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Great Players = Great Coach?

The great All Blacks (and now Black Ferns) coach Graham Henry was once asked, ‘what’s the secret to becoming a great coach?’ He simply said ‘great players make great coaches.’ It was a somewhat tongue and cheek comment, but when you step back he had the likes of McCaw and Carter running the ship, which most certainly helped with the All Blacks success.

This is definitely prominent in youth sport. Often highly talented kids who are faster, stronger, more physically mature will dominate games. They will score all the tries, goals, points and help their team win games. And if you’ve got a few players like this, then the team will likely dominate. The challenge however, is that talented players can mask the actual performance of the team, especially if the coach (and parents) sees winning as the key measure of success.

Now we don’t want to stifle the growth and ambition of our more ‘talented’ kids, but it is our challenge to step back and look at performances objectively. Are we seeing improvement in skill development and involvement in matches? And how do we know? If you were to video the match and code certain actions we are likely to be flabbergasted how little involvement certain players actually have. And this is likely to be the same in game-based practice activities.

Now for a couple of ideas…

  1. Set up the practice environment to help all kids improve the fundamental skills of your sport. Mix up the practice with a variety of games, small-sided or 1v1 activities so there is a variety of learning opportunities.

  2. Step back from match results to view performance more objectively. A good question might be…. If we didn’t have player X, how would our performance have been different?


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