Coach Kerr autonomy supportive tactics strengthened team cohesion, acknowledged and encouraged player responsibility, defined leadership amongst the group while strengthening his beliefs and alignment as we charge towards the All Star weekendRead More
In the build up towards Brisbane Global Tens event, I was fortunate to attend a series of key note presentations from some involved coaches including Robbie Deans and Scott Robertson, as well as featuring current Wallabies national coach Michael Cheika. The discussion was led by Rod Kafer and he echoed recent studies and investigations towards trying to understand what the players of the future are looking for from their coaches. Former Wallaby coach, Robbie Deans started proceedings and addressed "why" being the most important question you can both ask and answer. While he stated that technical and tactical skills can be easily found with access to information nowadays, understanding and caring for player's needs shall massively assist your quest to find your side's point of difference against the rest of the competition, echoing the importance of personal strivings research I have completed with current crop of Australian Rugby players. Deans encouraged the coaches present to grab all chances for informal communications to connect with players, echoing players must know you care about them:
"Players don't care what you know until they know you care"
Discussing coaching styles, Deans referenced ideas including encouraging effort, offering players choices or ability to make decisions and preparing your group to encourage them to take ownership and responsibility, encouraging ideas such as peer modelling and 360 degree feedback. He echoed another strong statement from the day of ignoring the focus on shape and structure, encouraging more and different opportunities for decision making at training, reminding coaches of the importance of clear communication and terminology as the areas and terms you empathise shall be what the players follow and adhere to. This point was echoed further later by Michael Cheika by him believing that "players become more like you the more you show belief".
Simon Manix was next to address the group; current head coach of Pau in the Top 14 having previously worked as backs coach for Munster and Racing Metro. Mannix played one test for the All Blacks versus France in 1994, an area he touched on immediately. His sole cap tormented him with a feeling of failure and shaped his coaching philosophy going forward. He immediately looked to leave NZ, embracing the culturally challenging yet rewarding atmosphere of French sides, having been involved in the structurally rigid and historically steeped atmosphere of Munster. He underlined the importance of challenging players and stressed his ideals for his players are to play with enjoyment and excitement for prolonged motivation and passion, areas he finds as extremely important.
2107 Super winning coach. Scott Robertson was next to address the group regarding culture and how he assisted building this within Canterbury Crusaders' organisation; he admitted this was both challenging and effortless, having 16 Crusaders' centurions, plenty of All Blacks within the squad yet working out how to show his personality in group also . He worked with Kiwi anthropologist, Michael Henderson looking at all factors relating to culture; he addressed the group through questioning how sounds, symbols, stories, sequence, smells, stage, space and significance all tie in to how players or groups "buy into" the culture. He empathised the strong, personal relationships he had with playing members and especially his team leaders including Sam Whitelock. He talked how he would assist setting the plan and goals yet really came down to the players to implement and drive improvement. Ideas to review and improvement are always shaped through solution based meetings and positive interactions and conversations, using constructive not destructive language. Honesty was another theme within his philosophy - players identifying their role and "doing the right thing" right through to honest mentoring from other coaches such as Rob Penney.
Closing out the day, Michael Cheika and Mick Byrne (ARU National Skills Coach) addressed the room, offering background to their history and passion towards the game. Cheika admitted he started coaching as "a way to travel"; now, as head coach of the Wallabies, he sees his strengths as being an authentic leader, offering honest feedback and capable of building a strong team atmosphere, including surrounding himself in good coaches to support his generalist outlook to team coaching, having quality people supporting and looking after the finer details. His brashness towards comments of current and departed Wallabies was evident; he believes the current crop of players involved in Australian squads are as strong as ever and is weary of the "excuse culture" for players heading overseas. This was strengthened by Byrne's attitude that Australian Rugby needs to work harder at all aspects of the game. Both coaches talked of their desire to have strong Super sides, backed up with individual hard work and being physically ready to compete but both are excited by the depth of talent coming through. They also thanked all present for the encouragement from the community and the support (and dedication to improve) grassroots rugby.
Cheika summarised one of the overall themes of the day very well (although I paraphrased his point); Winning is a consequence of getting the other things right. All coaches highlighted the importance to stop prescriptive coaching and too much focus on shape and structure and exhibit greater concentration on gaining a better understanding of your current crop of player's skills, capabilities and motivations. All coaches, including the Wallaby representatives, stressed that player belief supersedes confidence, all being built from accountability, persistence, encouraging effort and understanding players needs as opposed to technical and tactical overload. The powerful message stamped down by all: Build the person's motivation and skills through understanding "why..." and you shall make a better player. As I have stressed before, find their passions and help them double down on their strengths; keep looking for problems to fix and all you shall see is problems.
Millennials on the sports fields and in the workplace are getting coaches, managers and business leaders alike to re-think both how we approach and encourage the pursue of the boundaries of their sporting and innovative potential. However, like my current research is evolving and other suggestions from behaviorism researchers, do we actually know or understand fully what these young athletes or workers want or need? I have recently offered an analogy of young leaders today against leaders or managers from years past that you can "pull from your pocket"; see your iPhone as leaders or athletes working today. They look the same, work under the same conditions yet with new iOS software loaded in, the expectations and advancements are getting greater by the day. Tony Robbins referenced "the brain being old hardware, previously used for fight or flight responses; now we are looking to choose fulfillment over achievement". Simon Sinek famously recorded stating how Millennials are chasing purpose and impact yet lack the patience and effort required to find these desired emotions. Angela Duckworth has defined grit as "passion and perseverance", something can could be perceived as lacking from this generation of leaders and athletes coming through. What does this mean for us as coaches and leaders in how we should act?
In sport specific research I have read around, Pelletier found that changes to people’s perceptions of competence and self-determined motivators should increase intrinsic motivations and identification while decreasing introjection, external motivators and amotivation in athletes (Pelletier, 1995). Also, results from Pope and Wilson’s studies showed athletes who perceive coaches to be supportive of decisions, provided with clear feedback concerning goal pursuits and engage with them in genuine and empathetic manner report greater need fulfillment, more self-determined motives and more perceived effort in sport (J. Pope & Wilson, 2012).
Theories around self-determination such as Basic Psychological Needs Theory (BPNT) addresses the degree to which people’s behavior in a domain is governed by self-determined motivators (Adie, 2010). The areas addressed as basic needs requiring fulfillment include competence, autonomy and relatedness. Vallerand and Mageau’s research has shown that intrinsic motivations and self-determined extrinsic motivators are necessary ingredients for athlete’s optimal function (Mageau, 2003). Deci and Ryan’s research investigated that intrinsic motivation is experienced as consequence of feeling competent and self-determined. Intrinsic motivation leads to greater persistence, improved performance and enhanced well-being in a physical setting; this would help support Duckworth's research of grit whereby working towards singularly important goals being the hallmark of high achievers in every domain.
While intrinsic motivation stems from innate physiological need of competency and represents the prototype of self-determined behavior, self-determined extrinsic motivators, which are extrinsic motivators which have been internally rationalized with oneself, become activities which are being carried out as are important and concordant to one’s values (Mageau, 2003). Self-determined forms of motivation also result in optimal behavior, resulting in peak performance and persistence (Deci and Ryan, 2008).
Basic Psychological Needs Theory (BPNT) looks at offering and fulfilling involved people's autonomy, competency and relatedness or connection. However, perceived autonomy has emerged as a large predictor of motivation while competence and relatedness has served as small to moderate positive predictors (J. P. Pope & Wilson, 2014). Again, what does this mean for our current leaders and coaches? The importance of offering autonomy to our young leaders and having autonomy supportive leaders to have and offer a number of attributes. These include acknowledging and providing choice within specific limits and rules, providing rationale for tasks limits and rules, inquiring and recognizing other’s feelings, allowing opportunities to take initiatives and complete independent work, provide non-controlling feedback, avoid over control, controlling statements and tangible rewards and prevent ego involvement from taking place. This shall help start to offer the engagement, purpose and impact these millennials are desiring and searching.
Like explored by Dr Michael Gervais, is there a commonality connecting how the best performers in the world currently use their minds to explore the extent of extensions of their potential? Gary Vaynerchuk encourages young people today to "double down on what we are awesome at and what inspires us". What does this mean for us as coaches and leaders in how we should act or inspire? Encouraging young athletes and leaders to adopt a mastery approach to competency would encourage them to positively perform the task to the best of their ability and to self-regulated standards while attempting to continually learn and improve on an interpersonal level. An example of athlete’s pursuit of competence in theoretical stance would be achievement goal theory. Achievement goal theory “implies that people are goal directed individuals, participating in achievement settings with a view to demonstrate competence or avoid demonstration of incompetence” (Adie, 2010). Ultimately, the goal of action within achievement goal theory is the demonstration of competence; however, there is differences how the perceived competence is displayed and perceived by athletes and young leaders.
Players aligned with task involvement goals, whom judge their competency through self-referenced targets or goals, are recognized as evoking high effort to obtain mastery and continually improve personal performance. Their ability and effort is not differentiated by others and the perceived ability is self-determined and success only realized when mastery is achieved. Ego involvement or orientation shows athletes more concerned with their evaluation against normative standards and recognize success as measurement against others, which is now infinity more conman in the world of social media, when performing as equal as others with less effort; therefore, not displaying striving for mastery or being focused on task. These players have ego based goals and they differentiate their effort and perceived ability, based on social aspects surrounding them, again displaying the lack the patience and effort required to find these desired emotions like suggested by Sinek.
