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Importance of Team Chemistry on Selection

I’ve been watching some of the competitions for Olympic places here in Canada and in the US, which has been extremely transparent and it has led me to consider the selection process in the game of rugby.

Transparency is a very levelling factor, especially in individual events. In our sport, some top players/athletes may be appear to be “very promising” (the catch phrase for pretty good), but coaches need to see what they can do with other supporting players around them and in the face of tough competition.

This is the consequence of playing a team sport, in which the total is hopefully far greater than the sum of the parts.

Sir Ian McGeechan has recently passed along his pearls of wisdom, through the media, to British and Irish Lions Tour Manager Andy Irvine. He said that selections are critical – both horses-for-courses and selections are based on the ability of these players to gel together, which takes time to balance “form” and “class”.

While my own levels of rugby ability and accomplishment rose barely above “competent” levels, I keenly remember, as a centre, the few truly effective magical pairings in which I was involved. I still remember the confidence I felt in knowing what my fellow player was going to do before he did it, being able to rely on him being there to support at pace on the perfect line and feeling a great sense of connection when the ball was presented to space and then taken by a teammate without a word – who saw and reacted to that same space being created.

It is tough to reproduce these moments, yet international and professional coaches, of all team-based sports, are asked to do this all the time.

Tours are a great way to help build this sense of belonging, investment and sense of sympatico with your teammates.

But what of those teams that don’t have the benefit, for one reason or another, of touring i.e. business or administrative teams. What can they do to build this engagement and sympatico intuition and trust?

Like in relationships, transparency and communication are paramount.

As a co-coach of several of our local club age grade teams, I’m keenly observing how communications, transparency and leadership are helping build our mish-mash of players, from very different schools and circumstances in an urban setting, into a very positive operating team – one that has a mix of mechanics as well as creativity.

I can’t wait to see what Andy Irvine can do in preparation for next year’s tour. If only I could extrapolate these lessons to administrative groups!

Years ago, in an interview for a corporate leadership position, my interviewer sat back and recapped to me that I was looking for a rugby team in the corporate world and I agreed. I didn’t get the job and I wonder if my search for a corporate rugby environment is really such a bad thing?

I look forward to seeing our young players continue to grow within the sport and challenge for their own pinnacles and definitions of success in both sporting life and livelihood – both as skilled individuals and as teammates.

Finally – welcome to fellow blogger and stalwart Canuk performer at 7s and at 15s, Mandy Marchak, and congratulations to Maggie Alfonsi on her gong!

Yours in rugby,

Chris Rideout

About Chris Rideout

Have played rugby for some 40+ years, with the majority in Canada (Montreal Wanderers, Calgary Hornets, Calgary Saracens, Lethbridge, Kenilworth and currently with Toronto Saracens RFC). Have played to a reasonably competitive level, and have been involved in the coaching and administrative side of rugby since 1987. Am now resigned to playing Vet's rugby badly... Currently am the President of Toronto Saracens RFC (one of the larger inner Toronto clubs, fielding Mens, Womens, Junior Men, Junior Women and Youth/Age grade to Mini teams) as well as co-coach for U16, U18 and U20 club teams and community coach at a local high school. Am also involved in the branch union administration (Toronto Rugby). View all posts by Chris Rideout

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