There is not such a thing as good and bad coaches, it is simply a case of coaching who have gained the ability to manage situations better than others.
There has been some concerns raised over John Plumtree’s coaching abilities in recent months where the Sharks Super 14 team disappointed in what was largely viewed as a golden opportunity for them to win the Super 14 trophy, and this was amplified when the defending Currie Cup champs went down to Western Province in the opening round of the competition.
A lot has also been said about Peter de Villiers in recent months and perhaps unbeknown to his detractors in the media, who clearly had different intentions when they highlighted this fact, they basically hit the nail on the head when it comes to the difference between a good coach, and potentially great coach.
We, unlike Gavin Rich, are not close to the Bok or Sharks team – we have real jobs after all… So a lot of what is said and discussed on blogs such as this, is done at face value where our common passion for the game, as well as some of our limited involvement in different areas of the game are the resources we rely on to raise opinions like this.
Back to the topic however.
We have read to death the claims coming from the media on how the Boks only win with Jake White’s team, but loses because De Villiers is a useless coach.
This is amplified or motivated by other claims such as the senior Boks in the side being the real coaches of the side and that De Villiers is merely satisfying political agendas.
Rather than supporting their theory of the useless coach however, the last statement actually indicates that De Villiers is actually subscribing to a coaching philosophy and approach a lot of successful coaches has in the past and present – empowering players.
Another website I write for had the great opportunity to interview Robbie Deans a few years back when he was still in charge of the Crusaders. Deans made the simple but very powerful statement when asked about his success with the Crusaders that if he had to describe himself or his role, it would be that he is merely a facilitator.
This goes in line with a study Scott Cresswell and Robert Eklund did for the Department of Human Movement and Sciences for the University of Western Australia. They concentrated on player welfare and coaching strategies and studied how and why some coaches get it right, and some get it wrong and much of it came down to the application of empowerment of individuals in a group sport like rugby and how coaches uses strategies to implement this.
Two of the main points that they raised was that coaches had to adapt their coaching strategies to the players you are coaching, and also the environment you operate in, and also to have open, effective and honest communication with your players.
What you as a coach look for is a positive impact or result from your team and eliminate any negative impacts or results.
Interestingly enough, even when you have to communicate perceived negative news or information to players, it could, or should, have a positive impact on those players.
As an example try to imagine you have to explain to a player his non-selection to a team or match day 22. Usually we would associate this with a negative impact this will have on the player, but in essence if you communicate exactly why he was not selected, which areas in his game needs attention and where he currently is compared to the incumbent the spin off from non-selection can be extremely positive.
If you cast your mind back to an article Rob wrote after the Sharks recent loss, you will pick up Rob said some player he spoke to was disillusioned and it was never communicated to them where they stand with the union, and what they need to do to improve, in other words, detailed and honest feedback.
Players interviewed in this research said that positive and detailed feedback, even if ‘negative’ had a much better effect on them as both athletes and being part of a team.
Of course it is a very fine line a coach has to walk and he has to develop the ability to read players and situations, for a better word, man-management.
For example, a coach can try and empower players by simply giving them responsibility, without effectively communicating with the player to try and establish whether the player is firstly comfortable with the responsibility, and secondly skilled enough to do whatever is expected of him. From there, you are actually disempowering the player because a situation is forced down on him without giving him the choice to accept or decline the responsibility. This can have negative outcomes not only for the player who will feel overloaded and de-motivated because of perceptions of reduced accomplishment (he failed in his task), but to the team and essentially to coach too, who is the one being fired all the time.
To effectively empower players you have to give them a choice to accept the task at hand or decline it, in other words, you need buy-in from your players.
Coaches accomplish this, and in my mind where Plumtree might be struggling at the moment, by addressing the problems in the squad or team, and not the player.
Too often coaches address players, and not the problems. This creates a negative perception amongst players who often resort to claims of unfairness or favouritism when they leave teams or unions.
Now compare recent comments regarding Plumtree to statements by Regan Hoskins, John Smit, Victor Matfield and Frans Steyn who said that;
• This team is happier now than in 2007
• Coach communicates with them effectively and they know exactly where they stand
• Coach has a brilliant working relationship with both players and management
• Coach through his actions creates a happy environment for the team or operate in
• Coach allows player input from players
• Players sees no problem and is happy in sharing of responsibilities in the team which not only takes pressures of management, but also empowers them as players
• In many ways De Villiers is better than any coach they worked under before
Perhaps this will give you a clearer indication not only on our National Coach, and what he is perhaps getting right, and Sharks coach John Plumtree and what he is getting wrong.
I think the message I am trying to deliver here, is that perhaps coaches today need to adapt to their environment and players, than players always having to adapt to a coach, and his style and philosophy.Tweet