Relatedness or connection can be seen as establishing and maintaining secure attachments with others to feel recognized, acknowledged and belonging to environment as opposed to isolated and ignored. Past sports research has provided results showing “the more athletes perceived their coaches to be caring and involved, the more self-determined in their motivations towards sport” (Pelletier, 1995). Hollembeak and Amorose also “found autocratic behaviour had a significant negative relationship with feelings of relatedness” (Hollembeak, 2005). As studied by Mageau and Vallerand, athlete’s perceptions of relationship with coaches is assumed as essential for intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (Mageau, 2003). Therefore, it can and should be recognized that coach-player relations or leadership within the workplace effect can influence performance, welfare and motivations of people and athletes of all ages.
Again, what does this mean for us as coaches and leaders in how we should act? To look at relatedness, leaders and coaches should start by raising expectations for what is needed and expected from connections to others. Meaningful connections is key here; using the iPhone analogy again, put your phone BACK IN YOUR POCKET. Engage on a significant and sincere level and teach our young athletes or leaders to do likewise. In sport specific research, Chan and Mallett recognized that high performing coaches require additional skills including ability to facilitate functioning leader-follower relationships, revolving around emotional intelligence and empathy, beyond the standard technical and tactical skills (Chan, 2011). Jowett’s research into coach-athlete relationships looked at the interrelated emotions and behaviors captured through constructs of commitment, closeness and complimentary, tied in later studies with coordination (Jowett, 2004). In this sports research, commitment within coach-athlete relationships is recognized as intention to maintain a loyal, long term relationship while showing closeness as mutual trust, respect and appreciation for roles played in partnership. The coach’s and athlete’s ability to have mutual relatedness, common ground in beliefs and actions while having stress-free interpersonal behaviors displays coordination and complimentary aspects for successful coach-athlete relationships.
Both performance enhancement and physiological well-being is deeply ingrained within the development of meaningful relationships. All leaders and coaches need to acknowledge and recognize the effects of positive, interdependent relationships, which are dynamic and interlinked with cognition, feelings and behaviors to achieve common recognized goals (Jowett, 2007). The main aspects of influential and successful relationships revolve around ideals such as mutual trust, respect, support, cooperation, communication and understanding of each other and impact of each other within the relationship. Within team sports like rugby union, the relationship between team cohesion and sports performance is an important and positive connection; Carron’s studies recognized that social cohesion has a stronger relationship than task cohesion on performance. Recognizing the benefits of promoting autonomy in team atmosphere for self-determined motivations, democratic coaching styles vastly improve team task cohesion when accounting for commitment, closeness and complementary within coach-athlete relations (Jowett, 2004). LaVoi’s conceptual model recognized the importance of human’s need to belong and feel connected and close within relationships; this can be accomplished through key characteristics in relationships including authenticity, engagement and empowerment between the coach and athlete (Jowett, 2007).
Part of the importance and difficulty of good working and sporting relationships stem around the perceived passion towards the sport, echoing Duckworth's research into grit being made of PASSION and PERSEVERANCE. However, an equally or unequally obsessive passion towards common interests or goals can result in externally regulated motivations taking control, with players, leader or coach being more controlled by outcomes which are regulated or recognized by others than those within relationship. Both parties having harmonious passion towards similar interests and goals should be positive for all dimensions for leader-follower relations and result in understanding of importance of pursuit of mastery yet not over whelming in each other’s identity. High quality coach-athlete relationships, which are optimized by harmonious passion, result in higher subjective well-being within player (Lafrenière, 2008), an area which is critical for age grade player retention and development of self-determined motivations and mastery mindset.
So again, do we actually know or understand fully what these young athletes or workers want or need? Exactly what we want in return; passion, commitment, meaningful communications and relationships, support to choose and make decisions, following instinct while offering honest feedback on performance and support for a growth mindset; all things we must educate, support and train to others. Hopefully this application of sport specific studies being applied to general working environments has offered food for thought.....
To all my Southern Hemisphere coaching and global business friends entering a new year and season, remember in earnest; if every member of a team doesn’t grow together, they will grow apart. As we prepare for a new rugby season, pre-season should be the time for remembering that we as leaders are responsible for setting the tone of the environment needed in order to be at our best. Therefore, understanding and solidifying why we are coaching, leading and teaching is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us. Use this time at the start of 2018 to ask ourselves and communicate with others what our purpose or beliefs are, establishing or reaffirming connections through trust and authenticity which is vital to an organization or sporting team's success and become better leaders through recognition and celebration, coaching, and communication skills.
A small group of inspired and engaged employees or players can have a positive impact. Players today want to feel that they matter, that their work or efforts matter and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Together, you and your teams can create a positive and productive environment where trust and cooperation are the norm, not the exception. However, for people to follow you and identify you as their leader, it starts with integrity, honesty and accountability; all components of trust. When you clearly understand our own why, you can display a greater sense of purpose within our teams and organization and are able to contribute the best of who you are. When you are at your best, contributing to the vision and the long-term progress of the teams or businesses we are involved in, the natural result is greater fulfillment for all involved.
Once you've established why you are leading or coaching, here's some leadership tips for managing young workers and players in today's environment:
- Lead by example; show heroism and leadership in their daily lives for examples to follow.
- Teach them leadership including sharing ideas on how to give and receive feedback for personal growth.
- Accept "failures" as part of growth mindset: Acknowledge failures are helping the person and program grow if we learn and grow from mistakes made.
- Teach and empower them to search and solve their own problems, encouraging new and innovative ideas for ever-changing environments.
After listening to a 2016 podcast with Pete Carroll, I needed to dig further into what he does and why. Extremely successful, Carroll is one of only three football coaches who have won both a Super Bowl and a College National Championship and is the oldest head coach currently working in the NFL. However, his attitude to relationship-based coaching, focusing on being present and recognizing moments and helping others optimism and drive made me want to compare further ideas against athlete led versus coach led approaches, something he touches on in this "Finding Mastery" podcast. It is believed that it is beyond the capacity of any coach (or person in senior management or leadership roles in my opinion) to achieve full, predictable control over leadership and development processes. Therefore, coaches need to learn to cope with ambiguity and difficulty of their role, overcoming a sense of legitimacy or validation and the perceived expectations of others. The challenge of successful coaching is acknowledging social interactive dilemmas within individual and team goal setting and development, offering suitable scenarios and choices with all members’ involvement and collaboratively dealing with matters as opposed to eradicating them. Jones et all (2004) quotes coaching as “inherently fluid and multifaceted, militating against clean treatment, typified by pre-specification of a cumulative sequence of precise objectives and monitoring their achievement” (Jones et al, 2004). Other research noted expert coaches could be recognized as highly adaptive in nature and adopt flexible planning strategies, relative to the context offered, quoted by Cote as “coaching expertise requires flexible adaptation to constraints” (Cote et al, 1995).
Sports coaches of athletes act as pedagogues and adopt comprehensive and holistic roles in the moral development of their athletes through their adopted and shared practices, languages and beliefs. If coaches are to develop knowledgeable athletes, capable of performing learned tasks when under pressure and not under direct instructions, I believe this shall require bidirectional transfer of knowledge or total ownership by athletes of their development, with support from the coaches as “more capable other”.
Having coaches adopt supporting roles, such as an orchestrating role, allows them to support their “leading actors” through methods such as offering practical guidance with limited control, focusing attention on aiding development through decision making for players and practices from observations, evaluations with positive and honest feedback whilst displaying understanding and care towards players, something regarded as highly important by Carroll. Kidman’s research (2001) addressed ideas such as coaches developing player’s complex skills and tactical knowledge through encouraging abstract thought processes by asking high order questions, which require athletes to apply, analyse and synthesize information. This style of leadership has the coach steering as opposed to controlling decisions and actions, encouraging player discovery through evolutionary planning and organizing of tasks whilst keeping sight of overall objectives and showing empathy to get the best from the athletes. Coaches acting as orchestrators whilst attempting to create a successful pedagogic setting requires coordination of activities to investigate, monitor and respond with honesty to players. This may require some transparency from coaches to offer rationale for processes. It may also require negotiation of processes with players to meet individual and collective performance measures of those being coached whilst matching evolving circumstances for learning and development against attempting keeping sight of overall objectives.
Wallace (2001) looked at shared leadership through “promoting cultural transformation for followers through articulating vision of desirable future state, empathizing dialogue, team work and mutual support”. Therefore, coaches shall look to incorporate a greater degree of follower power, gaining an overall system of collective relations between activities, agents and objectives. Therefore, as defined by Gibb (1954), this form of leadership would be recognized as collaborative, “accomplishing group tasks with leadership as fluid (state) as opposed to fixed phenomenon”. This should enable intrinsically satisfying experiences for all involved, enable personal development through informal and incidental learning opportunities and increased levels of skill and knowledge retention due to increased input into leadership.
However, as indicated, this suggests that group or team consensuses may not be reached by team or informal leaders or contradictory or conflicting beliefs developing amongst players shall result in conflicting micro-politics with players selecting personal over collective interests (Hargreaves, 1994). With these ideas in mind, coaches could acknowledge and support their team as a community of practice or local learning system to teach players within athletic environment socially appropriate cultures of practice, related to their sport. Within this, players can develop shared repertoire, where routines, tools, gestures and concepts become adopted and pat of standard practice by playing members, creating joint enterprise within teams through mutual engagement, therefore finding common goals and reasons for participation in groups. Therefore, like discussed by Carroll in regards to his relationships with players and other coaches, a realistic conceptualization of shared leadership in sports team scenarios would see coaches promoting shared leadership with benefits to all stakeholders while setting boundaries and taking ownership of decisions when disagreement between players arise.
