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Paddy Upton is a Head Coach in Professional T20 cricket, Mental Coach to professional athletes, Executive Coach and Professor of Practice at Deakin University. Changing careers, following a second master’s degree in Business Coaching from Middlesex University (2003), and along with Gary Kirsten as Head Coach, Paddy was appointed Mental Conditioning and Strategic Leadership Coach of the Indian National team in 2008. Under Kirsten and Upton, the team attained ICC top test team ranking for the first time (2009) and went on to win the ICC World Cup in 2011. Following this success, Paddy was appointed Performance Director of the South Africa Cricket Team from 2011-2014 during which they became the first team to simultaneously hold the Offical ICC World Number 1 ranking in all three formats of the international game. Between 2012-2018, Upton has been Head Coach in 12 professional T20 Cricket seasons for five different teams across three tournaments including the Indian Premier League, Australian Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League.

He recently published the book – The Barefoot Coach (Published by Westland Publications Pvt Ltd), which distils the key insights from working with some of the world’s leading cricketers. In this conversations we speak about how Paddy has thought about his journey, his perspectives on how the world of coaching is evolving over time, views on excellence, need for personal mastery along with professional mastery, why mental toughness is over-rated and more.

Published in September 2019.

Physical trainer to Leadership Coach

Paddy speaks about the journey and the various steps he took as he moved from being the fitness trainer for the South African cricket team between 1994 and 1998 to becoming the Strategic Leadership and Mental Conditioning Coach (working closely with Gary Kirsten) of the Indian Cricket team between 2008 and 2011 (helping them win the World Cup in 2011).

Going on an inner journey

Paddy speaks about how he went on an internal journey over a period of time that gave him a deeper understanding of himself. He speaks about how he tried a range of things including mindfulness techniques, meditation, breath work and Yoga. He also speaks about how he attended several 2-3 day sessions including the Landmark Forum that gave him an opportunity to explore himself.

Building trust with the Indian Cricket team

Paddy speaks about how he and Gary Kirsten spent the first few months building trust with the players of the Indian cricket team when they were appointed. Given that they were coming from a different culture and with limited prior experience in a similar high-stakes context, it was critical for them to land well.

Setting goal-posts with the Indian Cricket team

Paddy speaks about the 4 goals that Gary Kirsten and he set out along with the Indian cricket team when they started working in 2007. 1) Becoming the No.1 test team in the world 2) Winning the 2011 ICC World Cup 3) Creating a happy team environment and 4) Helping players become better people. He speaks about the process they followed to get to the answer.

Sachin Tendulkar and personal mastery

Paddy speaks about how personal mastery is something that people need to pursue deliberately in addition to professional mastery. He speaks about how Sachin Tendulkar went about his journey of growing as a cricketer and as a human being. He also speaks about how this is much more important today than it might have been a couple of decades back.

Gautam Gambhir and the straight drive

Paddy speaks about how Gautam Gambhir was once trying to perfect his straight drive. He noticed that his shots were often going square of the wicket and he wanted to correct that. Expert inputs from accomplished players who understood the technique well didn’t quite help him sort out the issue. Paddy speaks about how he guided Gautam to listen to his own body and tune into his uniqueness to find the answer.

Dealing with failure

Paddy speaks about how great sportsmen deal with failure. We specifically reflect on how Kane Williamson handled himself when New Zealand lost the world cup to England despite being level on scores and how Roger Federer dealt with losing the Wimbledon finals despite having two match points earlier in the game. Paddy expands on the notion of focusing on processes versus outcomes.

Zooming in and out

Paddy speaks about cricketers zoom in on the moment at hand while at the same time zoom out and are situationally aware of where the game is poised. He speaks about the need for staying in the present (rather than dwelling in a past error or a future goal) for people to perform at the highest level.

Link between mentally tough and psychopaths

Paddy speaks about why mental toughness is a term that gets used a lot but there is limited research around what it is and how athletes can build it. He speaks about the criticality of embracing the doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities rather than trying to suppress them.

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