It’s flattering to think we are the reason that some players are enjoying their rugby. It might be said to be our main motivation to coach.
Too right, and there’s no harm in taking pride in that fact. But if we expect something in return, it counts for nothing. That’s because it turns its value into a transaction. That’s fine in one sense: our time is valuable and why shouldn’t we receive a reward. Yet, the best of the best turn coaching into their life force. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, because it defines them, they are able to immerse themselves in a such a way that they exude leadership.
That’s why we are inspired by them. But can we replicate that with our teams? First, as I’ve mentioned already, we shouldn’t aim to be inspirational. That will come when it comes. Instead we should aim to be the best of ourselves.
This could all be sounding a bit deep now, but stay with me. We are all flawed in many ways. We are also brilliant in other ways. And, there’s no one template for a rugby coach. As long as we keep working on our strengths and keep our weaknesses at bay, we will give something of ourselves which will help others.
For example, not all of us are natural public speakers. The good news is that we don’t have to be. We can communicate in many ways, mostly in a personal level.
Second, we need to care. That means care about the right things. I think this is mostly player-centred and not team-centred. Teams come and go. Some years they are on the up, some years on the way down. Sometimes the team will gel and love each other, other times, they will struggle to understand each other.
Real Madrid’s German coach Jupp Heynckes (R) hugs striker Fernando Morientes after Madrid won the European Cup in the Amsterdam Arena May 20. Real beat Juventus 1-0 in tonight’s final.
However, crucially, they are made up with individuals who will move on to the next stage of their development, whether the team does or not. If you make it all about the team, you are losing the real reason why we are involved in sport.
Care about the very essence of every team, the individual. If you can do that, you will achieve far more than any cup or league position. Caring doesn’t mean being soft or not making tough decisions on selection. It encompasses the understanding why every (or any) player wants to turn up on a wet February evening to train.
Which neatly brings to me to my third point. We should build players who are themselves, not us. What worked for us doesn’t always work for others. Yes, be ourselves. Then, care about the players, and care about them as individuals who are different and on different journeys. Have a varied approach and keep it fresh and challenging.
Every coach can do this: In small steps, over a long period of time. You might not recognise the coach you become. Now, I think that would be inspirational.
Billy Vunipola with his U11s coach and one of his team mates on tour. Imagine this match up! If you want to see really competitive training, just ask a group of PE teachers to play a game. Even a gentle game of touch rugby brings out a ruthless streak it seems. Now, mix these teachers... MORE
Why not make winning the centre of your coaching philosophy this season? Forget the politically correct nonsense of “development before winning” by focusing on what I call “coach-wins”. Turn every aspect of the game into a competition to improve your squad’s all-round skills and winning mentality. These can be opposed or unopposed but scores should... MORE
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