Issues surrounding the ideas of shared leadership appears to stem around coaches attempting to take the “lead role”; these ideas were discussed by Carroll looking at former coaches approaches having heavy military themes and being one of the moments "he knew he had a different vision for coaching". Actions such as controlling behaviors as opposed to self-rule for decisions in fear of becoming redundant, coincided with coach-athlete relationship not being treated as interactive or dynamic in nature could result in poor coach-athlete relations. The argument remains that the perceived democracy of athlete-supportive coaches only offers players an illusion of empowerment; the official focus and directions as determined through group or team goal setting originate with the person or people of most authority, which is inherently the coach. However, coaches forcing ideas and issues in forceful or authoritarian manner, alongside lack of information or honesty between all involved stakeholders shall result in absence in effort or damaged relationships.Autocratic styles, being prescriptive in nature with unidirectional transmission of information results in athletes or players feeling undervalued due to lack of opportunity to voice ideas and experiences with coach and other athletes. Therefore, this disengages players and reduces chances to collaboratively learn and resourcefully develop decision making, problem solving and creative skills.
Coaches attempting to control every situation creates an understandable strain on responsibility and accountability; therefore, under a “backstage” leadership style of mentorship or athlete led learning, the coach is required and called upon for detailed observation and analysis whilst offering little direct leadership. Offering player or athlete autonomy “positively corresponds to a number of desirable (player) outcomes” (Gagne et al, 2003); these include task perseverance through developed intrinsic motivation and physiological well-being. Protrac (2000) investigated ideas of coaching unobtrusively which allows players to informally focus on the exercise and objectives with the activities, games or skills being worked on acting as the “teacher”; ideas such as democratic leadership and integrating TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding) would support this transfer of control whilst offering greater opportunities for decision making and athlete centered cognitive development.
Coaches can still have impact through supporting athletes through suitable use of expert power. They can offer meaningful rationale for completing tasks, offer support for choices made and empathy and acknowledgement as part of feedback, as explored by Mageau and Vallerand (2003). Cognitive development is a social, historical and cultural process, where higher mental functions such as problem solving, planning and communication, are developed through interaction and collaboration as opposed to direct instruction. Direct instruction results in slightly extended form of recitation as opposed to genuine cognitive development. Coaches should recognize and acknowledge that there should be a “dynamic power relationship between the athlete and coach for effective education (and development) to occur” (Jones et al; 2004). I believe coaches can only call upon influence in expert or legitimate power, having no control over social domains of players. Therefore, coaches whom try to “lead” through controlling the education process have a reliance on expert or specialist knowledge, which in turn enhances or negatively reinforces legitimate power.
As previously mentioned, we recognize coaching as acknowledging social interactive dilemmas within individual and team goal setting and development, offering suitable scenarios and choices with all members’ involvement and collaborative dealing with matters as opposed to eradicating them. Lemert (1997) discussed that coaches “define themselves and their role by their perception of what it means to be a coach with the influence of occupational socialization and subculture, which provide a sense of others expectations”. However, as explored through previous research mentioned in this article, it is believed coaches whom relationships with players respect their knowledge or expertise in athletic or sports based contexts, cultivate learning without exercising legitimate power and do not influence social aspects or relations can lead to new shared understandings with their athletes. Akin to Carroll's coaching philosophies, Jones and Standage discuss the ideas that “empowering athletes by transferring decision making to them is gathering momentum” yet I believe within rugby union from my research conducted, we need to speed this up for concepts including higher levels of player retention, greater satisfaction at all skill and development levels whilst being committed to develop better people when offering scenarios to create better players as a wider community of practice. I believe a shift in player autonomy like expressed in early stages of Carroll's coaching career shall allow self-rule in athlete actions, offering greater consideration and allowance for their decisions. This shall make the shift by coaches from “being an authority as opposed to in authority” (Bergman Drewe, 2000), gaining closer, more impactful relationships with their players whilst creating player volitional control and self-determined and intrinsically driven actions for expertise in their sport, all working towards Carroll's beliefs of always competing and helping people be the best they can be.
Combining my experience, past education and current research involving business, sports, motivation and learning assistance, I wanted to explore ways business and motivation books could support and enhance sports coaching practices. With this in mind, this current piece of writing shall address ideas from Dan Pink’s books Drive and To Sell is Human and identify ways in which this could be applied to my current research and coaching specializing sports players and athletes. Within my current research, I aim to understand what intrinsically drives these players to remain in their sport, push for mastery within the sport and the roles coaches or leaders play within this, areas of interest which Dan Pink has previously researched, written and presented around. We understand drive in most sporting participants is found from intrinsic motives; their internal desire to master their sports and challenge themselves through committed engagement in highly repetitive activities. Age grade coaching environments need to adopt and offer players ingredients for genuine motivation; mastery, autonomy and purpose. These ingredients are echoed within research conducted in sports coaching involving the study of self-determination theory, which addresses innate psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Cliff Mallet researched and explained that “self-determination theory underscores the role of environment in fueling people’s perceptions of (autonomy, competence and relatedness) in contexts of sport” (Mallett, 2005). Amorose supported that “the more athletes felt autonomous, competent and have a sense of relatedness, the more reasons for participating were self-determined in future” (Amorose, 2007). Mallet also explained that “intrinsically motivated behaviours involve genuine interest and enjoyment in pursuing particular activities with a natural tendency to seek unique challenges, explore and learn” (Mallett, 2005). Therefore, all stakeholders, coaches and administrators involved in these player’s development need to tap into athlete’s intrinsic motivation to most effectively facilitate learning, enhance player’s creativity towards development and pervasively drive the athlete through the enjoyment of tasks and challenges, searching for mastery. Coaches should “agitate over irritate” to challenge players to accomplish something they want to achieve.
Autonomy in sports context can be offering players ability to have choices, input and emphasis onto their self-direction and development, allowing athletes to act on their curious nature while acting with choice. The art of autonomy is allowing people to be accountable of their actions and decisions; coaches should offer players control over their tasks, time, techniques and team around them (to a limited extent) to help them find accountability as control (or perceived control) is an important component of happiness. Amorose (2007) stated perception of the coach to be autonomy supportive had a significant impact on athlete motivational orientation. Coaches need to offer and monitor accountability and feedback of control offered and adopted by players whilst encouraging player autonomy in learning and tasks, as autonomy leads to engagement, which results in drive for mastery. Players when adopting a mastery mindset shall be driven by constant and consistent desire to improve, focus on learning goals and have incremental theory towards sport-specific knowledge and skill level.
The challenge of successful coaching is acknowledging social interactive dilemmas within individual and team goal setting and development, offering suitable scenarios and choices with all members’ involvement and collaboratively dealing with matters as opposed to eradicating them. Past research by Mageau and Vallerand regards the “actions of coaches as (possibly) the most critical motivational influences within sports setting”. Pink acknowledges people are spending more time at their place of employment engaged in non-sales selling, such as persuading, influencing and convincing others, which is regarded as critical to success. Therefore, coaches to successfully “move” their players or athletes need to offer attunement, buoyancy and clarity by providing “astute perspective taking, infectious positivity and brilliant framing”. Therefore, as sports coaching has socially dynamic scenarios to factor, coaches also need to be prepared to successfully improvise and strategically mimic to enhance player and group perspective taking; improvising by coaches compensates changes and allows ideas to be developed through effective communication. However, improvisation success hinges on coach-athlete attunement.
Attunement is “the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and context you are in”; applying Galinsky and Maddux’s research to sporting context would recognise that “taking the perspective of (player) produced both greater joint gains and profitable individual outcomes”. This could be seen as improved coach-athlete relationships, regular player involvement in decision-making processes, honest and accurate goal attainment for coach, player and playing group as a whole and personal development from all stakeholders. Pink’s research acknowledges empathy as important as can build enduring relationships and defuse conflicts; I have read and acknowledged Jowett’s research which recognises 3+1 C’s (closeness, commitment, complementary and coordination) (Jowett, 2007) being critical for successful coach-athlete relationships. However, like mentioned, I believe a coach’s ability to use contrast principle, offering clarity by adding context, honesty and reasoning when offering perspective for dynamic and interactive coaching scenarios experienced and athlete relations shall reap long-term gains and reciprocal commitment and closeness from the athlete in return. My beliefs are echoed in past research including investigations by Mageau and Vallerand (2003); they believe coaches need to offer players opportunity for choice, acknowledge player feelings and perspective, limit controlling behaviours while valuing initiative, problem-solving and involvement in decision making (Mageau, 2003).
Communication when offering perception is important for coach-athlete relationships; coaches need to develop “ambivert” attitudes, being neither overly introverted or extroverted and juggling ability to both inspect and respond to situations when required as opposed to when desired. Coaches need to show openness to ideas, offering elements of power to athletes and enable them to take initiative or control of decision-making process; coach adopted transformational leadership styles would result in positive intrinsic motivations and increased athlete effort as “genuine, not manufactured variety is the key form of human connection”. However, talking too much/listening too little in an attempt to gain assertiveness, dull athletes or other’s perspective or becoming task focused may result in the coach adopting a controlling interpersonal style. Adopting this style puts pressure on the players to act, think and feel in a way consistent with the needs and wants of the coach (Amorose, 2015). Coaches when offering positive, non-controlling feedback need to ensure is related to self-delusion suffocates self-improvement. However, feedback and advice to players from coaches should never be “negative judgements of performance because levels of confidence, motivation and enthusiasm shall not be boosted by negative one to one conversations” (Bullock and Wikeley, 2004). Appropriate negativity allows players to process feedback and make related improvements. A suitable use of coaching time and resources would be educating players on self-reflection and self-talk finds to enhance intrinsic motivation and drive. Decisiveness through interrogative self-questioning gains answers and confirms belief for internally motivated goals as opposed to seeking for extrinsic measures or confirmations.
