Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Toronto , Canada — What experiences makes a coach of an international sports team? Wikinews interviewed Tom Kyle, the coach of the Australia women’s national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Gliders, in Toronto for the 2014 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship.

((Wikinews)) Tell us about yourself. First of all, where were you born?

Tom Kyle: I was born in Cooma, in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. Way back in 1959. Fifteenth of June. Grew up in the Snowy Mountains Scheme with my family. At that stage my father worked for the Snowy scheme. And started playing sport when I was very young. I was a cricketer when I first started. Then about the age of 12, 13 I discovered basketball. Because it had gotten too cold to do all the sports that I wanted to do, and we had a lot of rain one year, and decided then that for a couple of months that we’d have a go at basketball.

((WN)) So you took up basketball. When did you decide… did you play for the clubs?

Tom Kyle: I played for Cooma. As a 14-year-old I represented them in the under-18s, and then as a 16-year-old I represented them in the senor men’s competition. We played in Canberra as a regional district team. At the age of 16 is when I first started coaching. So I started coaching the under-14 rep sides before the age of 16. So I’m coming up to my forty years of coaching.

((WN)) So you formed an ambition to be a coach at that time?

Tom Kyle: Yeah, I liked the coaching. Well I was dedicated to wanting to be a PE [Physical Education] teacher at school. And in Year 12 I missed out by three marks of getting the scholarship that I needed. I couldn’t go to university without a scholarship, and I missed out by three marks of getting in to PE. So I had a choice of either doing a Bachelor of Arts and crossing over after year one, or go back and do Year 12 [again]. Because of my sport in Cooma, because I played every sport there was, and my basketball started to become my love.

((WN)) } You still played cricket?

Tom Kyle: Still played cricket. Was captain of the ACT [Australian Capital Territory] in cricket at the age of 12. Went on to… potentially I could have gone further but cricket became one of those sports where you spend all weekend, four afternoons a week…

((WN)) I know what it’s like.

Tom Kyle: At that stage I was still an A grade cricketer in Cooma and playing in Canberra, and rugby league and rugby union, had a go at AFL [Australian Football League], soccer. Because in country towns you play everything. Tennis on a Saturday. Cricket or football on a Sunday. That sort of stuff so… And then basketball through the week.

((WN)) So you didn’t get in to PE, so what did you do?

Tom Kyle: I went back and did Year 12 twice. I repeated Year 12, which was great because it allowed me to play more of the sport, which I loved. Didn’t really work that much harder but I got the marks that I needed to get the scholarship to Wollongong University. It was the Institute of Education at that stage. So I graduated high school in ’78, and started at the Institute of Education Wollongong in ’79, as a health and PE — it was a double major. So a dual degree, a four year degree. After two years there they merged the Institute of Education with the University of Wollongong. So I got a degree from the University of Wollongong and I got a degree from the Institute of Education. So I graduated from there in ’83. At that stage I was coaching and playing rep basketball in Wollongong in their team underneath the NBL I played state league there for Shellharbour. Still coaching as well with the University, coaching the university sides. It was there that I met up with Doctor Adrian Hurley, who was then one of the Australian coaches, and he actually did some coaching with me when I was at the University, in the gym. So that gave me a good appreciation of coaching and the professionalism of it. He really impressed me and inspired me to do a bit more of it. So in ’84 I got married and I moved to Brisbane, and started teaching and looking after the sport of basketball and tennis at Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane.

((WN)) You moved to Brisbane for the job?

