• Scott McInnes

#01 | Leadership Lessons from Under 8s


Every Sunday morning through the winter you'll find me and 10 other hardy Dads coaching U8 rugby in Suttonians RFC. We've had them since U6 (bless - it was literally like herding cats) so they’ve been with us for three years. In that time they've grown in leaps and bounds. They're actually like little rugby players now – the difference is amazing.

And I'm often at pains to point out (generally when they’ve strung together three - BACKWARDS!! - passes to the winger who strafes down the line to score a try) - it was us, the coaches who did that.

It didn't happen by accident. It happened by design. And when I think about it, much of that design applies as much to leaders in a work setting as it does to a load of Dads on a pitch on a Sunday morning: We have a shared vision and a game plan – we know what we want to achieve with them in a season (effectively our 'long term' objective), we know how we’re going to get there and we tell them (a lot - see later!)

We’re consistent in how we train – we’re 10 very different people with different backgrounds and levels of rugby expertise. But we all train in the same way, using the same drills, to the same level. So regardless of the coach a group of players get, they’re going to get a consistent experience every week.

We lead by example – we don’t ask them to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves - it creates a level of respect and allows us to demonstrate the right way to do things. It’s also good fun – even big boys like to get muddy occasionally 😊

We treat them as individuals – Rugby is a team game but a team is made up of individuals. We know what they’re each good at and what they aren’t, who to pair with who and when to put them out of their comfort zone (more on self-efficacy in the future). We also don’t stream – we mix them up, so the stronger kids can help bring the less developed the others on.

We stretch them – We know from week to week what they’re able to do but we continue to push them that bit further. And when they stretch themselves and deliver…..

…We praise them – I’ve never seen a 7 year old’s face light up as much as when they get the ‘Player of the Week’ trophy or feedback from a coach afterwards on how well they did.

And we repeat things – A LOT! – “RUN FORWARDS, PASS BACKWARDS”, “HANDS UP”, “RUCK OVER, RUCK OVER” – we tend to shout the same things a lot, until they become second nature. Over time they do sink in – it just takes time and a lot of repetition!

There’s barely a week (come hell or high water- literally - some weeks!) that we aren’t all down there. We love doing it and we have a lot of fun - that rubs off on the team.

Can you say the same of the leaders in your organisation?


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