Clarity in the ability or capacity to assist others see their situations in fresh, revealing ways and identify problems they didn’t have is another necessity for moving others. Coaches should assist players to identify problems as opposed to solving them, offering ideas and assistance for how to think and act as opposed to offering solutions. As Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi’s research addressed, creative people are driven by discovery and creation of problems as opposed to superior skills or ability. Therefore, coaches could adopt ideas from Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), where this theory has the coach standing as a recognised more capable other to the athlete with their requirement being to engage in contextual collaborative and learning relationship with athletes to ensure optimal psychological functioning for maximal sporting performance. The coach or more capable other plays a significant role in transitioning athlete from other’s assistance to self-assistance through ideas such as leading questions or prompting higher cognitive thoughts to assist independent problem identification and solving leading to improved performance in next similar situation. Having three stages in shifting from assistance by others, transition stage and assistance to self, this supports the theory that “development appears twice”. This theory believes development firstly occurs inter-psychological between peers or playing group for this context, prior to occurring intra-psychological, where we internally process and develop, therefore allowing coaches to offer opportunities for players to identify problems as opposed to solving them and propose ideas and assistance for how to think and act as opposed to offering solutions.
I believe this Vygotskian approach to team-based learning would be strongly advantageous in team sports environments if adapted to age grade applications. A collaborative exploration into the technical and tactical sides of sports such as rugby union offer the support required for age grade players in specialising periods of sporting career whilst allowing coaches to unobtrusively redesign coaching environment based on player’s learning styles, acknowledging various philosophies, outlooks and player identities. This method may impact team cultures and social dynamics less as the approach is physically and emotionally safe for involved athletes who have clarity and control over their investigative and learning methods with all tasks being meaningful and understood. Ideas within sessions to build a sense of ZPD include open games and skills exploration akin to ideas in TGfU (Teaching Games for Understanding), aimed at discovery of new techniques and problems identifying/solving strategies along with improved coach communication such as open-ended coach questioning and honest feedback to allow players to discover solutions.
Back to recent readings, Pink notes that “optimism is a catalyst that can stir persistence, steady us during challenges and stoke confidence that we can influence our surroundings”, all traits necessary and desirable for our specialising rugby players to adopt. As leaders or coaches, we aim to offer buoyancy by which we aim to assist our players to “stay afloat amid an ocean of rejection through infectious positivity”. By doing so, we can increase persons, or in this case, player’s effectiveness as positive emotions can “widen counterparts’ views towards situations, expand behavioural repertoires and heighten creativity”, qualities we are endeavouring to install into our developing athletes and young men within my proposed study. Within coach developed and supported positive learning atmospheres or encouraged positive emotions towards learning and performance, we again empower players to take control of their actions, emotions and thinking towards personal development. Coaches in creating a positive, empowered learning atmosphere for the players allows athletes to broaden ideas for future actions and ideas, open awareness to a wider range of thought and make players more receptive and creative to problems within learning contexts.
Pink’s books both address attunement, buoyancy and clarity as key factors for moving people or “selling” people through engagement of your ideas or goals as the case may be in sports coaching. He also addresses enabling and assisting people to find the internal drive or intrinsic motivation through offering autonomy in their actions, purpose in what they do and target mastery of their positions or roles should assist increasing creativity, eliminate narrow focus or unethical behaviour whilst improving performance. Coaches acting with honesty, intimacy, purpose and being personal can create positive learning atmospheres where they can afford to offer bigger picture and allow players to take more control. My research aims to support Pink’s ideas and supported studies mentioned within this article; supportive environments are important for engagement, peak performance and continued participation. As mentioned earlier, I believe for engagement and continuously improved performance, coaches need to offer players opportunity for choice, acknowledge player feelings and perspective, limit controlling behaviours while valuing initiative, problem-solving and involvement in decision making (Mageau, 2003).
My current belief that rugby union age grade development and coaching has become algorithmic as opposed to heuristic. I believe through our (coach’s) desire of personal extrinsic motivators (both self-determining and non-self determining), use of extrinsic rewards, controlling feedback, adopted tactics and set instructions for reliably safe outcomes, we are acting against player’s inherent tendency to seek out challenges, exercise their capabilities and desire to explore and learn, recognised by Deci’s research. While there is a place within rugby for the encouragement of the development of closed skills, I feel these would be better suited at a later stage of player’s developmental process, the investment stage. I believe at this specializing stage of rugby union development, coaches and programs should be offering opportunities and environments to challenge themselves with freedom and purpose whilst finding the balance to ensure players are neither overwhelmed with anxiety to perform or underwhelmed with monotony to drive personal development. Again, within my research, I aim to address the current types of roles coaches offer, forms of learning offered in age-grade programs and compare against what is expected or sought after from their players or athletes in the form of a grounded research qualitative study. Within these teams and player environments I have researched, I believe coaches have to be allowing players to have elements of control over what they do, how, whom and when they can direct their development and learn within sports contexts. Players with mastery mindset will find intrinsic motivation and drive for the pursuit; where I believe we as coaches fit into the equation is offering consistent, critical yet non-controlling feedback while offering support and praise for effort, strategy and exploration of skills and abilities.
At Ballymore last week, newly-appointed Queensland Reds head coach Brad Thorn was discussing his coaching philosophy, talking decisively about action, improvement and passion and whilst being highly experienced, acknowledging being considered as a rookie coach.
"Taking advice is crucial because I know there are massive gaps but you have your own style too,” Thorn said openly of his head coach skills
Regarding having the like of Tony McGahan and Cameron Lillicrap available at Ballymore: “Sometimes coaches will block that out. When I meet people who know more about things than me, I love being around them to learn.”
“No.1, is care ... I’m big on caring about, the team caring about each other, caring about the cause they’re trying to achieve and they’re striving for and big on caring about who you’re representing, be it the family or the fans and stuff like that" Thorn said.
"I’m massive on that, massive on working hard - talent’s not enough and having high standards. I talk about striving for excellence with all the teams I’m part of."
In previous sports specific research, Cliff Mallet of University of Queensland explained that “intrinsically motivated behaviors involve genuine interest and enjoyment in pursuing particular activities with natural tendency to seek unique challenges, explore and learn” (Mallett, 2005). Therefore, Thorn's suggested quest to tap into athlete’s intrinsic motivation should effectively facilitate development, enhance player’s creativity towards learning and pervasively drive the athlete through enjoyment of tasks and challenges, searching for mastery. Thorn and his co-coaches should “agitate over irritate” to challenge players to accomplish something they want to achieve. My current belief that rugby union player development and coaching has become algorithmic as opposed to heuristic. I believe through our (coach’s) desire of personal extrinsic motivators (both self-determining and non-self determining), use of extrinsic rewards, controlling feedback, adopted tactics and set instructions for reliably safe outcomes, we are acting against player’s inherent tendency to seek out challenges, exercise their capabilities and desire to explore and learn. Thorn's early interviews suggest he is going to tap into different areas of player's motivations.
We understand drive in most sporting participants is found from intrinsic motives; their internal desire to master their sports and challenge themselves through committed engagement in highly repetitive activities. High performance coaching environments such as QLD Reds need to adopt and offer players ingredients for genuine motivation; mastery, autonomy and purpose. These ingredients have been mentioned by Thorn's early interviews and are echoed within research conducted in sports coaching involving study of self-determination theory, which addresses innate psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Mallet researched and explained that “self-determination theory underscores the role of environment in fueling people’s perceptions of (autonomy, competence and relatedness) in contexts of sport” (Mallett, 2005). Amorose supported that “the more athletes felt autonomous, competent and have sense of relatedness, the more reasons for participating were self-determined in future” (Amorose, 2007).
Richard Barker of QRU came out and stated:
"We feel strongly that Brad Thorn is the right person to lead this change and that his appointment as head coach is the necessary catalyst for that change,"
"Brad has a proven track record of success as both a player and a coach.
"He is without peer when it comes to the culture and professionalism required to be successful at the highest level of our sport and he is enthusiastic about moving the Reds forward and creating a winning culture at Ballymore once again.
High quality coach-athlete relationships and organisational culture, which is optimized by harmonious passion, results in higher subjective well-being within player (Lafrenière, 2008), an area which is critical for high performance environment's development of self-determined motivations and mastery mindset. Stepping into Thorn's shoes and development from master player to master coach, what tactics or techniques can he adopt to his coaching practices? Taking principles from "The Concise Mastery" by Robert Greene, completing his apprenticeship to master coach could be improved by:
- Keep expanding your horizons
- Trust the process
- Combine the "how" and "what"
- Advance through trial and error
Vealey (1986) recognized sports confidence as “belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport”. I believe progression or development of skills to performance adaptation requires character growth, which would enable Thorn to adopt a mastery outlook on his coaching practices, evaluate his performance and areas for improvement made possible from developed confidence. Positive effect and psychological impetus are regarded as drivers for enjoyment, which in turn would offer greater engagement to Thorn's early stages of coaching development.
Brad and his co-coaches need to offer and monitor accountability and feedback of control offered and adopted by players whilst encouraging player autonomy in learning and tasks, as autonomy leads to engagement, which results in drive for mastery and high standards he has mentioned. Players when adopting a Thorn-like mastery mindset shall be driven by constant and consistent desire to improve, focus on learning goals and have incremental theory towards sport specific knowledge and skill level. Players with mastery mindset will find intrinsic motivation and drive for the pursuit. Thorn, McGahan and Mooney can fit into the equation by understanding player’s personal strivings, motivations and typical tendencies, subsequently offering consistent, critical yet non-controlling feedback and offer support and praise for effort, strategy and exploration of skills and abilities.