Tom Kyle: Yes, I was given a job and a house. The job basically entailed looking after their gymnasium and doing some part-time teaching as well as being the basketball convener and tennis convener. I looked after those sports for the private boys school. Churchie is a very big school in Brisbane and so I did that in ’84 with my wife at that stage and we lived on the premises. In 1985 I took a team of fifteen boys from Churchie into the United States for a couple of summer camp tours which we do, and I got involved in the Brisbane Bullets team at that stage, getting them moved in to Churchie to train. The Brisbane Bullets was the NBL team in Brisbane at the time. So that got me involved in the Brisbane coaching and junior basketball. I was actually in charge of junior basketball for the Brisbane association. As part of that, I coached at Churchie as well. Looked after some things at the Brisbane Bullets’ home games. So that got me well and truly involved in that. And then in ’85 was the birth of my first son, and with that came a bit of change of priorities, so then in 1986 I moved back to Sydney. I got offered a job at Harbord Diggers Memorial Club at Harbord, looking after their sports centre. So I saw that as an opportunity to get out of, I suppose, the teaching side of things at that stage didn’t appeal to me, the coaching side did, the teaching side and the fact that you had to follow the curriculums, and some of the things you weren’t allowed to have fun, to me if you’re going to learn you’ve got to have fun. So that was my sort of enough for the teaching side, I figured I’d go and do something else, and get to keep my coaching alive on the side. So I moved back to Sydney, with my family and my young son. I had a second son in 1987, and I started coaching the Manly-Warringah senior men’s and development league teams. We were in the state league at that stage. So I had both of those teams and I was coaching them, travelling around the north of the state, and competing. We were fortunate enough we came second the year I was the head coach of the men in the state competition for our area. That gave me a whole new perspective of coaching, because it was now senior men’s coaching as well as junior men’s. We had people like Ian Davies coming out of the NBL at Sydney and trying out wanting to play with the men’s squad. Fair quality in that group. The Dalton boys came out of that program. I didn’t coach them, but Brad and Mark Dalton who played for the Kings. That gave me a good couple of years. At that stage I’d changed jobs. I’d actually moved up to Warringah Aquatic Centre in Sydney. Which was at the time the state swimming centre. And I was the director of that for a year. Or eighteen, nineteen months. In that time we held the selection criteria for the 1988 Seoul Olympics swimming. So the national championships and what they call the Olympic selection qualifiers. So we held them at the Warringah Aquatic Centre when I was in charge of it which made it quite an interesting thing, because there I got to see elite sport at its best. Australian swimming. All the swimmers coming through. Lisa Curry has just retired, and I saw her. All the swimmers going to Seoul. That gave me a good appreciation of professional sport, as well as managing sports facilities. So I was there for two years, eighteen months basically. And we’d made a decision that we wanted to come back to Brisbane. So moved back to Brisbane in 1989, to take up a job as a marketing officer at the Department of Recreation at Brisbane City Council. That was my full-time job. Meanwhile, again, I got involved in a bit of coaching. My sons were looking at becoming involved, they were going through St Peter Chanel School at The Gap, and that was a feeder school for Marist Brothers Ashgrove in Brisbane, which was a big Catholic boys’ school in Brisbane. So I started to get involved in Marist Brothers Ashgrove basketball program, and I became the convener of basketball as well as the head coach there for about seven or eight years running their program, while my boys, obviously, were going through the school. That was a voluntary thing, because I was still working for the [Brisbane City] Council when I first started. At that stage I’d also quit the council job and started my own IT [Information Technology] company. Which was quite interesting. Because as a sideline I was writing software. At Warringah Aquatic Centre one of the things when I got there they didn’t have a computer system, they only had a cash register. And I asked them about statistics and the council didn’t have much money, they said, “well, here’s an old XT computer”, it was an old Wang actually, so it was not quite an XT.

((WN)) I know the ones.

Tom Kyle: You know the ones?

((WN)) Yes.

Tom Kyle: And they gave me that, and they said, “Oh, you got no software.” One of the guys at council said “we’ve got an old copy of DataEase. We might give you that,” which old an old database programming tool. So I took that and I wrote a point of sale system for the centre. And then we upgraded from DataEase, we went to dBase III and dBase IV. Didn’t like dBase IV, it had all these bugs in it, so my system started to crash. So I’d go home at night and write the program, and then come back and put it into the centre during the day so they could collect the statistics I wanted. It was a simple point of sale system, but it was effective, and then we upgraded that to Clipper and I started programming object orientated while I was there, and wrote the whole booking system, we had bookings for the pools, learn-to-swim bookings, point of sale. We actually connected it to an automatic turnstyle with the coin entry so it gave me a whole heap of new skills in IT that I never had before, self-taught, because I’d never done any IT courses, when I went to Brisbane City Council and that didn’t work out then I started my own computer company. I took what I’d written in Clipper and decided to rewrite that in Powerbuilder. You’ve probably heard of it.

((WN)) Yes.

