In recent years, a lot has changed in terms of the qualities demonstrated by and expected of successful rugby coaches.
Whilst the traditional image of a coach may have been a strong autocratic leader that only saw one way of doing things, leadership science has done a convincing job in demonstrating that this path is no longer the key to efficient learner development.
We have seen this sort of revolution outside of rugby in schools, work settings and, of course, sporting environments.
Personally, I have observed some significant changes in coaches’ communication behaviour. Instead of constantly shouting out instructions, the ability to listen carefully has become equally important to good coaching and strategy.
Every athlete is different and therefore needs to be treated differently.
This means that to find out the best way to approach players requires one essential skill: You need to get to know your players.
The difficulty, of course, is that it takes a lot of time and effort. There is no such thing as a one-way fits all approach anymore.
Of course, in any team environment, there are certain structures that apply to everyone. At the end of the day, you want your team to work as a tight unit. But no matter how well your unit collaborates, it is still a collective of many individuals. And if you have certain people who don’t agree with the rest of the team and consequently disrupt your team dynamic, you face a problem.
This same principle applies when the team and players are doing well.
A good coach must constantly question the status quo, find out what is going on and why things are going well.
This way of coaching has often been praised by World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward.
Understanding your players and team dynamic from the inside out makes it much easier to understand player psychology.
This means that coaches are better able to help players solve problems that may occur both on and off the pitch, as well as maintain a successful environment within the team where all players feel happy, wanted and heard.