Either way, the buzz and excitement is real and as Brad has mentioned, "I think people have had enough of talk. They just want to see stuff. And that suits me.”
During my recent trip to UK and Ireland following attending ICCE Global Coaching conference, I was extremely fortunate to catch up and discuss coaching philosophies and ideas with some of the top GAA Football and rugby union coaches. I was lucky to catch up with:
- Brian McIver, current Derry director of football and former Championship winning coach
- Frank McLeigh whom looks after all Down Emerging Talent GAA sides among other sides
- Cormac Venney whom is both an Elite Inter County GAA coach and offers Sport Psychology support for Ulster Rugby Academy sides
- Willie Anderson, former Irish international second row, assistant coach of Leinster and Scottish national side; currently coaching as part of Ulster Rugby Academy structure
- Sigerson Cup winning coach with St Marys Belfast, Paddy Tally whom has previously coached GAA senior sides including 2003 Championship winning side Tyrone, 2010 finalists Down and Derry
- Matt Wilkie; current Head of Coach Development at Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU)
Some of the main questions and areas I wanted to look around included different tactics and methods for athlete engagement in different sports and ways these high-performance coaches offered autonomy supportive methods and ways to develop players while developing their own practices in elite atmospheres.
Sitting down first with Brian, Frank and Cormac, we discussed the recent stats provided by Club Players Association addressing player dropout (see one of my previous blog posts), talking about how players have changed, creating a necessity for improved player-coach relations and changes to traditionalist ideas to occur. As I posed ideas including acknowledging the challenge of successful coaching is recognizing social interactive dilemmas within individual and team goal setting and development, offering suitable scenarios and choices with all members’ involvement and collaboratively dealing with matters as opposed to eradicating them, they called upon examples faced within high performance amateur sport such as player's professional and family lives and the supportive, flexible roles they must adapt to support different circumstances. These high-level coaches all acknowledged the importance of coaching the individual, recognizing players as a person and all eluding to autonomy supportive practices and expressing elements of self-determination ideas for player engagement and involvement in decisions for sports practices with Cormac mentioning ideas from Google's supportive and inclusive ideas and his application into sporting atmospheres.
As mentioned, I was fortunate to shadow Willie Anderson, who allowed me to question methods and reasoning for choices made in live sessions. Again, like previous coaches, I found him to be extremely athlete focused and autonomy supportive to player decisions and actions. He frequently used questioning and player involvement for decisions in his drive to make players "warriors as well as winners". He discussed the importance of delegating to other coaching staff and players; he echoed like I regularly mention to the players I coach, "once they step over the paint, it is all down to them", supporting them to make decisions and drive player autonomy for how and why they play. He drew upon a document drafted by former National Coach Development Manager for IRFU, Stephen Aboud, talking about the importance of creating a positive environment for the players to grow and constantly reviewing his own performance through a 360-degree process, addressing abilities to plan, align plans and empower.
On having a coffee with Paddy Tally, I again was immensely caught up in his passion for coaching and desire to share his beliefs and understand ideas from other sports and practices also. One of the most powerful quotes offered when speaking of entering a new yet highly resourceful county side was:
If they want coffee, give it to them black...no sugar, no cream; let's see how much they want it.
At first, it came across as quite an authoritarian approach; however, akin to all the excellent coaches spoken with over the past few weeks, he showed he was trying to remind players of their passion and drive like when they initially adopted the sport. Similar to Eddie Jones' beliefs displayed at ICCE Conference, he wanted them to embrace the professional attitude towards training with the amateur's ideals of enjoyment and love for the game. Paddy talks about the "buy in culture" he assists developing through encouraging genuine friendships within the teams he's involved in, supported by a culture of honesty among all those involved. He also encourages greater player autonomy and engagement through functional training and scenario based sessions and games, developing player's decisions under pressure while encouraging them to play, chase and win the game, forever learning lessons throughout.
Discussing similar areas with a person in charge of coach development, I was fortunate to discuss ideas and applied strategies with Matt Wilkie. We discussed how we felt coaching within different hemispheres had become very content based and how he was implementing ideas to offer a greater focus on coaches for how they coach and why for greater impact among players of all capabilities. Introducing and applying principles such as cueing (language), constraints based coaching and ideas from Basic Psychological Needs Theory, whereby coaches and players alike understand the concept of evolved psychological needs and their relations to psychological health and well-being, predicated on autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which shall offer greater understanding for higher levels of commitment for game involvement for coaches and players alike. He discussed ways in which he could create avenues for coaches to turn to and progressively discuss ideas and practices through communities of practice and online techniques and strategies to break down traditionalist ideas and coaching rigidity within rugby union.
Combining these discussions with high-performance coaches in Irish sport alongside notes from presentations in Liverpool's International Council for Coaching Excellence conference, there is a definite acknowledgment towards player awareness and autonomy alongside tactical periodization where coaches and programs are structured to meet both player needs and sports expectations. But, in my opinion, where are possible areas of improvement for coach adaptability and learning opportunities? One immediate avenue of opportunity would be the introduction of communities of practice between sports; gathering ideas, effective adopted practices and even cross code reviews to develop understanding and add value from other avenues. I believe we have become very content focused and over analytical towards how we believe and perceive players within team sports SHOULD be played, coached and reviewed. However, with this, we have lost the concept of acknowledging the social and interactive side to coaching; offering ideas, choices and solutions to scenarios which may be sport applicable or just socially responsible when required for all players and coaches involved to collaboratively overcome and improve.
How does this resonate in your sport currently? I'd love to hear your thoughts towards this article....
"Coaching is like selling the same hotdog to a player everyday and telling him it's good for him; you just need to change the sauce or topping for them"
Eddie Jones delivered as expected for the opening of ICCE Global Coaching Conference 2017; insightful, challenging, direct.
An insight into his personality started prior to his keynote; introducing himself to many senior delegates at ICCE Conference and trying to probe for their background to see if possible to extract some information from them, displaying his passion for learning and development.
He drew upon often his most recent coaching posts within both Japan and England national sides. He described how he developed team leaders within Japan national side by conducting coach-less meetings and allowing them to fail plus adding extra training sessions to give them "ahead start" whilst trying to create an "amateur spirit among the players and learn to enjoy training again".
He spoke of some of the adopted practices from Japan had been introduced to the English national side, most notably introducing a game model and tactical periodisation to their preparation. He and his coaching team ensures they train frequently above game intensity and place themselves under the pressures experienced during games while adopting "functional training" practices, seeing players making decisions more regularly and working under fatigue with S&C coaches and rugby coaches working in conjunction together.
Jones described how we need to adapt as coaches, understanding how our sports are currently played and practices of other sports. He described how our role as coaches is to "make players uncomfortable, to make players grow", continually making the players to think for themselves or make decisions as part of a group and act independent from coaches. He touched on our ability as coaches to "offer accurate feedback and enthusiasm on the run", something I have discussed previously within rugby union circles. I believe we as coaches need to address our current fundamental purposes in the game; understanding the needs of players as individuals, ensure players basics skills are addressed and developed while expanding their imagination and motivation to succeed within the sport, points which were echoed in Jones' keynote.
Our necessity to continue to learn and develop as coaches were summed up in a couple of quotes by Eddie Jones during this address:
Don't be afraid to look at things without the bias of tradition. It takes courage to think differently.
You never "arrive" as a coach...you never "become" as a coach
Thanks for sharing Mr Jones and thanks to ICCE Conference for organizing a great start to the conference.
This week I am based in Ireland in preparation for ICCE coaching conference in Liverpool while combining visits to Ulster Rugby academy, IRFU in Dublin and catching up with age grade coaches involved in GAA football, all trying to understand how their coaches strengthen coach-athlete relationships and continually engage their players. An interesting article was forwarded to me regarding reported raised concerns from GAA and Club Players Association concerning player drop out rates and hurling fixture calendar. Liam Griffin, the former All-Ireland winning Wexford manager and executive member of CPA, made reference to the 2013 ESRI report, 'Keeping Them In The Game', which revealed dropout rates in GAA were 75% between the ages of 21 and 26 in football and 60% in hurling and camogie because of lost interest. He praised the work of the GAA in fostering interest among young people, but said the issue of large numbers dropping out of the game at adult level was a "crisis", pointing to the irregularity of fixtures.
Could this increase in player dropout be as a result of athlete burnout due to extended seasons, uncertainty of fixtures and transition between competitions? Athlete burnout results from “chronically frustrated or unfulfilled basic physiological needs” (Cresswell, 2006) and “denotes a negative emotional reaction to sport participation” (Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmén, & Lundqvist, 2007). Radeke (1997) identified the main symptoms of athlete burnout syndrome, which results in player illness, injury or most applicable for my research and this example, dropout. These symptoms are emotional and physical exhaustion, sport depersonalisation or devaluation and a reduced sense of accomplishment. Thibaut and Kelly (1989) recognized burnout as “a consequence of chronic stress and exposure to a point where unfavorable cost-benefit ratio for sport engagement”.
Deci and Ryan recognized the basic physiological needs as autonomy, competence and relatedness or connection to others. Satisfying these basic needs shall “foster self determined motivation” (Hollembeak, 2005) and has been associated with “higher self-esteem, higher task engagement and lower anxiety” (Deci, 2001), reported as a problem with these players having seen 24,000 join the CPA due to frustration with fixture list. However, athlete intrinsic motivation is not the only reason for lower levels of athlete dropout; Lonsdale’s research found autonomous extrinsic motivations, such as integrated or identified regulators, also resulted in lower levels of athlete burnout. Therefore, ideas such as players being able to express a sense of themselves or achieving personal valued outcomes within better defined periods of the season could be areas to increase athlete engagement to sports or reduce levels of dropout from sport if adopted or encouraged.
