MANY of the best sports teams in recent years have, by and large, been self-regulating. It should be the end goal for every coach, manager and administrator, but all too often they see it as their duty to make the rules and then enforce them.

Professional players should be given the opportunity to suggest how they would like to be treated and what an appropriate sanction would be if they do not adhere to their own standards. And they should also be given the chance to review certain rules and regulations which have been in place and passed their sell-by date.

Take the team’s dress code as an example. If the management imposes the wearing of blazers and ties — for virtually any function — there will be resentment, guaranteed. But leave them alone together in a room and ask only for them to reach a consensus, and they will supply a list of occasions on which the wearing of "No 1’ is appropriate. Guaranteed.

Impose a night-time curfew and there will be resentment. Ask the players to discuss an appropriate time for them to be back at the team hotel while on tour, and reach a consensus, and they will — guaranteed.

Depending on the collective maturity of the team, they may decide that a "guideline" would be more appropriate than a hard and fast deadline.

The same applies to voluntary or compulsory practices, autograph signing commitments, wives and girlfriends on tour, visitors to the change room — just about everything. And for every regulation and guideline in their self-constructed code of conduct, there would have to be a set of consequences, all agreed to by majority consent. Only then should the manager and CE hold their disciplinary committees along with the captain and/or senior player.

One of the most important skills of the management team is then how to deal with the persistent, "petty crime" offender, the man who persistently wears brown shoes instead of black and arrives back at 10:45pm instead of 10:30pm.

These infringements can and usually are described as "harmless" and punishments are invariably described as petty and draconian by those looking in from the outside.

The management’s most important decision is whether the miscreant’s deeds are performance affecting or not. Wearing the wrong shoes clearly is not. Staying out later than everyone else might be.

But if the players made those rules, then they are obviously important to the majority of them. If they all made the effort to wear black shoes and be back at 10:30pm, why couldn’t the errant one? Eventually that behaviour takes its toll and the conforming players start taking "street revenge" and setting up parody Twitter accounts to humiliate the offender.

The management’s most important decision is whether the miscreant’s deeds are performance affecting or not. Wearing the wrong shoes clearly is not. Staying out later than everyone else might be.

England’s problems with Kevin Pietersen were compounded by the lack of rule-making power for the players, or even feedback. And just as he did at every other team he played for, Pietersen pushed back against every rule and regulation he felt was imposed on him by Team England.

Head coach Andy Flower showed a great deal of restraint and patience over the years — but eventually the English system had its way and the conformist establishment said enough was enough and kicked Pietersen out.

He believes he is different and especially gifted, and many — but not everyone — believe he has neither grace nor humility.

The best captains and managers had humoured him and indulged his need for positive reinforcement. It was an exhausting job, but Michael Vaughan will be remembered as one of England’s greatest captains because he was prepared to do it.

Coping with the errant genius is a common problem, not a rare one.

As captain of West Indies Brian Lara travelled everywhere with his own car and driver on tour in SA and refused to use the team bus. Imagine what that did for team spirit.

On the whole SA has coped well with its maverick players over the years because punishing Herschelle Gibbs for wearing the wrong travel-day shirt (again!) or Daryll Cullinan for ... anything, would have denied the team their runs.

Every effort must be made to keep the best players in the team — but it cannot go on forever. At some point the relationship must end. The other 10 players will see to that.

See more articles

Our Network