Planet Rugby Book Review: In the Zone
Thursday 10th January 2008
We review the new book, In the Zone - with South Africa's Sports Heroes
- How to Achieve in Sport and Life by Michael Cooper and Tim Goodenough.
In a country with a paucity of decent sports coaching and sports theoretical
literature, one welcomes the publication of In the Zone - with South
Africa's Sports Heroes - How to Achieve in Sport and Life by Michael
Cooper and Tim Goodenough. It is certainly aimed at the sharp end
of coaching and at elite performance.
It is a hybrid of theory and interview profiles of leading sports
stars and how they try to get themselves and/or their team into the
Holy Grail that is 'the Zone'. One often hears of this elusive state
of mind that is the athletes' nirvana - that of being "in the
zone", which is the "state of performing at or beyond your
And certainly they have chosen a stellar line-up of South African
athletes that certainly have the stature and record to be equipped
to talk about elite performance and operating in this sought after
zone. The likes of Gary Kirsten and Lucas Radebe are athletes who,
arguably, may have exceeded their natural ability to become amongst
the most rated sportsmen in their fields worldwide, known and respected
- both for their mental toughness on the field and being quality individuals
off it. But it also includes leading sportsmen and women like Naas
Botha, cricketers Jonty Rhodes, Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock, Roland
Schoeman, Mr Practice makes Perfect, Gary Player, Sprinter Geraldine
Pillay and Olympic rower Donovan Cech.
From the coaching perspective, there are interviews with Nick Mallett
and Jake White as well as Sherylle Calder, who has made acclaimed
inputs to the World Cup-winning teams of England in 2003 and South
Africa in 2007.
These collations of profiles are fascinating, almost worthy of a book
on their own. They are very subjective profiles and do not offer any
critique of the athletes or their (mental) techniques, but they are
still a refreshing change from the relatively banal profiles and glib
interviews that proliferate around the world of South Africa's sports
media. Here is some real insight if you are interested in what makes
our top sports people tick in their elite competitive environments.
Depending on how you view it, fortunately or unfortunately, these
profiles make up only half the book. The remainder is the theory that
Cooper and Goodenough offer. They use scary terms such as Meta-Coaching
and Meta-Detailing that could scare off some of us. But this is not
designed to be a popularist read but a technical, informative, educational
book. Having said that it is extremely well presented and the style
of Cooper and Goodenough (both Meta Coaches (!)) is extremely readable.
It is well-packaged as they focus on 13 skills that are required to
get into the zone, in what is termed a "breakthrough model".
If you are interested in elite sport it is a treat to read a work
that is localised, yet internationally relevant and does talk of the
sharp end of sport. Even if you are not interested in the theory,
the profiles are thoroughly fascinating. SA Sport needs more books