Tom Kyle: So that’s when I started my own company. Walked out of the Brisbane City Council. I had an ethical disagreement with my boss, who spent some council money going to a convention at one place and doing some private consultancy, which I didn’t agree with Council funds being done like that, so I resigned. Probably the best move of my business life. It then allowed me then to become an entrepreneur of my own, so I wrote my own software, and started selling a leisure package which basically managed leisure centres around the country. And I had the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] as one of my clients.

((WN)) Oh!

Tom Kyle: Yes, they have a turnstyle entry system and learn-to-swim booking system and they were using it for many years. Had people all over the country. I ended up employing ten people in my company, which was quite good, right through to, I suppose, 1997?, somewhere in there. And I was still coaching full time, well, not full time, but, voluntary, for about 35 hours a week at Ashgrove at the time, as well as doing, I did the Brisbane under-14 rep side as well, so that gave me a good appreciation of rep basketball. So I’d been coaching a lot of school basketball in that time. And then in 2000 I decided to give that away and went to work for Jupiters Casino. Bit of a change. I started as a business analyst and ended up as a product development manager. I was doing that, I was going through a divorce, still coaching at Ashgrove, I had been at Ashgrove now from 1992 through to 2003. I had been coaching full time as the head coach, coordinator of all the coaches and convener of the sport for the school. We won our competitions a number of times. We went to the state schools competition as a team there one year. Which we did quite well. Didn’t win it but, did quite well. In 2003 my boys had finished at school and I’d got a divorce at that stage. Been offered another opportunity to go to Villanova College, which was a competing school across the other side of the river. So I started head coaching there for five years. It was there where I started to get into wheelchair basketball. It is an interesting story, because at that stage I’d moved on from Jupiters Casino. I’d actually started working for various companies, and I ended up with Suncorp Metway as a project manager. Got out of my own company and decided to earn more money as a consultant. [evil laugh]

((WN)) A common thing.

Tom Kyle: But it was in Suncorp Metway where I got into wheelchair basketball.

((WN)) How does that happen?

Tom Kyle: At the time I was spending about 35 to 40 hours a week at Villanova College, coaching their program and my new wife, Jane, whom you’ve met…

((WN)) Who is now the [Gliders’] team manager.

