‘I think if it’s like player-led, then the coach should just stay out. It gets like real confusing and the team just looks at the coach instead of me.’ (18 year old girl - team captain)
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Did anyone notice what the Olympic Champion Black Ferns 7s co-coaches Cory Sweeney and Alan Bunting were doing at half-time in the high pressure moments of knock-out ‘do-or-die’ matches at the Olympics? Were they giving a run-down of ‘what we are doing well,’ ‘what we aren’t doing well,’ and ‘what we need to do now?’ No…. They didn’t even enter the huddle. They handed the ladies a few drink bottles, while the key leaders delivered the messages. Even in the extra-time semi-final, they strolled out calmly and still let the girls figure things out. Wow, crazy eh. Now this isn’t luck or a reflection of their disinterest. This has been a philosophy that has been fine-tuned over the past 4-5 years. So... what could ‘player-led’ actually look like?
We know the players (like most people) thrive on having ownership and chances to lead. Often coaches find it is a challenge allowing the players to lead with taking control of themselves. You know…. ‘They’re not doing it right. I just need to fix this mess up.’
If you truly want to allow players to lead, then you’ll have to give them time and space. Yes, things may not always go perfectly. Yes, they will struggle at times, but this is where the magic lies. This is the chance for coaches to unpack the learning, not just around technical and tactical aspects, but how to lead. Coach them to lead.
So, when it’s their time to lead, let’s stay out of the way!