Enabling every player to enjoy rugby and to reach their full potential is our ambitious goal. Bearing in mind that each player may have different goals and will face different challenges along the way this is a pretty tall order!
Central to achieving this is our belief in working together as One Club: players; parents; and coaches, from mini to adult. To make this possible we are developing player and coaching pathways using a consistent language and methodologies so that players and coaches can progress smoothly through the system – developing as they go. We call this approach “The Wasps Way”.
Increasingly, how athletes think and feel is recognised as having as much, if not more, of an impact on their performance than their physical capabilities and skills. Getting Better at Getting Better is our attempt at capturing positive ways of thinking that will allow our players to get the most out of rugby (and maybe even life!). We’ve been very lucky to collaborate with Gregor Townsend in developing this resource. Gregor explains why a growth mindset is important.
Director of Youth Rugby, Melrose Rugby
Getting Better at Getting Better
In the last few years I’ve been able to coach both professional and youth rugby and there are so many similarities in both groups. Success to me is about improvement – how the team and each individual player gets closer to reaching their potential. Fundamental to achieving this is creating an environment where our players understand that they can improve, and they will improve if they put in the e ort during training sessions and are willing to work hard for heir teammates during games. I’ve been lucky at Glasgow that we have so many players that possess these attributes, and they set high standards every day at training and will be working on their game when no one else is watching. As coaches and parents we have to ensure that our players feel safe to make mistakes in the knowledge that these are a crucial part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes but the reaction to them will go a long way to de ning the culture of a club. For those watching it’s about encouragement and helping players discovering what could have been a better option and what they would do next time. For our players it’s about learning from that mistake in super-quick time then turning to the next task and attacking that with full conviction and con dence.
There will be a number of times where we’ll have to challenge underperformance or a drop in standards, but highlighting e ort and celebrating achievement is of even importance at creating an environment that everyone wants to be a part of and no one wants to leave. Positivity will be the glue that connects a team and gets them believing that they can succeed.
It will be great to watch how far they can go ...
1. Small improvements really do matter
It is silly to set yourself a target that is too big. In fact most people give up before they get there. It is better to set yourself targets which you can achieve relatively quickly and then you can set yourself new targets. This will help motivate you to keep working hard and practicing your skills.
Almost every habit you have, good or bad, is a result of many decisions over time. If Wasps players improve every area related to their rugby by just 1%, then these small gains add up to a huge improvement in performance.
It is important to remember that the opposite of this are poor habits which then lead to poor performances and ultimately bad results. These are the result of poor decisions over a period of time.
TOONY TIP: “What we need to do is practice – real practice, not just repetition. Remember you can practice passing every day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become good at is passing the wrong way”.
2. Be kind to yourself
Self-talk is the talking that you do in your head about yourself and the things that happen – your own “running commentary” of your life.
What you say to yourself can have a big e ect on the way that you feel, and on what you can achieve. Your self-talk can be like an internal coach encouraging you, boosting your con dence, believing in you, and motivating you to achieve your goals OR it can be like an internal bully, beating you up when you make mistakes and making you feel rubbish.
It is important that you are kind to yourself. What you say to yourself will impact not only on your performance but also in your character.
TOONY TIP: “Visualise yourself doing well and succeeding and you will attack games and trainings with a positive mind-set. You can take this one step further by visualising when mistakes are made, and then seeing yourself react in a positive way, which will help you in times of adversity.
“Even the very best sportspeople use this – they make sure that they learn from their mistakes but they also praise themselves when they do things well. Go on be kind to yourself!
3. Remember the Wasps culture
This is they way that we do things as Wasps players: the respect that we give to others and ourselves, how we greet our visitors, they way we celebrate the success of others, the way we support and encourage our teammates, the dedication of our players and coaches, the way the players, coaches and parents represent the Club and school(s).
TOONY TIP: “Gaining respect for how we conduct ourselves is very important in sport and in life. So many people have worn this jersey with distinction in the past. Our goal is to enhance the reputation of the club and to be known as a great team on and of the field.”
4. Our mindset really matters
Fixed Mindset players tend to avoid challenging themselves as this can be di cult and the Fixed Mindset rugby player does not wish to risk failure. They tend to see e ort as a waste of time and will see constructive criticism as a criticism of them rather than an attempt by their coach to help them.
The opposite of this is a Growth Mindset player. These players believe they can get better by working hard at their game. They see aws as a challenge and will work hard to correct weaknesses as they know it will improve their game. The Growth Mindset player will celebrate the success of others and use this as a source of inspiration. He/she will accept constructive criticism in a positive manner. A Growth Mindset player reacts positively to setbacks.
TOONY TIP: “Which kind of mindset do you think Jonny Gray or Greg Laidlaw has?”
5. Be in the learning zone
The Comfort Zone is a pleasant place to be because players can use the skills that they already have. They don’t try and learn new skills. The problem for these players is that they will never develop. Nothing ever grows in the Comfort Zone.
The Learning Zone allows you to develop as a player. The challenges are not too easy that they become boring and not too di cult that they will make you stress! Players are in the Learning Zone when they push themselves to develop new skills or improve the ones that they already have.
The Panic Zone is not nice. People who rst learn to swim are in the Panic Zone. Sometimes
new players could be in the Panic Zone – so remember to try and help them!
TOONY TIP: “Along with your coach set yourself a target – once you have achieved it you will move from the Learning Zone back to the Comfort Zone. When you reach this stage focus on setting yourself a new target and go about achieving it.
“Aim to be in the learning zone as much as possible – constantly looking for new challenges to improve and ways to get better.”
6. Practice makes perfect
The enemies of practice are pride, fear and a ‘big heid’! To practice requires us to be humble. It forces us to admit they we don’t know everything. It forces us to listen to feedback from people (our coaches and parents) who can help teach us. But surely practice isn’t a sign of weakness – after all some of the best sportspeople in the world practice (nearly) every day – Dan Carter, Rory McIlroy, Andy Murray, Serena Williams.
TOONY TIP: “To practice isn’t to declare I’m bad. To practice is to declare, I can be better. Remember the big thing to remember when doing ball-handling drills is to always use proper technique”.
7. Make it instinctive!
When you practise your rugby skills your brain produces a special substance called MYELIN. Any improvement results in a signal to the brain. MYELIN makes the signal to the brain faster, stronger and more accurate.
TOONY TIP: “The more you practice your Catch and Pass skills the faster and more uent they will become. Your Catch and Pass will improve so much that they will become instinctive and automatic in match situations”.
Everyone one has the will to win: but few people have the will to prepare to win.”
“It’s a funny thing. The more I practice the luckier I get.” Gary Player (8 times Major golf winner)
TOONY TIP: “Remember: You shouldn’t expect signi cant changes in performance after each practice session. You will however notice small, gradual improvement over time. Remember if you have a 1% improvement in every part of your game (and your approach) this will make a huge di erence to your match day performances”.