This blog is framed around feedback from a friend of mine, Chris Carlin. Chris is a serving Royal Marine and captain of a local rugby club, Kings Norton RFC. I first worked with Chris to help him prepare mentally for selection into the Marines. He’s a modest guy and won’t tell you himself that he is one of only eight of his 60+ intake who passed as an ‘Original’, i.e. he was not back-coursed. He now finds himself captain of his team and I am talking to him about how he motivates them to a more consistent performance level. This is his diary of his work in this area together with my comments and tips.
Motivation & Belief
Chris: Motivation and self belief are as much of an issue within lower league sport as they are in the professional game. Kings Norton RFC are no strangers to dips in personal belief and as a result dips in their performance. As a result of a serious injury sustained by the 1st team captain, I have recently stepped in and taken over. I have played at the club for 6 years, and though at 23 years old I am by no means the most senior player, due to a large number of new players this season, I am amongst the longest serving within the 1st team setup. I was keen from the start, to instill a level of belief and confidence into the team, as I am a firm believer that a team is only as strong as their dedication to the cause, and so having used the ‘Impress’ coaching technique myself a number of years ago, as a means of preparation for Royal Marines training, I was keen to implement it at KNRFC, as it was invaluable to me and my successful induction into the Marines, with whom I have now served for a number of years.
As a team we have had a good start to the season, with 7 victories from 11 games and our first game of the New Year saw a return visit from Pinley RFC, against whom we have had a history of very tough encounters, where we have allowed ourselves to be intimidated and overcome by a more physical and resolute team. I strongly believe that we have the potential to beat any team we come up against in our league, because I have seen us at our best. My challenge is ensuring the whole team felt the same way.
The Association Technique
Mark: Here Chris has set himself an outcome, the first step of impress. We discussed how he would know when they were achieving this outcome and his answer to this question is in the following paragraph. The approach we discussed was to engage the team in a conversation that embedded in their minds the impress Formula idea that their challenge is temporary, external & specific and that their qualities are permanent, general and internal.
Chris is aware that he has stepped into to fill the breach as Captain and not voted in as is the KNRFC custom. So when he talks to the squad in a robust way, any negative body language or comments from the team can knock him off his tack. So I advised him to prepare his mental state, (Step 2 Manage Your State), before hand. Rapport, (Step 3 Practice Rapport), is taken care of by his bond with the squad and the approach he used which is to get the players talking to him rather than simply listening to his ‘inspirational’ words.
Chris: The first step was identifying how we as a team viewed ourselves, so before the game we sat down and I asked the question, inviting the lads to comment on our strengths throughout the season, and also where we have previously struggled, it was commonly viewed that we ‘start poorly’, ‘don’t show up for the first 20 minutes of a game’, ‘make it hard for ourselves in the late stages of a match’ and ‘are only good when the whole team is firing together’. It was however also agreed that ‘when we get going, we are a force to be reckoned with, and have the ability to beat any team’. From this, we as a group decided that the best way to look at ourselves, wasn’t as a team who makes it hard for themselves and starts poorly, but rather a team who doesn’t stop until the final whistle, and who ‘win ugly’ despite our record of poor starts. It was also decided that now we were aware of our slow starts, they could be the main focus of our improvements over the coming weeks, starting with the impending fixture against Pinley.
Chris: The following pre match warm up was the best all season, largely I feel down to everybody buying into the collective viewpoint, that today’s game wasn’t going to start like the previous matches had this campaign, and that we were not going to become the self fulfilling prophecy of ‘we are Kings Norton, a good team but we start slow and always concede heavily at the start of our games’. Game time came, and us being 8-0 up after the first 20 minutes was also a clear indication that our mindsets had changed for the better, and it was good to see the renewed vigour with which the team were playing as a result of this positive start. As with all sport it is important not to rest on your laurels and a quiet middle period for us, left us trailing with 20 minutes to go, however a typically strong final quarter allowed us to get some points back on the board and back within 3 points of victory…. which unfortunately was as close as we were to get. Despite defeat, the assurances we as a team have gained from today, far outweigh the negatives, we have shown through addressing the previous issues that we had, and altering how we view ourselves, so as to positively affect our performance and expectations in the future, today’s game was a building block for the remainder of the season, where we a team will continue to focus solely on what we have done well, so as to maintain a self affirmed mindset as we head into the remaining games this year. I am confident that if we do this effectively, we will more than reach the potential that we are beginning to realise we have.
My advice for the next game is to carry on with the tactic of ‘Association’ and focus on what went well, why they dipped and what they need to do to maintain 80 minutes of their best rugby. I would invite him to ask what they wanted to be saying about their performance after the game, what they want to hear supporters, coaches and fellow players saying; how they want to feel, what the post match scene looks like in their eyes after a great performance.
I’ll look forward to next weeks diary.impress Inspiration Survey
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