Athlete devaluation to sport, regarded as “perhaps most cognitive of burnout dimensions” (Lemyre, 2006), has strong links to lack of autonomy (such as feelings of choice and self-directedness in sport development) and competence (perceptions of effectiveness in sport or team). Lonsdale’s research also found greater or stronger links to devaluation through lack of autonomy. Are GAA hurling losing club players entering into their investment stages of sport participation as they feel there is less choice surrounding fixtures and scheduling or lack of perceived accomplishment in club atmosphere? In a rugby specific study, Cresswell and Eklund found that “reduced accomplishment and devaluation featured most prominently” in their research, alongside finding that athletes needs satisfactions were impacted by reduced sense of accomplishment and sport devaluation, similar to other research.
What can the clubs and coaches involved try and do immediately to stop the loss of players and keep them engaged and involved in football and hurling? Emotional support and perceived efficacy in hurling involvement are areas coaches can assist for prolonged athlete involvement, retention and engagement; this could include ideas such as cultivating personal involvement with players, offering two way communication, utilizing player input and understanding player’s feelings (Gould, Tuffey, Udry, & Loehr, 1996). Cresswell and Eklund (2006) also found concepts such as enjoyable challenges within rugby, open and free communication with coaches and management alongside few or flexible responsibilities outside sport allowed and encouraged player engagement and reduced burnout or dropout. Coaches and administration staff alike should take note from previous qualitative investigations which found attributions to burnout symptoms included pressure to comply and perform in elite environment and transitions between competitions or stages in season, which added emotional and mental stress, highlighting another strong reason why GAA should address the fixture scheduling and try stopping the loss of young adult players.
How do coaches in high performance atmospheres keep team players motivated? Before we look at an excellent example within rugby union, let's remind ourselves of earlier research around this area. Results from Pope and Wilson’s studies showed athletes who perceive coaches to be supportive of decisions, provided with clear feedback concerning goal pursuits and engage with them in genuine and empathetic manner report greater need fulfillment, more self-determined motives and more perceived effort in sport (J. Pope & Wilson, 2012). Supporting this, Vallerand and Mageau’s research has shown that intrinsic motivations and self-determined extrinsic motivators are necessary ingredients for athlete’s optimal function (Mageau, 2003). Deci and Ryan’s research investigated that intrinsic motivation is experienced as consequence of feeling competent and selfdetermined. Intrinsic motivation leads to greater persistence, improved performance and enhanced well-being in a physical setting. While intrinsic motivation stems from innate physiological need of competency and represents the prototype of self-determined behavior, self-determined extrinsic motivators, which are extrinsic motivators which have been internally rationalised with oneself, become activities which are being carried out as are important and concordant to one’s values (Mageau, 2003). It has been researched that changes to people’s perceptions of competence and self-determination (relatedness and autonomy) should increase intrinsic motivations and player identification while decreasing introjection and amotivation (Pelletier, 1995). Self-determined forms of motivation also result in optimal behaviour, resulting in peak performance and persistence (Deci and Ryan, 2008).
Therefore, coaches need to offer autonomy supportive methods through involving players in decision making and goal setting for all team aspects, allowing opportunities for initiative and provide non-controlling feedback to allow players to feel competent in their sport and confident in their choices. This should develop self determined and motivated athletes who in turn shall invest greater effort, report higher levels of concentration, be more persistent and ultimately perform better, based on previous research by Mageau (2003).
Eddie Jones and his England staff continue to use their vast imagination to help come up with ways for England to acquire knowledge and increase their intelligence collectively as well as individually.
"They (rugby players) need new ideas and variety to grow. If you keep doing the same thing, you won’t improve. Underneath the physicality is the importance of players making intelligent decisions. Whether they have the ball in their hands or the opposition do, they have to make a decision
“Each week we try and do something different,” he said. “Whether that be in the schedule structure, training content or the way we present information to the players. In training, we create situations where we don’t tell the players the purpose of the game as we want them to work it out for themselves and very quickly adapt
Allowing players to take initiative and greater control of what they do shall offer better understanding of why they do it. Offering greater levels of player involvement in decision making and coaching content shall also allow coaches to focus on dynamic coach-athlete relationships, noted as the foundation of coaching. Effective coach-athlete relationships address empathy, honesty, respect and support, which shall in turn be holistic in the growth and development of coaches and players alike.
While Eddie Jones has adopted this to an elite level, we as coaches should sit back and look at how we can ensure we are offering and developing some of these tactics in our age grade, grassroots or senior level for the improvement of our practices and player development.
Multiple reports this month has seen Wallabies distancing and being distanced from Super Franchises and grassroots clubs alike. From Super Rugby sides being blamed for player fitness coming into Wallaby camp, Brendon Cannon's calls for professional players to be more or consistently involved in club game and Dean Mumm, president of RUPA, calling for changes to competition structure and costs before reducing playing pool and rugby interest of an entire Australian state (VIC or WA STILL to be confirmed), system centralization is a hot topic mixed within all these areas. However, is centralization with current lack of coordination and communication the issues OR is Australian Rugby suffering from lack of identity and integrity from bottom to top? Where have these issues of identity arisen from? Previous research places meaning and purpose in the very heart of identity (McAdams, 1985). Acknowledging and integrating goals, roles, needs, skills and inclinations into suitable working scenarios shall help create an evolving narrative for who we are and who we want to be as a collective unit; in this case, as the Australian rugby community.
The ARU released their strategic plan quite a few months ago now, covering strategies and plans from 2016-2020, taking of areas of "making rugby a game for all", "ignite Australia's passion for the game", "building sustainable elite success" and "create excellence in how the game is run". With increased participation in 7's and Women's game, development of age grade game for sustainable success with passion pouring from all corners, albeit regarding Wallaby demise in recent tests, many aspects are being worked on yet excellence in how the game is run is certainly an area needing addressing.
Brendon Cannon came out and made a great statement, which would allow all players, administrators and supporters alike remember one of their desires listed in the strategic document; everything we are involved in is to "increase emphasis on grassroots and club rugby" to ultimately assist "success for the Wallabies, seen as most important outcome".
Sew the same “Australian Rugby” badge on every single rugby jersey in the country. Boys and girls. From under 6s to the Wallabies to the Australian women’s sevens team. How powerful would that be? We are all in this together, no matter your age, gender or ability. We are one community.
Kids would love the fact they have the same thing on their jersey that Israel Folau or Charlotte Caslick does. Up goes a poster and there you have a rugby kid locked in for life.
One community. Identity. Integrity. From bottom to top.
Attending the Australian Rugby National Coaching Conference in Brisbane last week, Mick Byrne talked regarding skill acquisition and how currently we are "coaching the game, not coaching the players". While he was discussing this at an elite level, he echoed this was being done at clubs and schools across the country also. The skills we are instilling in our players is as a result of behaviors and experiences from club and school coaching, including their attitudes and aptitudes to change. Therefore, if we want our Wallabies to play "entertaining and exciting brand of rugby", a goal outlined by supporters in the ARU document, the responsibility starts at our thriving grassroots working with our senior players and coaching group as a community of practice, who share concerns and passion for player development, learning how to do it better as they interact regularly and upskilling these players with meaning and purpose of generating more and better Wallabies in future.
All involved parties having harmonious passion towards rugby should be positive and result in understanding of importance of the game's development while not over whelming each other’s identity. An equally or unequally obsessive passion towards the sport can show positive signs for direct commitment to development of rugby union yet shall result in externally regulated motivations taking control. High quality relationships, which are optimized by harmonious passion, should result in higher subjective well-being within involved stakeholders within the rugby community. Therefore, whilst frustrations with ARU and Wallabies recent performances have been displayed, previous research and the plan drafted by the Australian Rugby Union has offered the rugby community some building blocks of specific goals which we need to integrate roles, needs and skills into situations which shall help identify who we are and who we want to be as a community.
One community. Identity. Integrity. From bottom to top.
A few eyebrows were raised when on the return of current Wallaby captain Stephen Moore, young gun Samu Kerevi retained the captaincy versus the Warratahs late April. However, recent interviews have indicated a better understanding of Samu's motivations on and off the field, offering suggestions for balanced, approach focused personal strivings. "What are personal strivings" I hear you ask? Personal strivings define motives or reasons for action in more specific categories yet remain abstract and flexible by nature (Singer, 2005). Emmons identified personal strivings as similar to motive dispositions with the difference being “the idiographic nature of strivings”; “more discriminative than motives yet more stable than projects or concerns” (Emmons, 1999). Strivings imply action orientated perspective on human motivation and stresses movement towards identifiable ends (Emmons, 1999) and act as motivational organizing principles that lend coherence and continuity to day to day goals (Sheldon and Kasser, 1995). Therefore, this would also include when “individuals strive towards particular modes of being without necessarily making strenuous effort" (Emmons, 1999).
Ford and Nichols (1987) identified “individuals’ capacity for cognizing and perusing goals is revealed in everyday experience and what gives meaning and purpose to everyday lives”. Singer (2005) recognised that “examining individual’s personal strivings allows us to get at both long standing motivational concerns and behavioral tendencies that are likely to be tied to particular situations, roles and times that provide additional context we seek”. While Emmons recognised strivings as “abstracted qualities that can be achieved in variety of ways” (Emmons, 1986), personal strivings in an athlete setting identifies what players typically or characteristically try to do on daily basis within their sport.
