Coaches only as good as the players they coach
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. AAP Image/Julian Smith
On March sixth, David Lord wrote on The Roar that Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is number six in the Australian coach pecking order.
I invariably return to the same conclusion regarding coaching: coaches are only as good as the team they coach.
Whether at international, national, Super or provincial levels, only players who have the necessary skills and ability to excel make the top teams.
Very little coaching takes place at these levels, unless we call “fine tuning” coaching. Players who reach the standard of the national or Super teams don’t need coaching. These players are not “coached” as we know it at lower levels.
A coach at these levels is really a strategist (or should be!). It is his job to devise game-plans to outplay the opposition. Only after doing so, do the “fine tuning coaches” move in and guide, coach or teach the players the selected game-plan and how that game-plan is to be implemented.
Prospective coaches become contenders for the top jobs due to their profile. Many struggle to back that profile up with results.
When the time comes for the national selection of coaches we should first look for the very best strategists who have the skills to pass their winning strategy onto players.
The finer points of honing talent is left to the specialist sub-coaches who must obviously have skills in areas such as scrums, defence, attack and fitness.
They must also be able to implement and hone their area of expertise to suit the strategy of the head coach.
Their plans need to be simple and effective, fluid and changeable, easily understood and implementable at a moment’s notice, yet be confusing to any opposition.
Teams work hard to achieve this but the unbridled talent of many young players and their inability at times to hold the line in the thinking department, has sometimes led to catastrophic results.
Rugby has many things that make it an exciting game to watch, but at times it is also a nightmare for coaches, captains and senior players when the young heads have a rush of blood and forget the plan.
By contrast, NFL sides have teams of strategists who spend weeks devising plays to win games.
Is it time, therefore, that rugby adopt a similar group? A group, whether they be called coaches or whatever, to provide the plays for the sub coaches to implement and drill players for games?
Some say we have this already, but it is not nearly as well established as that in the US.
Maybe we have been looking in the wrong direction, appointing old players who we believe will be good coaches because they were great players. Often, great players show themselves to be lousy strategists.
Do we believe that the current top-team coaches provide strategic game plans already? I do not believe they do. More often than not, results show that the strategic plan was so flawed, faulty or nonexistent in the first place, you could be forgiven for thinking that the team was never coached at all.
Team coaches must have the skills to impart strategy and plan to a team who will act on the winning plan submitted. The great flaw however is, without the “top of the class players” to work a top plan, no coach is ever going to be successful. Whether top plan, lesser players or top players, lesser plan, both will always bring poor results.
Robbie Deans is a strategist as is rugby league’s Wayne Bennett. Both of these coaches have proven over time to produce the best results, using the best players, implementing the best plans.
Deans fails because he has a “flighty talent” team who only show up on some days. The Wallabies lack of success is not because Deans’ coaching or plans are faulty, but because his players are.
It has taken Deans many years to obtain his strategic knowledge. With this knowledge he has worked with top-shelf talent who have understood his plan, implemented it, and have walked away with titles.
When the Wallabies learn to perform at a consistent level, adopt without flaw his plans, both the Wallabies and Australian rugby will see the quality of Robbie Deans.
They will also realise why he is revered in New Zealand, and still considered the number one coach who got away.
Looking to join The Roar team? We're searching for an experienced Group Sales Manager to lead our team in Sydney. Yes, this does mean you get to work with the site all day long! If you're a digital media sales star, we want to hear from you. Apply now.
Passionate about your union? Then sign up to The Roar's brand new daily union email, delivering Roaring articles directly to you day-in, day-out. You'll love it!
Click here to join now!