How honesty and values makes players trust you, says “The Chief”

Everyone comes with their own values, but you have to be flexible based on your playing resources. Be honest with your players and adjust your style to suit their strengths, says Dale McIntosh, former Wales international, and coach with Cardiff Blues and now Merthyr RFC.

Based on your own values and style, you might to coach your team to play a wide game or a physical game. But unless you have the resources to achieve this you’ll struggle.

Everyone in the team and club has roles and responsibilities on and off the field. You have to know which these you can change and what you need to keep the same. This is also true of your style.

The generic skills of set pieces, core skills and fitness remain the same whoever you coach. You must build the team around these skills. Crucially, your style can only express itself if you can coach these well.


I am passionate for things I want. This passion helps me sell the ideas and methods I want the players to learn. It’s a key part of the coaching process, where the believers will happily listen and act upon your direction.

Part of selling myself comes with honesty. Honesty means telling the player how it is. If they had a poor game then I need to make sure the player knows this. I might tell him directly. However, it is better to let him work it out for himself.

I might approach the player and ask him: “What was your opinion on the game?” and then “Why did you make that decision or execute that play?” It is essential we share the same story. I might need to make them retell the story if they are not seeing the same problems. Sometimes I might need to tell them the story myself instead if it’s still not right.

For instance, the hooker might have been throwing in poorly and he will tell me that the jumpers were not responding to his calls. I might need him to review this to make sure he focuses on his own technical errors.

You have to deal with the acute problems honestly. If they are getting something wrong then I will tell them straightaway. It is hard to do otherwise because if I am covering up a problem they might think I am lying.


Sometimes players will come up with excuses. I don’t stand for excuses, but I am also aware of times when I don’t have all the information. Remember that players have lives outside rugby which impact on their lives inside rugby.

A player’s poor performance might be related to tough family circumstances which I am not aware of. If this happens, the best I can do is to say I didn’t know.

Players need a certain level of attention to help them understand the technical side of the game. You will know that players have different learning styles and so you need to adapt your style to suit them. Though you adapt your style, you should retain your consistency. Players still expect to get told off when they get it wrong.


I look for a strong mental attitude from my players. Part of the mental attitude is the willingness from both player and coach to trust each other. Without this, you don’t build a relationship. This trust is tested when either person makes a mistake. If the other is willing to forgive, then there is a strong and powerful relationship.

Did you know? Dale is known by many as “the Chief” because he looks just like a character in the film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. His no-nonsense attitude from his playing days and now to coaching reflects his nickname.


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