20 June 2023 | Story Jóhann Thormählen | Photo Rooistoel
Ryan McLaren
The former Protea all-rounder and Kovsie, Ryan McLaren, enjoys imparting his cricketing knowledge to youngsters at Grey College.

He thrives on making a difference – and that is exactly why Ryan McLaren enjoys imparting his cricketing knowledge to the next generation. 

The former Protea has moved from being in the middle of the pitch to touching the lives of aspiring youngsters.  And who better to learn from than someone who has played franchise and international cricket for South Africa, in all three formats, all over the world.  The Commercial Manager and Cricket Specialist at Grey College makes it look easy, but he is the first to admit that giving back takes special skills.

The former Kovsie cricketer is an ambassador for the University of the Free State (UFS) Sporting Legends project, which celebrates current and former UFS sports stars by featuring their journeys in a video and story series.

The series looks at the impact the UFS has had on their careers, how it has uniquely shaped them, and helped them to excel – whether in sport or the world of work.

Art of coaching

“The first lesson I learned from coaching is realising that just because you have played the game, doesn’t mean you are going to be a good coach. Coaching itself is an art and a skill,” McLaren says.

“Having the ability to convey your knowledge and experience to the kids takes a lot of attention and care.  As a person, I thrive and get a lot of fulfilment and enjoyment from making a difference in someone’s life.”

He gets excited when talking about coaching youngsters and seeing them improve after imparting knowledge.

Playing all over globe

The all-rounder, who played for South Africa at an U19 World Cup, represented the Proteas in 54 One Day Internationals, 12 T20 Internationals, and two tests.

Locally he represented the Free State, Knights, and Dolphins, in the Indian Premier League (IPL) the Mumbai Indians, Kings XI Punjab, and Kolkata Knight Riders, and in England he played for Kent, Lancashire, Middlesex, and Hampshire.

McLaren says playing in India and England was a big privilege, and he not only learnt cricketing skills but also about different cultures, food, religions, and people.

“In India, cricket is like a religion, and you play in front of 50 000 people daily.  You share a locker room (in the IPL) with Sachin Tendulkar, Brett Lee, Adam Gilchrist, and those type of names,” he says.

Kovsie connection

When we get together after not seeing each other for years and play an old Kovsie game now, immediately there’s a bond. And that is what is special to me about being a former Kovsie.

McLaren played hockey and cricket for the UFS. He says it was great stepping-stone and is thankful for the platform.  He was privileged to play under the late Ewie Cronjé, former UFS Director of Sport, who “ran a really special sports programme”.

Cronjé also brought in Peter Carlstein – who was a Free State stalwart and played for South Africa – as an assistant.

“There is no doubt that from a Kovsie point of view it was instrumental in developing me as a cricketer,” McLaren says.

He is also involved with the Kovsie Cricket Club Old Boys and has played an exhibition match against the elite Oppenheimer XI.  When he looks back, it is not the successes on the field at the UFS that stand out, but the “camaraderie and friendships built”.

“When we get together after not seeing each other for years and play an old Kovsie game now, immediately there’s a bond.”

“Once you’ve seen each other, there’s a connection.  And that is what is special to me about being a former Kovsie.”

• Watch the video feature to get a glimpse of Ryan McLaren’s journey and life. 

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