Why would this be important for athletes, including current Reds captain and Super 20 players I am investigating? Recognising personal strivings are necessary to understand what they or others want or value, how they function or adjust to achieve their goals, protect themselves from frustrations of goals or avoid feared outcomes while maintain motivated over periods of time. Emmons and Diener (1986) researched the positive effect related to presence and attainment of important goals in everyday life, echoing Emmons belief of progressing toward meaningful life goals is a prerequisite for subjective well-being (Emmons, 1986). Player personal strivings should satisfy three basic needs, akin to self-determined motivation principles; they should offer safety and control (autonomy), social belonging (relatedness) and self esteem or competency. Therefore, understanding personal strivings help explain course of player’s life or drivers beneath behaviour, offering reasons for player’s most immediate preoccupations or actions.
Using similar strategies and coding theories used for my current research with U20 elite rugby union players involved in Australian Super 20 competition, I looked at certain goals mentioned by Kerevi during TV interview. Some of these included:
- Always got to beat opposite man
- Got to go forward
- Trying to do the best for the team
- Stepping up as a leader
- Leading by actions
- Being a better person, brother, uncle shall translate onto the field
- Knowing and working with the talents God has given me
All goals or strivings mentioned have an approach mindset where positive incentives are being sought after or moved towards as opposed to negative consequences or outcomes being avoided or prevented; this displays signs of a positive mindset, higher levels of intrinsic motivation and reduced anxiety towards his goals orientation. When coded, Kerevi shows further signs of subjective well being and self determined motivation as his high level listed strivings coded with intimacy, personal growth and achievement mindset. All these signs show a young leader, focused on improving and positive outcomes, working within close, reciprocal relationships with a desire to competing with self determined standard of excellence; a seemingly shrewd choice by Nick Stiles and his coaching team for years to come.
Keep up to date with further research in personal strivings research in rugby setting via https://coachingthecoaches.wordpress.com/research-details-and-links/
Two quality coaches and rugby environments with two very different stories coming from world rugby in early March. Mick Byrne (ex All Black and current Wallabies Skills coach) has reiterated a warning that Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika gave recently: any players who weren’t prepared to make that journey and master the skills of the unstructured game would pay the price. He is quoted saying:
Every single player out there wants to be better and we’re not doing enough work to make them better.
The game has got to the point where only 60 per cent is structured, while the other 40 per cent is unstructured.
All around the country, I watch teams doing their lineouts, doing their lineout drives. But they’re not doing any plays in an unstructured environment.
We need to upskill our players, get them into that 40 per cent part of the game. We’re scoring on the structured part of the game.
Jump to the other side of the globe and a coach formally said to not have the technical experience or expertise to cut it at international level, Stuart Lancaster (current senior coach at Leinster Rugby) has been praised by current Irish international Sean O'Brien regarding input into Leinster's attacking game. On returning from international rugby to Leinster's win in Champions Cup, in which all of Leinster's tries came from open play, O'Brien said:
I suppose you’ve more of a license playing with Leinster than at international level. It's nice to go into that environment and know the way you are going to play and know that you are going to have a crack and see where it takes you.
Different coaches have different game-plans. You stick to what they want to do.
He (Lancaster) has brought a new dimension to our attack definitely in terms of just playing, the unstructured stuff as well, the stuff that you face in games
With Stuart coming in now it’s just taken a bit of pressure off them (other senior coaches) and us, I think, as players, to give us that free reign of all-out attack
While both coaches display recognized importance for player involvement for development and improvements towards unstructured side of game, both appear to be generating potentially different player mindsets and motivational atmospheres to doing so. Comparing against work of self motivation written by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, Byrne has reiterated a very controlling and pressurized statement of how players need to change to meet Wallaby coaches' expectations. Research has shown controlling statements undermine player's intrinsic motivations and antagonize autonomy, which in turns drains enthusiasm and interest in controlled activities; in this case, improvements to skills and the unstructured side of the game.
Pressuring players to behave and act certain ways diminishes feelings of self determination, notably perceived autonomy and competence. Players are naturally embedded with tendency and energy to grow and develop; Wallaby coaches for this example could explore and promote internalization and integration of non structured side of the game. However, this perceived controlling context shall possibly impair development by promoting imposed coach introjection, a process which shall need to be repeated once done.
When players are pressurized and controlled to achieve particular outcomes such as master the skills of the unstructured game, their self esteem is dependent on how those targeted goals turn out. This area labeled as ego involvement relates to when player's feelings are dependent upon specified outcome; this additional pressure results in increased tension, anxiety to perform, impairs learning and diminishes performance. Mick's comments may have created the perfect storm in pressure to perform....
External pressure from Wallabies coaches may lead to an urge to defy as the targeted goals are without player personal endorsement and not a true expression of self. By creating highly controlling contexts and environments through behaviors or language, we undermine the natural desire to feel competent and at best, controlling behaviors from the coaches may gain sense of compliance from the players yet this shall not produce lasting change. Meaningful and lasting change occurs when players are self motivated by accepting themselves, take interest and responsibility in what they do and decide they can be creative and are prepared to do it differently, all displayed in comments made by O'Brien.
Lancaster and other Leinster coaches appear to have adopted and offered autonomy supportive style by offering choice, encouraging self initiation and display understanding for reasons for actions, creating mastery orientated players with high self esteem. These actions could result in the involved players being intrinsically motivated to improve within these areas of the game. This should result in better understanding, greater creativity, improved problem solving skills and willingness to learn and grow, all key skills required for unstructured side of the game.
Intrinsically motivated player performance within an autonomy supportive environment such as the one created in the Irish province shall offer players with an optimal challenge. Players shall feel more responsible for development and performance while shall seek to collaboratively learn and evolve as a group with a greater sense of harmony and emotional integration to unstructured side of the game.
So how could the Wallaby coaches promote autonomy to mastering the skills of the unstructured game? Cheika and co could (and should) involve players in goal setting process, allowing roles in decision making and offering choice of areas and ways to develop. When the players feel they are acting with a sense of choice, freedom and flexibility, working for the conman good and display true willingness to behave in accord with collective interests and values, they shall also be more capable to hanging behaviors needed to master the skills of the unstructured game.
Remembering the extent to which player's behavior is autonomous, creative and intrinsically motivated is determined by the interaction of their own personalities and the degree to which the context is autonomy supportive. To allow the players to truly express themselves in unstructured side of the game, the Wallaby coaches must be committed to creating an socially supportive environment first to do so, similar to one of Chekia's old stomping grounds, Leinster.
As reported by Rugby World in March 2017, "A global rugby season has been at the heart of many a discussion since the game went professional 20 years ago and last week World Rugby announced a new ‘optimized’ international calendar for the period 2020-32". As touched on, player welfare was meant to be taken into account with these changes yet was it really been addressed? On addressing the volume of rugby played and prioritizing rest periods for players, IRPA executive director Rob Nichol said “The key is being able to firstly ensure players get a period of rest, followed by a period of conditioning where they get adequate time to prepare for a competition and playing season. We feel between 12-14 weeks, possibly more, is required to achieve this.” However, have issues of mental exhaustion been addressed? Have we taken adequate steps to prevent player burnout and optimizing player well being? Radeke (1997) identified the main symptoms of athlete burnout syndrome, which results in player illness, injury or dropout. These symptoms are emotional and physical exhaustion, sport depersonalisation or devaluation and a reduced sense of accomplishment. Athlete burnout results from “chronically frustrated or unfulfilled basic physiological needs” (Cresswell, 2006), “denotes a negative emotional reaction to sport participation” (Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmén, & Lundqvist, 2007) and is “a consequence of chronic stress and exposure to a point where unfavorable cost-benefit ratio for sport engagement” (Thibaut and Kelly 1989). Therefore, an extended period of rest alone may not offer personal development, sense of achievement or intrinsic satisfaction through physical rest alone.
Satisfying the basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness or connection to others shall “foster self determined motivation” (Hollembeak, 2005) and has been associated with “higher self-esteem, higher task engagement and lower anxiety” (Deci, 2001), which allow athletes or players to develop intrinsically defined motivation for goals or development within their sport. Basic needs satisfaction shall also result in positive psychological consequences such as adaptive coping strategies for personal development and flow experiences, ideal for player development and both consequences required for specializing adolescent athletes as part of personal development. However, intrinsic motivation is not the only reason for lower levels of athlete burnout; Lonsdale’s research found autonomous extrinsic motivations, such as integrated or identified regulators, also resulted in lower levels of athlete burnout.
The proof of this extended rest concept may be proved next year with David Pocock expressing a desire to detach himself from the daily training regimen of a professional rugby player which helped him decide to take a sabbatical year in 2017. Pocock revealed he’d sought advice on taking time away from Dan Vickerman, the big Wallaby lock who quit Australian rugby in 2008 to study at Cambridge before returning for the 2011 Rugby World Cup whom sadly took his own life earlier this year. Like Vickerman, Pocock is exploring interests away from rugby, doing some courses with conservation group Wild Ark, spend a week at Kruger National Park, another seven days in Botswana, as well as help his 80-year-old grandfather!!
"There's a lot of stuff outside of rugby I'm keen to explore," Pocock says. "I'm just going into next year with an open mind and it'd be a real treat not having that pre-season just looming like most holidays when you get two weeks of nothing and then you have to do fitness again."
Ideas such as players being able to express a sense of themselves or achieving personal valued outcomes could be areas to increase athlete engagement to sports or reduce levels of dropout from rugby if adopted or encouraged. Food for thought for Mr Beaumont and Pichot....
