'To become a coach at 20 years old was a bit strange'

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More insight from Donovan...

Donovan Miller became a coach at the tender age of 20, and now runs his own coaching company, directs the Chris Gayle Academy and works with Essex CCC.

He will be contributing a series of articles over the coming months about his coaching experiences, philosophy and the work he does with the community, as well as offering an expert view on the game at the highest level.

Here, he writes about how his coaching journey began and where it has taken him - from Melbourne Cricket Club to the streets of London...

First tentative steps

I got into coaching when I was about 20 years old. I wasn't thinking it was something I wanted to do as my dream was to become a professional cricketer, that's all I ever wanted to do since I was about seven.

To become a coach at 20 years old was a bit strange.

It all happened when one of my team-mates at a Middlesex club I was playing at asked me if I wanted to do a Level 1 coaching course. For some reason when he asked me I thought: "Is he being serious? I'm 20 years old, I haven't seen many 20 year old coaches, why does he want me to get into coaching?"

I thought, "You know what, it's summer, I'm not doing anything, bar trying to play cricket so why not go and do it."

I went on the Level 1 course, through the Middlesex Cricket Board, and my tutor was Graeme West. He said to me I have really good people skills so I should carry on and do my badges.

I went to coach in South London and when I went there, there were some really talented guys playing in the park and one had a tag on his foot so I asked him “What's that on your feet?” and he explained that he had just been released from prison.

He was about the same age as me, and the conversation we were having made me a bit nervous. He was so talented, I felt he should be playing a good level of cricket yet here he was, just released from prison.

That kind of touched my heart at the time and made me want to do more. The way he was talking to me and the way him and his mates were listening, I feel like I could have offered more so that has spurred me on.

I've fallen in love with the community and the work I'm doing, at that time I felt I could always give something back.

That was the first coaching session I did. After that going back to clubs and coaching kids was a piece of cake for me.

I was thinking to myself from that age there must be something that can help guys like himself to keep him away from whatever trouble he's been in.

From playing to coaching

Here I am, left, taking a wicket - always a good feeling!

Here I am, left, taking a wicket - always a good feeling!
©Donovan Miller

I came over here from the West Indies in the late 1990s, and I came from a club - Melbourne Cricket Club - with a very rich culture, with some really legendary cricketers like Michael Holding. I remember being in the same team as Courtney Walsh as a youngster so when I came here all I wanted to do was play.

However, I began to think that maybe there is a different route if playing doesn't work out, that's when I started thinking this might not happen and I need to carry on what I'm doing, and that's what really got me into coaching.

So I did my Level 2, then found myself doing lots of Chance to Shine work, community work and playing a little bit of semi-professional cricket to earn some cash. I played a little bit of 2nd XI here and there, a bit of minor county cricket then coached during the week.

National recognition and making a difference

In 2011 I won the Chance To Shine Street Coach of the Year award, and that was for voted by young people across England.

We used to have loads of national street competitions where we brought four to five teams down from London, Birmingham, then teams from Liverpool and all over England. The young people voted me as best coach, but it wasn't so much about the cricket coaching, more about how I came across to them.

Listening to some of the stuff some of the young people wrote about me was very emotional and touching; it was very pleasing to see I was making that type of impact on young peoples’ lives.

Receiving the Chance To Shine Street Coach Of The Year award - a great honour

Receiving the Chance To Shine Street Coach Of The Year award - a great honour
©Donovan Miller

The following year, which was even stranger, I was voted again for coach of the year, so I had won it two years in a row. It's strange because they really kind of keep it so the same person doesn't win the award twice in a row, but I was doing such strong work in the community they kept getting calls from the young people, so when they discussed it again from what I heard it was hard to not give me the award again.

That was a very proud moment in my life, knowing that I've come a long way from something I didn't plan out, but understanding how it works and falling in love with what I'm doing is really rewarding.

That's how I got into coaching, that kind of gave me ideas and thoughts on how can I get better and continue helping young people.

I always try look for the best opportunities to educate myself, always looking for ways to give back and that's how the Chris Gayle Academy has come about.

© Cricket World 2016

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