“There are plenty of theories thrown out about coaching, but my philosophy, what I really believe is the number one factor to being successful as a coach, is that you have to have flexibility. Discipline is non-negotiable in this environment, but every day you’re dealing with different personalities, attitudes, levels of skill and even different goals. So you really have to understand people,” De Bruyn told The Medalist.
“You need to get on the same boat as the individual, you need to work with them and help them get to the next level, like Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram have embarked on their journey. But the player needs to trust you if you’re going to go on that journey with them, which is why you must understand the individual player.”
De Bruyn hides a steely interior behind this talk of flexibility, trust and understanding. During his 15-year career as a player for Easterns, Northerns, the Titans and the Dolphins, De Bruyn was acknowledged as one of the toughest competitors on the circuit, someone who made the absolute most of his talents.
“I wasn’t talented at all. But I managed to string together 15 years as a professional cricketer through complete hard work. I always tried to be one step ahead of the guy next to me through focus, discipline and enormous work ethic. I really wanted the tough situation,” he said.
“Talent is not enough and I always work on the mental aspect with my players. A good, solid mentality is key to succeeding in cricket and if you don’t have good discipline – at training, on the field and at home – how can you expect to play winning cricket? I want my players to understand that without discipline, they’ll be inconsistent and unreliable players.”
There is little doubt that players like Theunis de Bruyn, who has already made a strong start to the domestic franchise season, Graeme van Buuren, Markram, Corbin Bosch and Heinrich Klaasen will enjoy successful careers thanks to the foundation that has been laid at Tuks.
“Pierre has brought 15 years of experience in first-class cricket and he’s introduced a culture where young people can really learn their game and how to be successful at higher levels. It’s a very professional environment here and that’s why our players are able to excel when they go up to first-class level,” Theunis de Bruyn says.
While stressing the importance of the individual, coach De Bruyn will never allow that to become more important than the team ethos.
“One philosophy that is clear in our team, and every team member is in the same position, is that while we will work out how to meet a player’s personal needs, that can never overtake the team goals. We’ve created a culture of success here, we’ve built something special over the last five years,” he said.
And tradition will continue to play an important role in a club that has produced such stars as Mike Macaulay, Syd Burke, Alan Jordaan, Hein Raath, Tertius Bosch, Anton Ferreira, Martin van Jaarsveld, Jacques Rudolph, New Zealand Test cricketers Neil Wagner and Kruger van Wyk, AB de Villiers, Marchant de Lange, Morne and Albie Morkel, Paul Harris, Faf du Plessis, CJ de Villiers and Zimbabwe’s Kyle Jarvis.
“Guys have come through this system that have such character and tremendous attitudes and I really believe in that sort of tradition. We’re very fortunate to have this environment at Tuks, there are excellent services and support and we have the structures, I believe, to take on the best in the world,” De Bruyn said.
And the results bear that out.
2014 will be remembered as another phenomenal year for the Tuks cricket team. They are the world champions in the only global university cricket competition – the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals, they completed a hat-trick of titles in the Momentum National Club Championships (unbeaten through 18 games) and they have won the Northerns Premier League for the last five years.
De Bruyn, though, will be focused on ensuring his team improve even more.
“It’s a fast-moving environment and it’s tough. The players are training and competing with first-class cricketers day in and day out and the club is basically like a full-time high-performance programme for the Titans.
“If I’m one percent unprepared as a coach then it can cost a young player his dreams. I have to be very sharp as the coach and stay one step ahead otherwise it will cost the player,” De Bruyn said.
A coach with such high standards for himself will undoubtedly be inspirational for his charges and the success of the Tuks team bears this out.