When I was in school in Ireland there was no importance put into the process as we had an exam result structured education. At the end of our 14 years in school only the result of one set of exams mattered. So I have always been motivated by the end result which can be frustrating as often I am left disappointed regardless of the result.
The process should be the part of all coaching that is embraced, is enjoyed and is savoured. This is still somewhat foreign to me and I have to battle with myself. In my coaching I often struggled with not getting the result I wanted regardless of if it were possible or not. I set targets that were doable, but not based on wanting to achieve development with the team or individual players but rather on the end result.
As I have grown as a coach I realize that the process of creating a better player, a better person or a better team should be enjoyed at every step. That is where the real joy is, the work, the problem solving and the construction of a solution is the tangible place where we can make a difference and enjoy making that difference.
Last winter at the USA Rugby National Development Summit I heard Wallabies coach Michael Cheika speak twice. In the first session he spoke about High Performance Coaching and one simple statement stood out to me “Better People make Better Players”. He addressed the holistic needs of his rugby athletes and if they are not getting better as people they will not get better as players. These are international athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, but the person is still the most important part.
I have taken this as a core value of our High School program and now I always focus on the person first. As a primary program goal, we state “Better People make Better Players” and this has had a knock on effect to how the program is perceived. The parents, administration, athletes and coaches now know that wins and losses are a byproduct of what we are accomplishing. The development, the practices, the S&C, the chats on the way to practice, the motivational email or text is where the difference is made. Communication is not just a tool to impart one way information, however rather is the medium where we learn about our players and become aware of their needs as people and athletes.
In the Men’s program I coach the same values hold even if the application is different. The development of my athletes as people is the primary motivator, but in an adult environment that is a slower process. It takes longer to get to know the individual athletes, while the payoff is just as important. In a non-educational environment the opportunity to interact with players is less frequent, so it can take seasons to really understand their individual motivation.
So what does that mean on a day to day basis as a coach; focus on incremental progress for individuals and the team, ask the kid who looks unhappy “How is he doing?”, talk to the parents on the sideline or during tournaments find out about what makes their child tick and coach the person.