We caught up with Former West Indies and now-Pakistan Super League Coach, Julien Fountain, about coaching in elite Cricket and his recent discovery of Jesus!
Growing up you were a talented Cricketer, spend some time with Somerset and then took up Baseball, what influenced you to make that switch?
I was pretty good as far as youth cricket goes, I was playing adult cricket quite early, so I was progressing nicely through the Somerset set up. Now I wasn’t particularly sharp and lots of the guys around me were starting to get given contracts to play at the top. Being a stupid kid I was really annoyed and not smart enough to realise that these guys were getting contracts because they were nineteen, I was only sixteen. So I jumped ship from Cricket to Baseball, threw my toys out of the pram and thought, well I am good at bat and ball games, let’s give this Baseball a crack because it looks quite a laugh. I was reasonably successful from a playing perspective but nothing like a proper contract in the States or anything. I tried out for a few pro teams but didn’t do enough to get selected.
Going on to represent GB in the Olympics, were those some of your proudest moments?
It was a proud moment to represent my country, it was so cool to put a Great Britain shirt on and actually up to that point I had always wanted to wear an England Cricket shirt. At that stage I just wanted to play pro sport and I desperately wanted to be a professional athlete, but at times in your life you just have to suck it up and move on. I was offered a couple of partial scholarships to go and play Baseball in the States but not enough to justify the move.
There’s obviously a very tight synergy between your cricket and baseball, you ended up then coaching England cricket youth teams. How did that come about?
A friend of mine from the Baseball world rang me up and said that there was going to be a coaching course put on for cricketers in Taunton, you live there, why don’t you poke your head round the door, so I did. Of course all of the cricket coaches recognised me from having been a reasonably decent cricketer, so I had to do all of these demos and they were saying that it was incredible. It was really not that great to me but the guy who was running that course, said clearly you enjoy and understand cricket, would you like to do some more? So I did and was very quickly getting lots of work. I haven’t stopped since then really, the guy who ran this course then fed me into the English cricket system. I was very fortunate and in a couple of months he had me helping out with the England under 15s. I then progressed up to the Under 19s and that era was guys like Flintoff, Harmison, Hoggard which was really cool.
Any stand out pros that you had the pleasure of working with?
I have coached some massively famous people but being alongside Malcolm Marshall was the only time that I really choked, I spent my childhood wanting to be Malcolm, I loved the way that the West Indies played. So for me to be his assistant with the West Indies was just unreal, we came over to the UK for the 1999 World Cup and it was a great feeling, just to come over as a coach of an international test team.
What’s the best thing about being a coach?
It’s thrilling to be working with a thirteen-year-old or fifteen-year-old kid, for them to be struggling and for them to go away having got something you’ve coached, that’s massive. They think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
As someone who’s coached at the top of the game with the likes of the West Indies, Pakistan and Bangladesh, what’s been a stand-out moment for you, at international level?
To coach at the top of cricket has been awesome, I’ve been to World Cups, T20 World Cups, Championships and there have been so many amazing things that have happened.
At some stage I need to do a biography because I’ve been involved in some fairly hefty things. I was involved in the West Indies strike when they refused to go to South Africa because of pay. I was involved in the Stanford thing, that huge twenty-million-dollar game. Remember when the Pakistanis got accused of ball-tampering in the Oval Test match against England? I was part of that team, I was sat in the dressing room when Inzamam-Ul-Haq decided to delay going out onto the field as a protest. That went bad really quickly and there was a stand-up row with the umpires. I was sat on the bench, thinking this is bizarre, I should have got a video camera rolling!
Who has had the biggest impact on you in terms of your development as a coach?
It’s been tricky because I have worked with a lot of different coaches, guys like Bob Woolmer, Dav Whatmore and Tom Moody. So what I have tried to pick what they do well and what they don’t do well. I have learned from all of them and Malcolm Marshall especially, was amazing to sit next to.Watching the game with him, he would call the plays before they happened, which was so cool.
Tell us how you came to know God for yourself.
I went out to Texas and I stayed with a friend and his family, who are Christians. He said that they were going to church and did I fancy coming, so I said why not. It was a fairly decent size church and to be honest it started to become a high point, so that every Sunday I was really looking forward to going to church. It moved me and I found myself completely and utterly touched, I found myself crying a lot, I don’t know why but it was just amazing. Then I came back to the UK after being in the Pakistan Super League and I could not think of a good reason not to find a church here in England. Amazingly there was a Calvary Chapel in Exeter, which is just up the road from me, so I went along and I’ve been every Sunday since. I finally accepted the Lord as my saviour on Fathers’ Day last year. It’s just amazing, I am learning every single day because it is all new to me.
The way I describe it is that I have been living in a valley all of my life and now the fog has lifted and now I can see into the next valley, the view is amazing.
How does your faith work out in the team sport culture, is it tough in that environment?
Coming from a professional sports background, I would curse all of the time and it’s a very blokey culture. Even on my latest trip, I now notice it a lot, the attitudes can be quite poor. I stuck to my guns on this trip because I took my ‘bible for new believers’ and had it out at breakfast. I was surrounded by Muslims and I managed to engage so many people in conversation, I spoke to a lot of friends and colleagues, I was happy to tell them how it has changed my life completely. I really enjoyed putting that out there.
— Julien Fountain (@JulienFountain) December 1, 2016
Now as a sport, world cricket appears to boast very few vocal Christians, is this something you’ve noted?
You don’t really see it, all sports teams seem to pray before the start of games but do they actually believe what they are saying? I tell you one guy who does push his faith is West Indies’ Darren Sammy. He is a good guy.
It’s been a privilege for me because I have been slowly re-educating my own family and they can’t quite get their head around how I am now, same with my colleagues, they say wow you have changed. I think, how can me being a much nicer person to be around be a bad thing? How can that annoy you? I am not hurting anybody or smacking you around the head with the bible.