and rejuvenate my mind and body.

This year, my break has been spent down south in Quindalup. What a place. For those who haven’t spent much time in the WA’s South West, do yourself a favour.

My existence was simple but inspiring. Every morning I walked the dogs along Quindalup and Dunsborough Bay. A rising sun over the water was an incredible way to start the day.

Then it would be coffee at the Yallingup Coffee Roasting Company. The coffee was great and the environment very relaxed.

I spent my days in the garden of my daughter’s house and took about five ute loads of green waste to the tip.

“That’ll be four dollars please mate” came the voice through the opened window from the friendly tattooed waste management man.

Four bucks? Some days it was eight, but how cool is that? No wonder I went back five times. Best 20 or 30 bucks I have spent in years — and the garden looks amazing.

Sometimes I would wash off the garden dirt in the ocean, and one day I borrowed the neighbour’s stand-up paddle board where I saw blue swimmer crabs in the reeds and flathead and whiting swimming over the sandbanks. This was magical.

" Scenes From Our Spectacular State" -Emerald Coast, this is a spectacular sight, especially around Castle Rock, where the water is crystal clear and the landscape bold.- Bruce King, 102b Westview street, Scarborough 6019 WA 0427463437
" Scenes From Our Spectacular State" -Emerald Coast, this is a spectacular sight, especially around Castle Rock, where the water is crystal clear and the landscape bold.- Bruce King, 102b Westview street, Scarborough 6019 WA 0427463437 Credit: supplied

Every second afternoon I would drive up to Yallingup Woodfired Bakery amongst the trees and buy a loaf of warm, fresh white bread and the best fruit bread I have ever eaten.

The rest of the time was spent with simple dinners at home, a cold beer after a day in the garden and I was in bed before 8pm every night reading. Sidenote, I read Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe, it’s worth an investment.

Looking back, there was nothing mind-blowing in what I did, just a chance to turn down the pressure valve.

This annual break has a profound effect on my wellbeing. Not only do I feel more relaxed, but my creativity improves, I am more present, I am without doubt happier, and importantly, I am re-charged for what’s to come.

For these reasons, hippie month, or fortnight, is crucial in my life, just as a holiday or a break is, for anyone on this earth.

And it’s contrast to what lies ahead.

Cricket fans exit Narendra Modi Stadium after rains disrupted the IPL final between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on May 29, 2023.
Cricket fans exit Narendra Modi Stadium after rains disrupted the IPL final between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on May 29, 2023. Credit: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP

On Thursday night I landed in Lucknow, India, where I have taken up the role of Head Coach of the Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League.

The IPL is not only the biggest domestic T20 cricket tournament in the world, but it’s also a significant player in the global sports market in terms of revenue through broadcast rights, sponsorship, and advertisers.

From the moment I jumped on a flight from Dubai to Lucknow, I knew my life was going to be different for the next 10 weeks.

The plane was full of Indians and they were so engaging and happy to see me on board.

When we arrived in the country’s largest State, the team’s cheer squad greeted me at the airport and were singing songs about the franchise and their new coach.

Drums were beating, fans were singing, and ‘selfies’ were being snapped off quicker than a Virat Kohli cover drive.

Royal Challengers Bangalore's Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century (100 runs) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Royal Challengers Bangalore's Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century (100 runs) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. Credit: NOAH SEELAM/AFP

I have always loved visiting India. The minute you leave the plane every sense in your body awakens.

The sights, sounds, smells, tastes are invigorating. With 1.5 billion people — most of whom love the game of cricket — the energy is a far cry from walking on a Dunsborough beach in the morning.

The atmosphere at the cricket grounds is intoxicating and I am looking forward to being on the side of a team that the masses are supporting for once in my professional life instead of cheering against me as the locals did when I was playing for, or coaching, Australia. Every game has the feeling of an AFL Grand Final; the noise is deafening and the passion tangible.

A couple of years ago when I finished my role with Australian cricket, I wasn’t sure I would be re-entering the coaching realm again.

If it wasn’t for a lucky meeting with Sanjiv Goenka, the private owner of the Lucknow Super Giants, last July I am almost certain that would still be the case.

Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group.
Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. Credit: Aalok Soni/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

At the end of our conversation at a swanky hotel in central London, the billionaire owner — whether by design or mischievousness — smiled at me and said: “You have had a very successful coaching career Justin, but you can’t truly see yourself as a great coach until you have won the IPL.”

Hhhmmmm. And just like that — hook, line, and sinker — Mr Goenka had me.

“Is that right,” I thought. “Let’s just see about that.”

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I pretty much signed there and then. Not only do I love a challenge, but I also believe life is about taking on new projects and writing new chapters in your own book.

To be completely honest I am nervous about this next venture.

Not because I haven’t been here before; experience has taught me what works and what doesn’t. I understand the blueprint of success and I have complete faith in my ability to build a team that makes a habit of winning.

I am nervous because I am back on a road I thought I would never re-visit . . . 10 weeks away from home, the constant pressure and judgment of winning and losing, and the emotions that accompany these highs and lows.

I know there may be critics of the team and my performance depending on our results. It’s something all professional athletes and coaches live within high-profile professional sport these days.

All these reasons were a part of me walking away, but now that I am back I have another confession to make: I am absolutely pumped and looking forward to enjoying every moment of this new project.

The Lucknow Super Giants have never won the IPL. There is no reason they can’t win it this year, and when the blow torch starts burning the back of my psyche in all those pressure moments, I know my next hippie month will make it all worthwhile.

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