Tom Kyle: Correct. She was left out a little bit because I’d be with the guys for many many hours. We did lot of good things together because I had a holistic approach to basketball. It’s not about just playing the game, it’s about being better individuals, putting back into your community and treating people the right way, so we used to do a lot of team building and […] cause you’re getting young men at these schools, trying to get them to become young adults. And she saw what we were doing one time, went to an awards dinner, and she was basically gobsmacked by what relationship we had with these boys. How well mannered they were and what influence we had. How these boys spoke of the impact on their lives. It was where she said to me, “I really want to get involved in that. I want to be part of that side of your life.” And I said, “Okay, we might go out and volunteer.” We put our names down at Sporting Wheelies, the disabled association at the time, to volunteer in disabled sports. Didn’t hear anything for about four months, so I thought, oh well, they obviously didn’t want me. One of my colleagues at work came to me and he said “Tom, you coach wheelchair basketball?” I said, “yeah, I do.” And he said, “Well, my son’s in a wheelchair, and his team’s looking for a coach. Would you be interested?” And I thought about it. And I said, “Well, coaching for about 35 hours a week over here at Villanova School. I don’t think my wife will allow me to coach another 20 hours somewhere else, but give me the information and I’ll see what we can do.” He gave me the forms. I took the forms home. It was actually the Brisbane Spinning Bullets, at that stage, which was the National [Wheelchair Basketball] League team for Queensland. They were looking for coaching staff. I took the forms home, which was a head coach role, an assistant head coach role, and a manager role. I left them on the bench, my wife Jane took a look at it and said, “Hey! They’re looking for a manager! If I’d be the manager, you could be the head coach, it’s something we could do it together. We always said we’d do something together, and this is an opportunity.” I said, “Okay, if you want to do that. I’m still not going to drop my Villanova commitments, I’m going to keep that going. So that was in the beginning of 2008. So we signed up and lo and behold, I got the appointment as the head coach and she got the appointment as the manager. So it was something we started to share. Turned up at the first training session and met Adrian King and Tige Simmonds, Rollers, Australian players… I’d actually heard of Adrian because we’d had a young boy at Ashgrove called Sam Hodge. He was in a chair and he brought Adrian in for a demonstration one day. I was quite impressed by the way he spoke, and cared about the kids. So to me it was like an eye-opener. So I started coaching that year, started in January–February, and obviously it was leading in to the Paralympics in 2008, Beijing. And coaching the team, I started coaching the national League, a completely different came, the thing I liked about it is wheelchair basketball is like the old-school basketball, screen and roll basketball. You can’t get anywhere unless somebody helps you get there. It’s not one-on-one like the able-bodied game today. So that was really up my alley, and I really enjoyed that. I applied a couple of things the boys hadn’t actually seen, and as it turns out, I ended up coaching against the [Perth] Wheelcats in a competition round. And I didn’t at the time know, that the guy on the other bench was Ben Ettridge, the head coach for the Rollers. And after the weekend we shook hands and he said, “I really like what you do, what you’re trying to do with this group. And he said I like the way you coach and your style. Would you be interested if the opportunity came up to come down to Canberra and participate in a camp. He said “I can’t pay you to be there, but if you want to come along…” I said “Absolutely. I’ll be there.” So about three or four weeks later I get a phone call from Ben and he said “We’ve got a camp coming up in February, would you like to come in?” I said: “Yep, absolutely”, so I went and flew myself down there and attended the camp. Had a great time getting to know the Rollers, and all of that, and I just applied what I knew about basketball, which wasn’t much about wheelchair, but a lot about basketball, ball movement and timing. And I think he liked what he saw. The two of us got on well. And out of that camp they were getting the team prepared to go to Manchester. They were going into Varese first, Manchester for the British Telecom Paralympic Cup that they have in May, which is an event that they do prior to some of these major events. That was 2009, my mistake, after Beijing; so the camp was after Beijing as well. So I was sitting at Suncorp Metway running a big CRM program at the time, because they had just merged with Promina Insurances, so they’d just acquired all these companies like AAMI, Vero and all those companies, so we had all of these disparate companies and we were trying to get a single view of the customer, so I was running a major IT project to do that. And I get a phone call from Ben on the Friday, and he said “Look, Tom, we’re going to Varese in the May, and we’re going on to Manchester.” I said, “I know”. And he said, “Craig Friday, my assistant coach, can’t make it. Got work commitments.” I said: “Oh, that’s no good.” And he said: “Would you be interested in going?” And I said “Well, when’s that?” And he said: “Monday week.” And this was on the Friday. And I said: “Look, I’m very interested, but let me check with my boss, because I [am] running a big IT project.” So I went to my boss on the Friday and I said “Look, I am very keen to do this Australian opportunity. Two weeks away. You okay if I take two weeks off?” And he said. “Oh, let me think about it.” The Monday was a public holiday, so I couldn’t talk to him then. And I said “Well, I need to know, because it’s Monday week, and I need to let him know.” And he said, “I’ll let you know Tuesday morning.” So I sort of thought about it over the weekend, and I rang Ben on the Sunday night I think it was, and I said “I’m in!” He said: “Are you okay with work?” I said: “Don’t worry about that, I’ll sort it out.” Anyway, walked into work on Tuesday morning and the boss said… and I said I just to put it on the table: I’m going. You need to decide whether you want me to come back.” And he said: “What?!” And I said, “Well, I love my basketball. My basketball has been my life for many years, many, many hours. Here’s an opportunity to travel with an Australian side. I’m telling you that I’m taking the opportunity, and you need to determine whether you want me back. ” And he said: “Really?” And I said: “Yeah. Yeah. That’s it.” And he said: “Well, I’ll have to think about that.” And I said, “well you think about it but I’ve already told the Australian coach I’m going. It’s a decision for you whether you want me back. If you don’t, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem.” So on the Wednesday he came back and said: “We’re not going to allow you to go.” I said: “Well, I’m going. So here’s my resignation.” He says: “You’d really do that?” And I said: “Absolutely.” And I resigned. So on the Friday I finished up, and got on a plane on Monday, and headed to Varese as Ben’s assistant on the tour. Got to spend a bit more time with Tige Simmonds and Adrian and Justin and Brad and Shaun and all the boys and had a fabulous time. Learnt a lot. And then we went on to Manchester and learnt even more, and I think Ben was quite happy with what I’d done. With my technical background I took over all the video analysis stuff and did all that recording myself. We didn’t really want any hiccups so he was pretty happy with that. So after that Ben asked me if I would be interested in becoming an assistant coach with the under-23s, because the then-coach was Mark Walker and Ben Osborne was his assistant but he wanted somebody else who, as he put it, he could trust, in that group, because a number of his developing players were in that group. So that meant that I had some camps to do in June when I came back, and then in July, think it was July, 2009, went to England and Paris with the under-23s for the world championships. That was my first foray as an assistant coach officially with the Australian team, and I was the assistant coach. It was a combined team at that stage, boys and girls. Cobi Crispin was on that tour. Amber Merritt was on that tour. Adam Deans was on that tour, Colin Smith, Kim Robbins, John McPhail, all of those. There was a number of junior Rollers coming through that group. Bill Latham was on that tour. He really appreciated what I’d done there, and when Craig Friday said that he was having a family and couldn’t commit to the next year in 2010 which was the world championship year, Ben asked me to join the program. So that’s how I started. So in 2010 I attended my first official world championships with the Rollers, and we won.

