Graham Reid still remembers the day that, in hindsight, changed his life. While working in Information Technology in 2008 — apart from developing a neat CV coaching club hockey sides — he took a call from Ric Charlesworth. His compatriot wanted to ask Reid whether he was interested in joining the men's Australian team as an assistant coach if Charlesworth got the job in early 2009. After due consideration, he left his job — he was a director at Organised 1st, a company he co-founded in 2000 — to join the Kookaburras.
In the nine years since then, his job has given him some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. In one of the first full-length interviews to an Indian daily since being appointed as India's new chief coach, the 55-year-old speaks about his unique entry to full-time coaching, the influence of Charlesworth,
managing expectations and striking a balance between process and results. Excerpts...
Your LinkedIn profile summary is curious to say the least. You seem to have worked in organisational change, people management, e-learning et. al. You have also worked in industries such as oil and gas, mining, credit insurance and so on.
(Laughs). I worked in IT for 15 years. I first did a Bachelors of Applied Science in Computer Science at Queensland University of Technology. After finishing my playing days at the 1992 Games, I went to Holland. By this time, I had started both my careers (coaching as well as IT). While I was coaching club sides in The Netherlands, I got into credit insurance.
After I got back to Perth in 1995, I was in the IT field for another five to six years. Then, we started our own company (Organised 1st). It essentially involved telling people how to handle e-mail, paperwork and so on. This was just as Y2K happened. This was when I came into contact with the stock exchange,
oil and mining and gas... lots of different things. It was really interesting because with the company, we actually went back to people's desks and helped them through their workloads. What were they doing so you got a good understanding of how people work, including CEOs.
In the 16 years from 1992 to 2008, you were coaching on and off. So how did you jump into it full-time?
I remember the day. I gave it up for about five years when we started our own company. Then, I got back into it again. I remember getting a call from Ric Charlesworth. This was in 2008 just after the Olympics. He asked me: 'If I get the job next year with the Australian team, would you like to be my assistant.'
I had always loved coaching but I had never done it full-time. I thought, 'jee, full-time. That's a big step.' I did say yes and four years into it (in 2013) I was really enjoying it... that was the other thing because I didn't know how much I would enjoy it. That's how I went full-time. Then he (Charlesworth) finished after the 2014 World Cup and that's when I applied for the job and got it.
Charlesworth and you also had an interaction before you applied for the India job...
Yeah. He said, 'look, I know they (India) are looking for someone.' He said stuff like 'I think it's really good timing for you but also for India. You are a good match with the Indian mentality'. We had worked together here in Mumbai and I had also worked with Roelant (Oltmans). I knew what I was getting into and I was fairly familiar with a few of the players through Hockey India League. The icing on the cake was my wife being very supportive of the idea.
Did you ever have any considerations before coming? Like, for example, hockey coaches don't survive for too long in India.
Any coach would think of that. Any of the contact I had with Hockey India was all about "needing to have a stable environment" because I think the talent is there. It just needs time to develop. Of course, everyone always wants the results these days. Therefore it's a very hard profession to be in; you need the results straightaway. I am not here for the money, I want to come here and I want to take Indian hockey back to where it belongs. I also thought it was important that Julia (wife) comes here with me so that it's not... sometimes it may feel like a fly-in, fly-out kind of thing. The players feel that or sense
that. If I am to make a difference, then I need to make sure we provide a stable environment for these guys (players) and give them the confidence they need to flourish.
You spoke about taking Indian hockey back to its glory days. But there is also a need to manage expectations...
That is a very different thing. All countries have it, even in Australia at the Olympics. It doesn't matter where you are ranked but the minimum expectation is a medal. It is hard to hose (it) down. I suppose the thing is just getting people to understand where the game is, especially with the men. It's very close
Your first task is finishing as one of the finalists at the FIH Series Finals. And this tournament is tricky because you will be preparing against unknowns...
The big thing for me is ensuring that your own backyard is in place. It's about us... the way we play. If we play really well and do all the things that we want to do, then it's difficult for any team to play their own game. We are trying to disrupt the other team as much as possible. So it doesn't matter who you
play, those principles should remain the same. I am also not a big believer in changing all the tactics every time we play. Maybe that's one of the things Belgium did very well during that period (when they rose to the top). They tried thinking that 'this is where we want to be and this is the way we want to
play' and they moved towards that rather than thinking about the results all the time. That's difficult in this environment where results are important not only for the public but also for my job. But it's something I have been really trying to mix... you have to play the way that you want to play. And I know that if we end up playing our way, then we will achieve things that we need to.
How do you marry necessary process with desired results?
My belief is to make sure that everyone is aware of the goal. Then, you need to articulate the process through which we are going to get there. 'Does everyone understand? That's where we are headed to and this is the way we are going to go in to get there. Now let's get back to what we need to do.'