Coaching, like parenting, is one of those real-life scenarios where it is crucial to “do the do, and not just say the do” or, to put it another way, “lead by example”. Kids are incredibly adept and sensitive to the disparity of words versus actions, and are very quick to pick up on the “Do as I say, not as I do”.
This past weekend, my youngest son was part of a Under 9 Boys team invited to compete in the OzTag 2014 National Championships. These boys came together in late 2013 as part of a selected team to represent the Baulkham Hills OzTag club in a statewide competition in February 2014. It should be highlighted that the coaches for our team are volunteers, who freely give up their time to select, train and coach the team, and usually their children are in the team as well. After winning the State Cup competition, the team went on to play in another competition, the Tri State, in May 2014, ultimately losing the grand final in overtime by a golden point. The boys did really well in the National Championships – they won all four games in the draw, and then won the semi-final to earn their place in the grand final. The complete results of the competition can be found at the bottom of this post. There was no lack of experience or continuity in the team – the whole squad of 16 boys has been together for almost a year now.
I noticed something about the team over the weekend, and in the end I think it’s what stopped the West Tigers from winning the grand final :- the coaching staff continually threatened to substitute players that didn’t pass the ball during training, but failed to follow through in any of the games. In a team of strong individual players, the `success’ of a few players scoring enough tries to win the preliminaries possibly caused the loss of the grand final because the coaches `rewarded’ or reaffirmed negative team behaviour by not following through on the threatened discipline, not “do the do”, and so the boys progressively stopped passing the ball around, reducing the team’s overall effectiveness.
Do the do
At half-time of the grand final, the Under 9 Boys West Tigers were down 2-1 to the Stingrays, and weren’t showing any of the spark and finesse in attack that they were capable of. Their defence continued to be solid, but this was nothing like the team that defeated the Stingrays two days earlier in their first game of the competition. A few short minutes into the second half, the Stingrays scored, and then shortly after scored again, taking the lead to 4-1. To the West Tigers credit, the boys on the field snapped out of “glory mode” and started playing as a team again, passing the ball around, scoring once, and then scoring again on the full-time buzzer to end up losing at 4-3 to the Stingrays.
The post game wrap up
I’m not wanting to rain on the parade, or to disparage the coaches or the boys. No matter the outcome, my wife and I teach our kids that:
the referee’s decision is final
the coach’s decision is final
you’re free to have an opinion on the above decisions, but still have to live with and abide by the above decisions
I can only do one thing, as a sideline critic. And that is to “do the do”, and encourage my son to play the way his coach, and his team, need and ask him to.