((WN)) Yes!

Tom Kyle: So that was an amazing experience to go on that tour and to see what a championship team looks like under the competition of that ilk. And I was then the assistant coach basically right through to London. After London, Ben was quite happy for me to continue. I was doing it voluntarily. By this stage, 2011, I’d given up all the Villanova stuff so I concentrated just on the wheelchair and my Queensland group. And I started to build the Queensland junior program, which featured Tom O’Neill-Thorne, Jordon Bartley, Bailey Rowland, all of those sort of players. You probably don’t know too many of them, but,

((WN)) No.

Tom Kyle: They’re all the up-and-comers. And three of those were in last year’s, 2013 under-23s team. So in 2012 obviously we went to Varese then on to London for the Paras. Won silver in that. When I came back, Ben asked me to do the under-23s as the head coach, and asked me who I wanted as my assistant, so in the December, we, David Gould and I…

((WN)) So you selected David as your assistant?

Tom Kyle: Yes! Yes! Yes! I had a lot of dealings with David, seeing him with the Gliders. Liked what I saw. Plus I’d also seen him with the Adelaide Thunder. He was coaching them for a while, and I really liked the way he worked with kids. He’d also done a camp with the under-23s in 2012 because I couldn’t attend, himself and Sonia Taylor. What was Sonia’s previous name before she married Nick Taylor? […] Anyway, they did a development camp in January 2012 with the under-23s group because I couldn’t attend. Good feedback coming back from that. In the April, the Rollers had gone off to Verase, and there was an opportunity to go to Dubai with the under-23/25 age group. So David and Sonia took them to Dubai and did a good job with them, a really great job with them. So the job for the 23s came up in November 2012. I applied. Got the job. And then was asked who I would want as my assistants, and Ben told me who the other applicants were and I told him, yep, happy with both of those. David became my first assistant […] So we took the under-23s group in December. Had a couple of camps in the first part of 2013, getting ready for the world championships in Turkey in September. At that stage we got to about June, and the head coach for the Gliders came up as a full time position.

((WN)) They hadn’t had a full-time coach before.

Tom Kyle: No, it was all voluntary so John Triscari was, well, not voluntary; was getting a little bit of money, not a great deal.

((WN)) But it wasn’t a full time job.