For those unaware, my passion and strong belief for a unified Global Rugby Calendar is something I want to add weight to and hope will come to fruition during my involvement in the sport.
Another meeting held in San Francisco in late Jan 2017 saw comments from Bill Beaumont (Chairman of World Rugby) offer optimism that this may be on track.
"During a positive, collaborative and highly-productive forum, key principles were agreed that will underpin the development of the calendar which has player welfare and the harmony of the international and club game at its heart"
I want to see ideas such as extended international windows for current annual competitions and June/November internationals to be measure of all elite players, agreed club competition seasons dates (my ideas would be Euro Champions Cup and Super Rugby from late Feb-May and domestic leagues such as English, Pro12, Japanese and Currie Cups/NRC/NPC in late July-October, hopefully resulting less player movement, greater opportunities for existing or developing players or agreed dual contracts on global scale) and global off season of December-January.
One of the main ideas for these proposed suggestions and areas surrounding mentioned discussions of player welfare include player burnout. Researchers studying the experiences of individuals in human care settings propose the burnout syndrome consists of three central characteristics: emotional exhaustion, reduced accomplishment and depersonalization (Maslach, 1982). Athlete devaluation to sport, regarded as “perhaps most cognitive of burnout dimensions” (Lemyre, 2006), has strong links to lack of autonomy (such as feelings of choice and self-directedness in sport development) and competence (perceptions of effectiveness in sport or team). Within Lonsdale’s research, he recognised that “self-determined motivation moderates the relationships that competence and autonomy had with exhaustion” (Lonsdale, 2009); both emotional exhaustion and devaluation were related to unfulfilled or lack of self-determined motivations. Ryan and Deci (2000) also believed “physiological need for relatedness may play a more distal role than competence and autonomy”. Hodge’s research echoed “high burnout players (investigated) had lower competence and autonomy scores yet didn’t report different relatedness (connection to others) scores” (Hodge, 2008). Therefore, straight away, the idea of "burned out players" would suggest less autonomy or feeling of control and competence or impact in teams or competitions involved in rather than physical exhaustion. Like I suggest, it's having the all unions of world rugby offer choices of where and when to play rugby to gain some personal sense of achievement, development or connectivity within or external to rugby circles to gain some deeper meaning in player's lives.
Athlete burnout results from “chronically frustrated or unfulfilled basic physiological needs” (Cresswell, 2006), with reduced accomplishment and devaluation featured most prominently and “denotes a negative emotional reaction to sport participation” (Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmén, & Lundqvist, 2007). Satisfying these basic needs shall “foster self-determined motivation” (Hollembeak, 2005) and has been associated with “higher self-esteem, higher task engagement and lower anxiety” (Deci, 2001), which allow athletes or players to develop intrinsically defined motivation for goals or development within their sport. Basic needs satisfaction shall also result in positive psychological consequences such as adaptive coping strategies for personal development and flow experiences, ideal for player development and both consequences required for specialising adolescent athletes as part of personal development.
However, intrinsic motivation is not the only reason for lower levels of athlete burnout; Lonsdale’s research found autonomous extrinsic motivations, such as integrated or identified regulators, also resulted in lower levels of athlete burnout. Similar research sees Gustafsson (2007) report findings that team sport male athletes showed higher burnout scores (compared to individual athletes) based on emotional and physical exhaustion and devaluation of coach and co-athletes, while displaying no significant correlation between training volume and burnout scores. Therefore, the emotional support and perceived efficacy in sport is areas coaches can assist for prolonged athlete involvement, retention and engagement, which can be enhanced by understanding of what players’ value and why. Therefore, ideas such as players being able to express a sense of themselves or achieving personal valued outcomes (personal strivings) could be areas to increase athlete engagement to sports or reduce levels of dropout from rugby if adopted or encouraged. The most obvious and current example being David Pocock; having been granted 12 months away from rugby to pursue other goals should see him come back a more determined player, having satisfied other pursuits in his life.
From Gould’s research, he gained ideas for coaches such as cultivating personal involvement with players, offering two way communication, utilizing player input and understanding player’s feelings (Gould, Tuffey, Udry, & Loehr, 1996). Cresswell and Eklund (2006) also found ideas such as enjoyable challenges within rugby, open and free communication with coaches and management alongside few or flexible responsibilities outside sport allowed and encouraged player engagement and reduced burnout or dropout. Coaches and administration staff alike should take note from qualitative investigations which found attributions to burnout symptoms included transitions between competitions or stages in season, which added emotional and mental stress; pressure to comply and perform in elite environments and negative development environments, all areas which could factor and enable greater control for players and coaches alike. I believe many of these issues these could potentially be prevented with a global rugby calendar, offering greater opportunity and choice to those involved in rugby and extending opportunity to enter to the current diverse groups.
Player leadership within rugby union has become a topic in point last week with Eddie Jones (England RFU Head Coach) commenting during the week of the lack of leadership within his squad.
"Apart from working on the fundamental skills and increasing the depth of the squad, one thing we need to do is increase the leadership density of the team. That's a big project going forward"
Therefore, how and who can step up and fill these vacant voids suggested in coach Jones' squad?
Quoting from past research, leaders within team environments have been seen to drive and coordinate 3 main areas or functions being task related, social functionality and external obligations (Longhead, 2006). Within team environments, we can find different forms of leadership forming through formally appointed leadership roles, informal leadership and/or peer leadership roles, whereby a person may only effect 2 or more people within the group yet their actions or input leads to influence of others. Looking at Leadership Scale for Sports (Chelladurai, 1980), within these 3 functioning areas of task, social or external, it looks at which areas players look for leadership within. These areas include training and instruction, democratic behaviour, autocratic behaviour, social support and positive feedback. So which areas of leadership is Eddie searching for...?
Studies have shown informal leaders or peer leaders can complete functions that formally appointed leaders such as Dylan Hartley cannot. Peer leaders are seen as influential on task related goals of the group as a whole and focus on team harmony and collective cohesion; these leaders offer greater impact around areas such as social support, positive feedback and can offer democratic decision making dependent on when situation requires them and to as small or large a group within the team as opposed to the when’s and whom by which expectations or protocol sets. Athlete or peer leaders engaged in social behaviors positively influence team cohesion and performance as a result (Vincer, 2010) as social cohesion has shown stronger link with performance than task cohesion (Jowett, 2004). These informal leaders are recognized by certain traits, most notably skill level amongst the playing group, the strongest index of peer leadership (Glenn & Horn 1993). Moran and Weiss (2006) also recognized peer leaders have higher perceived levels of competence and increased ability for expressiveness. A positive relationship has been demonstrated between the presence of athlete leaders and team outcomes such as player satisfaction, team cohesion, confidence and performance (Fransen, 2015); therefore, a open, honest and confident side....seemingly where England side have been for past 12-14 months. So, where else can coach Jones look towards?
Past research has recognized good teams having good leaders with strong social connectedness, which goes hand in hand with task leadership, as displays higher level of collective efficacy (Fransen, 2015). The quality of social support received is critical to group success and player satisfaction; while important to receive social support from coach-athlete relationship, the increased pressure to ensure the player does not let down their parts within the relationship can lower autonomy and intrinsic motivation through perceived controlling behaviours. Therefore, the leadership dynamics and coach’s willingness to allow player leaders to be identified, creating connected individuals and responsibility being distributed amongst the group through social networking is important within team dynamics.
Coaching success stems around the competence, confidence, connection and character developed by the athlete as a result of the coach-player relations; however, coach adopted transformational leadership styles, which look at the importance on the leader-follower relationship, would result in positive intrinsic motivations and increased athlete effort. Bass (1985) recognizes this style of leadership as the ability to inspire and motivate followers to exceed performance expectations by shaping follower’s beliefs and attitudes. This form of leadership can be developed by inspiration or motivation to team members, through creating a vision of common goals, idealizing influence through modelling behaviors or values, individualizing consideration, through allowing for other’s needs and feelings and intellectual stimulation through encouraging creativity. However, if levels of autonomy are not offered, player’s feelings are ignored or common team goals discounted, this could move into controlling or style.
In coaches attempts to gain impact in instruction for learning or becoming task focused the coach could adopting an autocratic or controlling interpersonal style. Adopting this style puts reduces players levels of autonomy and increases pressure on the players to act, think and feel in a way consistent to the needs and wants of the coach (Amorose, 2015). In developing levels of control through power assertive techniques forcing player compliance and using social comparison for evaluation, would adopting these leadership styles for task functions while allowing player or peer leaders to satisfy individual player social relatedness and perceived group autonomy gain suitable levels of satisfaction and group cohesion? Is Eddie suggesting relinquishing some control to the players??
Previous studies suggest collective cohesion and team success should be seen as leadership driven and responsibility for all team members as high levels of individual’s intrinsic motivations are experienced when coaches exhibit a leadership style that empathized instructional behaviors and democratic behavior rather than autocratic leadership styles (Amorose, 2007). It is recognized good teams having good leaders with strong social connectedness, which goes hand in hand with task leadership, as displays higher level of collective efficacy (Fransen, 2015). The leadership dynamics and coach’s willingness to allow player leaders to be identified, creating connected individuals and responsibility being distributed amongst the group through social networking is important within team dynamics.
For this example, would Eddie's time be spent identifying players to translate the coaching group's vision, helping develop task leaders through adopting principles of law of diffusion of innovation? As he introduces MMA training practices to improve contact work and adds visual awareness coach to improve player's awareness, continuing to push and improve player's abilities, can a strong clear vision with increased player involvement and group cohesion offer him the impact and number of leaders he is searching for? With the Six Nations kicking off in 2 weeks, time shall tell.....