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(Gavin Hickie is Men's Head Coach at Dartmouth.)
For many people New Year is a time for reflection. However reviewing your approach to coaching and playing the game is an ongoing process. It is helpful to learn from the lessons of others and who better than two-time Rugby World Cup Winners New Zealand.
My Rugby Revealed book co-author Eilidh Donaldson recently gave me the book “Legacy” by James Kerr. The book outlines 15 points based on the All Blacks principles for their players and team culture. So if you are making a list of New Year’s rugby resolutions why not use the points identified by author James Kerr as your inspiration and see how you measure up against the World Champions.
1. Sweep the Sheds: Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.
Rugby is a team sport and everyone needs to contribute on and off the field. Richie McCaw might be considered a legend of the game but he and other well-known names are just ‘one of the boys who clean the sheds’ [changing rooms] after every game. Stay grounded.
2. Go for the Gap: When you’re on top of your game, change your game.
Or to put it another way, if you stand still everyone will pass you by. The All Blacks are always looking at ways to test themselves, even Dan Carter admitted he still had a point to prove when he said he took the last conversion of his international career with his right foot because he had never scored with his weaker foot. Constantly strive to improve.
3. Play with Purpose: Ask ‘Why?’
Mastering how to play rugby is just part of the equation for success, but good skills can be ineffective if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve. It is clear that the All Blacks are all on the same page and this helps to form a team from a group of individuals. Understand the shared goals.
4. Pass the Ball: Leaders Create Leaders.
In rugby the captain is just one leader on the field but successful teams like the All Blacks have leaders throughout their ranks. Take responsibility.
5. Create a Learning Environment: Leaders are Teachers.
Coaches want hungry players. Players who want to learn and develop their game, who constantly strive to improve. However it does not mean it is solely the coach’s responsibility to teach. The All Blacks actively encourage players to share and mentor each other while maintaining a competitive environment. Help others improve.
6. No Dickheads: Follow the whanau.
Excuse the language but it conveys the point. You want to enhance your team by adding talented players but that doesn’t mean that any talented player will do. The All Blacks are very much a team first and look to find individuals who have the right character. You can develop talent, you cannot change character.
7. Embrace Expectations: Aim for the highest cloud.
When targeting back to back RWC titles the All Blacks certainly didn’t limit their horizons when it came to deciding what they set out to achieve. Setting personal goals and team targets is part of what drives improvement. Dream big.
8. Train to Win: Practice under pressure.
Commentators say the difference between the All Blacks and other teams is their ability to perform under pressure. Training lays the foundations of success but there is always a balance to be struck in training between skill development and pressurised game scenarios. Do the extra work to make the difference.
9. Keep a Blue Head: Control your attention.
In games where opponents have run them close the All Blacks have been able to make the decisions under pressure that have won them the match. Decision making is a tough skill to learn and only develops over time but staying calm when the heat is on is a big step in the right direction. Know your options and back yourself.
10. Know Thyself: Keep it real.
The All Blacks know that the real competition is with yourself when it comes to developing as a player. Be honest about your progress, performance and effort levels if you want to become a better player. Ask yourself, could I do more?
11. Invent Your Own Language: Sing your world into existence.
Rugby is known for its sense of community both on and off the field. To succeed as a team you must work together and from these shared experiences will come a vocabulary and set of beliefs. Find your common bonds.
12. Sacrifice: Find something you would die for and give your life to it.
After every game Richie McCaw writes ‘start again’ in his training journal. As a group the All Blacks do not tolerate poor performances and as individuals they strive to maintain the highest standards in all aspects of the sport. Good isn’t good enough.
13. Ritualise to Actualise: Create a culture.
Teams could copy the All Blacks approach to the game wholesale but that isn’t what makes the New Zealand team winners. Their team culture is based on their heritage as a nation and rugby team, which is unique to them. It represents who they are, which is why it works for them. Build a culture based on your collective values.
14. Be a Good Ancestor: Plant trees you’ll never see.
The All Blacks often speak of their responsibility to protect and enhance the reputation of the team for as long as they are chosen to wear the shirt and to leave it in a better place for the player who follows them. It is not about personal glory, it is about the team. Play for the name on the front of the shirt, not the back.
15. Write Your Legacy: This is your time.
The All Blacks gift of a book featuring shirts from legendary teams which is given to each new player includes blank pages for them to fill. It sends a powerful message that regardless of what has gone before there is still history to be made. Build your legacy.
Image via @YLMSportScience