Tom Kyle: No. So Basketball Australia decided that they needed a full-time coach, which was a big investment for them, and they thought this was the next step for the Gliders. So at the end of May, I remember talking to my wife, because at that stage she’d been on the Gliders’ tour as a replacement manager for Marion Stewart. Marion couldn’t go on a certain tour, to Manchester, so Jane filled in. And they talked to her about possibly becoming the manager of the Gliders moving forward if Marion ever wanted to retire. So in the May when the job came up I looked at it and went, well, can’t, it’s a conflict of interest, because if I put my name up, potentially Jane misses out on being the manager. Also I thought if Ben really wants me to go for it he would have asked me. He hasn’t mentioned it, so, I didn’t apply at first look at it. And then I was just happening to talk to Ben on the side about something else and he asked me if I had put in for the Gliders and I said no I hadn’t. And he asked me why, and I told him if you would have I probably would have, and with Jane. And he said Jane shouldn’t be an issue, and he said I want you to go for it. I said, well, if you’re happy, because I’m loyal to whoever I’m with, I said I’m loyal to you Ben, and at the end of the day I’d stay with the Rollers if you want me to stay with the Rollers. Because for me I enjoy doing whatever I’m doing, and I love the program. He said no, no, I want you to put in for it. So then I had to discuss it with the wife because it meant initially that would want us to move to Sydney. That was still in the cards. So Jane and I had a talk about that. And I said, look, I’d go for it on the condition that it didn’t interfere with Jane’s opportunity to become the manager. So I put in my resume, I got an interview, and in the interview I went to Sydney, and I put all the cards on the table. I said look, the bottom line is that if it’s going to jeopardize Jane’s chances of being the manager, I will opt out. And at that stage they said no, they see that as possibly a positive, rather than a negative. So I said okay, if that’s the case. It’s funny. On the day we had the interview I ran in David Gould back in the airport, because he’d obviously had his interview. And we were talking and I said: “Oh, I didn’t think you were going for it.” And he said, yeah, I wasn’t, because I don’t really want to move to Sydney. And I said, well that was one of the other reasons I did put in for it, because if you didn’t get it I wanted to make sure someone who was passionate about the Gliders to get it. And there’s a couple on the list who may be passionate, but I wasn’t sure. I knew you were, because we’d talked about it at the under-23s. So we had a chat there and I said, if he gets it, he’d put me as an assistant and if I get it I’d put him as an assistant. Because we’d worked so well with the under-23s together as a unit. And we do. We work very well together. We think alike, we both like to play the game etc. So it turns out in June I got a phone call from Steve Nick at that stage and got offered the job with the Gliders. So I started on the first of July full time with the Gliders, but I still had the under-23s to get through to September, so we had a camp, our first camp in July with the Gliders. Went to a national league round in Sydney and then we bused them down to Canberra for a camp. And that was quite an interesting camp because there were a lot of tears, a lot of emotion. It was the first camp since London. It was eighteen months, nearly two years since London [editor’s note: about ten months] and nobody had really contacted them. They’ve been after a silver medal, left. Just left. They were waiting for someone to be appointed and no one had been in touch. And all that sort of stuff. So we went through a whole cleansing exercise there to try and understand what they were going through. And I felt for the girls at that stage. ‘Cause they put a lot of work into being the Gliders, and they do all the time. But they felt disconnected. So that was an emotional camp, but as I said to David at the time, we’ve got to build this program. Since then we’ve been working through. We did the under-23 worlds with the junior boys in September in Turkey. They earned third, a bronze medal. Could have potentially played for gold, but just couldn’t get it going in the semifinal. And then we came back to the Gliders and got ready for Bangkok. Bangkok was our first tour with the Gliders, which was a huge success. Because we got some confidence in the group, and that’s one of the things we’re working on is building their confidence and a belief in themselves. Being able to put things together when it really counts. So that was one of our goals. So Bangkok was our first tour, and I think we achieved a lot there. Got a good team bonding happening there. We’ve since then been to Osaka in February, which was another good outing for the girls. Five day experience with playing five games against the Japanese. That was good. Then in March we brought them here [Canada] for a tournament with the Netherlands, Canada and Japan, and then down to the United States for a four game series against the US. And again, that was a good learning experience. Then back home for a month and then we got to go to Europe, where we played in Frankfurt for the four games, and to Papendal with the Netherlands team. We played three games there before we came here.

((WN)) So that’s a pretty detailed preparation.

Tom Kyle: Yeah, it’s been good. Pretty detailed. It’s been good though. We’re still growing as a group. We’re a lot stronger than we ever have been, I think, mentally. But we’re now starting to get to the real honesty phase, where we can tell each other what we need to tell each other to get the job done. That’s the breakthrough we’ve made in the last month. Whereas in the past I think we’ve been afraid to offend people with what we say. So now we’re just saying it and getting on with it. And we’re seeing some real wins in that space.

((WN)) Thank you!