Still the most important ingredient to success
June was great, England Rugby won a historic 3-nil whitewash over Australia, then the U20s beat Ireland in the World Rugby Championship final and England Cricket team won the test series and ODI’s over Sri Lanka. But then pain hit our Nation as our football team failed miserably, sorry to say once again, at the Euros.
Can July get any better? Wales, and for me a stout Englishman I truly do mean this, reached their first ever international football tournament finals in 65 years and just missed out on an epic last 2 to a Portugal team who finally turned in a performance. Andy Murray is making his way solidly to claiming his second Wimbledon crown and Danny Willett is in fine form to add the Open major title to his recent Masters win. So all not lost.
In today’s world of professional sport technology, specialist equipment, scientifically proven training, entourages of support staff and the most incredible finest last details are all used to find that edge in competition, anything to win. . With regards those finer details England FA had their own grass seed flown in especially from the St Georges Park HQ which was planted at the Stade de Bourgognes ground in Chantilly. This was though the only training pitch of the 24 countries to have a full pitch replaced.
At a recent business breakfast I was amazed at the amount of data collected from players in training and matches through GPS systems. Not just heart rates, distance covered, tackles made and so on. They now even measure a players sleep patterns pre and post-match to check its impact on performance.
I love technology, if I coached at a professional level I would embrace all of the above (perhaps not a new pitch!) and want it immediately at my disposal. But unfortunately I don’t coach Saracens or England but I do coach a very successful, vibrant and dedicated bunch of 11-year old rugby players. Throughout my local club and now junior age rugby coaching there is something I have always firmly believed in and instilled in those players. This has been confirmed by England Rugby and Wales Football. Eddie Jones has spoken constantly about it and any Welsh player was constantly expressing it. Belief, Pride and Passion. Belief in yourself, your team. Pride to be one of such a chosen few to wear that shirt and a passion that makes their hearts pound so hard when they step out to play. England Rugby withstood a 22-phase attacking onslaught from Australia past halftime in the 2nd test and I guarantee this went some way to them winning the match and ultimately the series because they gave it everything they had to stop them breaking through. What can you say to a team at halftime when they couldn’t score a try or force a penalty after 22 phases? Wales turned up in France honoured to be there. But as a nation fed from birth on pride they have gone on to make not only the dreams come true of the 3 million Welsh cheering them on at home (and however many worldwide) but also for themselves, all due to bags full of ‘B-P-P’. And its fact as the game or tournament goes on all 3 of these ingredients get stronger and stronger and become a force to deal with.
So my message isn’t to England Football, I am hopeful that the FA will find the right person for the job. For what it is worth my bit of aged old experience and advice to all us Saturday and Sunday coaches is this. Use the wealth of training videos available on the internet, read and digest the stats gathered from the helpful parent on the sideline each week and do what’s right in your mind when picking your best team. But please teach every single one of them to believe in themselves and each other, talk to them about your proudest moments as a player and how it made you feel. Make them dig deep to find and ignite that passion that we all do have inside. Nurture it, feed it, see it light up in their eyes and most importantly get them to use it. It may boil over sometimes and it may not always be channelled correctly but it will give them that edge not just on the field of play but throughout life. Because it really is the secret and every Champion will tell you that.