InnerDrive Blog

Why Are New Zealand So Good at Rugby?

In 2011 New Zealand ended a long wait to win the Rugby World Cup. The New Zealand team is often favourite to win each world cup, but often fails to do so. This blog looks at the culture that their management team developed and considers if any of it can be applied in schools.

Why are New Zealand so good at rugby?Capitalise on Key Turning Points – Their coach, Graham Henry, talks about the importance of learning from past mistakes and failure (growth mindset anyone?!). These moments provide opportunities to crystallise your personal philosophies.

Flexible and Evolving Mindset – Henry stresses that it is important to be flexible, so that your approach best fits the needs of the situation. He says, "I’ve been coaching for 37 years … [When I started] I was very directive as a coach … pretty authoritarian. But now it’s … a group of people trying to do something together, rather than a group of coaches and a group of players ... I think that’s evolved naturally … If you didn’t change [as a coach], you were history." There is clearly a thin line between having a clear vision and sticking stubbornly to an idea that isn't working.

Dual Management – Both coaches and players are expected to be leaders. Henry stated that “It was the philosophy to give the players ownership … and to dual-manage the All Blacks with a group of players, and a group of oldies (coaches)."

The thinking was that this dual management will lead to autonomy, mastery and emotionally intelligent athletes. It is interesting to consider what opportunities there are for different teachers (or even students) to take on leadership roles?

Better People Make Better All Blacks – Behaviour on and off the pitch is a selection criteria. The management team firmly believed that helping their athletes grow as people helps them to develop as players. This was one of the most important aspects of creating a tournament winning team.

In a world that is so driven on just results and performance, it is refreshing to hear of the desire to develop each athlete as an individual. Key to this is appropriate support. It is not enough for schools to ask students to display certain skills; appropriate time and attention must be spent teaching them how to achieve these behaviours.

Take Responsibility – Players are encouraged to be accountable. This links closely with the 'dual management' and 'better people make better All Blacks' themes. This sense of responsibility empowers players and gives them a sense of ownership.

Leadership – Leadership groups are created and streamlined (to avoid too many meetings or too many cooks spoiling the broth – sound familiar to any teachers?). Off-field leadership is also given a lot of prominence within the squad.

Expectation of Excellence – The team welcomed their favourite-to-win tag. This was embraced by athletes telling each other their personal motivation, as well as appreciating the team history, being the best and the importance of leaving a lasting legacy. We have previously blogged on the importance of both teacher and parent expectation, and the impact this can have on student achievement. You can read them here and here.

Team Cohesion – Team cohesion was increased through strategies such as the importance of being approachable, having role clarity and keeping things fresh. Importantly, under pressure, it was also emphasised that it was important to have fun and enjoy the experience as an athlete's career goes so quickly.

 

Final Thought

The culture of the New Zealand rugby team that won the last world cup was clearly defined. More importantly, it was actually actioned. Obviously not all of the above tips can be applied in schools, but it is interesting to consider if some of these practices can transfer over and what they may look like in your school.

This blog was based on research published in The Sports Psychologist. You can read it in its full glory here.

 

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