I would like to talk about two guys who played test cricket for England, but also taught me at Oakham School in Rutland when I was aged 14-17.
Frank Hayes and David Steele were incredible teachers and superb sportsmen. David taught cricket only, and he had actually been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1975. Frank was my chemistry and physics teacher but he also helped out with cricket. Together they really fuelled my enthusiasm for the sport.
The way Frank taught science was smart. He taught us theory through storytelling – mini tales that helped us to remember what we needed. In exams, rather than recall reams and reams of theory that had been plastered all over whiteboards for months, we would call up the stories that Frank had told and the answers would be within them.
On top of that, his classes were very practical. It was trial-and-error stuff, a method of teaching that has always worked very well for me. He would bring in cricket bats and balls to explain things – I don’t know what, angles or velocity maybe. I remember that he rarely drew on the whiteboard. Everyone has teachers who relentlessly hammer away with a marker pen or a piece of chalk, and you leave the class feeling like your brain has been frazzled. Not Frank.
In cricket, he would break everything down to its simplest form. Cricket is a sport where things can quickly get very complicated and detailed; it’s quite tempting to drill into it with video analysis and whatnot. Frank taught us that if your basics are solid, the rest will fall into place. I use that theory now as a professional.
David was different: he was pure cricket. He is a huge character, and to this day he does the best after-dinner speaking there is. He has made a career out of it now, but back then he was superb at firing our enthusiasm by talking and telling stories. It was never “get in the nets and work, work, work”. You would stroll around the boundary with him and he would tell you about the past, about how he used to face the Australians, and it just made you want to play.
They worked rather well as a duo. Frank was more serious than David, who was relaxed about absolutely everything. You would rarely find him in a bad mood, apart from when people were late – that was an absolute no-no, something that has stuck with me throughout my career. Frank was probably a bit more direct in his coaching – he would get you in the nets and would work on different techniques – but David was all about the theatre of cricket. The majesty. The excitement.
For both of them, I guess, it came down to storytelling. Kids like stories. It’s not exactly revolutionary.
This article first featured in the 11 July 2014 issue of TES. Stuart Broad was speaking to Tom Cullen. Broad is a cricket ambassador for Investec, the sponsor of test cricket in England.