Raising our Rugby IQ

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

“People leave bosses, not companies” says current Delhi Daredevils and Sydney Thunder coach Paddy Upton, who bases his theory on stats from Forbes which suggest that between 74% and 84% of all working people want to leave their jobs - primarily because of their boss!

And it’s likely to be similar when it comes to athletes and their coaches. But while you and I can dust off our CVs and try our luck at the competitors down the road, what does the U13 B team flyhalf at Sweet Valley do? Or the All Black prop who has more splinters than hair on his bum?

Yes professional sport allows a certain amount of freedom for athletes, but even at that level, pesky things like contracts do lock players in.

Hence coaching, and the nurturing of coaches, being such a fundamental part of our sporting development. Upton was speaking at the Powerade Performance Academy held on the weekend, an initiative that focusses on school coaches in recognition of their role as primary influencers of the next generation of South Africa’s sporting heroes.

Upton reckons both business and sport in South Africa are stuck in the old fashioned “instruction” mode which thrives on there being a single expert who operates like a controlling parent. But with the advent of the Internet and Siri, the time has come to move onto “fellow adult” mode which embraces multiple expertise, listening, and actual engagement.

This via relationships based on mutual respect that sees both the coach and player taking on issues together, with a view to creating intelligent athletes.

And he us absolutely spot on!

Learning, Upton reckons, is created from playing, reflecting, analysing and planning, and practicing... Right now players do the play and practice parts, while the coaches do the reflecting, analysis and planning. So the coach is doing the thinking, and the player doing the playing.

Collective intelligence requires both coaches and players to be involved in all 4 phases... Otherwise all we do is create robots with no game IQ.

Props who prop, 8th men who 8 man, and centres who centre will do you just fine, but the key to coaching is getting the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. I.e. moulding players who can do a little more than just their individual job, and think intelligently about the game in general.

And in the era of the internet and “fellow adult” coaching environment, a coach does not need to have the answer to everything. He or she does need to create the environment that delivers the best answer, though. Be that through the player collective, research, experts, or the coach’s own knowledge, the structures that deliver said answer need to be in place.

Was Peter de Villiers ahead of his time? Perhaps missing the mutual respect part?

Heyneke Meyer was without doubt stuck in instruction mode.

Where will Allister Coetzee find himself? Comments out of the Bok camp this week suggest that he is after smart players who make the right decision based on what is in front of them, and not robots following a pre-determined game plan.

Which is a very good sign. Does he have the respect? Will his transformation objectives take his eye off the ball?

My favourite yarn of the Academy - The first thing Upton did when he joined the Sydney Thunders? Release Michael Clarke and David Warner from their contracts. Why? You simply cannot build teams around big ego type characters. Teams are a collective, not an orbit around an ego or three.

I will certainly coach a bit differently. Here’s hoping our national coaches do the same.

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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