Worth re-visiting Graham Henry’s article from The Guardian on how to change from losers to winners. Lessons here for anybody involved in selecting, guiding and leading teams. It’s all about the preparation.
“Graham Henry looks down at the grass of Eden Park. So many matches, so many memories. One wells up above the others. 23 October, 2011, the World Cup final, New Zealand 8, France 7. The culmination of a 37-year career that started when Henry took charge of Auckland Grammar’s under-15 team. “When I was coaching the All Blacks I was probably the most experienced coach in the world,” Henry says. “That’s not an arrogant statement, it’s a fact.”
Henry moved from school coach to province coach to Super Rugby coach. Then there was Wales. They lost in the World Cup quarter-finals in 1999. That was followed by a poor tour with the British & Irish Lions in 2001 that ended in a 2-1 defeat by Australia. Another spell with Auckland, in rugby rehab. Then, at last, the top job. Head coach of the All Blacks. In 2007, came the hardest defeat of all, another quarter-final defeat, by France in Cardiff. For Henry, it was a long road to the 2011 final. These are the pick of the many lessons he learned along the way.
Culture comes first
Henry took on the All Blacks job in December 2003, but he did not really take charge for another 12 months. After New Zealand’s defeat by South Africa at Ellis Park in August 2004, the team held a mock court session. Two senior players, Justin Marshall and Carlos Spencer, passed down the punishments. Mostly they involved downing alcohol. Almost everyone ended up blind drunk. Henry realised then the squad had become dysfunctional. Back in New Zealand, Henry and his assistants, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, met two senior players. It was the most important meeting Henry had in his eight years in charge. “We agreed we had to move away from that macho culture.”
The next paragraphs are headed:
- Check your ego
- Empower your players
- Be smart, be secretive
- Confront your weaknesses
- Expect the unexpected