GRAND FINAL GRABS
By Wayne Goldsmith
WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT PEOPLE AND PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE
And in that time, I’ve had some incredible opportunities to be part of several successful – and not so successful - campaigns at the highest level of professional and Olympic sport.
It’s customary for people to wax lyrical about their sporting success stories: about how they worked hard, triumphed against the odds and then wrote their autobiography featuring inspirational and motivational memoirs of their journey to glory.
However, from hard, difficult, painful, cold experience, I’ve found that the lessons learnt from failure at the ultimate hurdle are often more enduring – more impactful – more life-changing than holding up trophies, doing book tours and showing off medals.
Here’s three times when I’ve lost – and learnt.
GRAND FINAL 1: 2004 ATHENS OLYMPIC GAMES – WOMEN’S AND MEN’S TRIATHLON FINALS.
DATE: 25TH – 26TH August 2004 LOCATION: Vouliagmeni Olympic
STORY: I went to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games as the Section Manager of the Australian Triathlon team and as the National Performance Manager for Triathlon Australia.
During the Olympic team preparation, the National Performance Director, Bill Davoren and I faced several difficult, challenging decisions involving team strategies, training programs, equipment selection and practice routines.
Bill and I were managing a difficult situation with one of the athletes. After numerous attempts to resolve the issue, we decided that in the interest of the athlete’s well-being and the overall harmony of the team we needed to compromise on our perspectives.
goals and realising their potential in Athens, later lamenting that there was a good possibility our compromise may have led at least in part to that outcome.
The morning after the Olympic final we were having coffee, reflecting on what might have been and sharing in the pain of learning from the experience.
The overwhelming feeling at our table was that leadership counts – leadership matters and that it matters most when the stakes are the highest.
(Bill subsequently demonstrated his considerable leadership qualities and personal resilience by committing himself to work harder than ever for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where he led the Australian triathlon team to a Gold medal winning performance courtesy of the amazingly brilliant Emma Snowsill. He then continued his impressive sport leadership career in the AFL with the Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Collingwood Football Clubs).
1. Placing popularity before Performance is not leadership in high performance situations;
3. Do not compromise on the things you know are important or face the consequences.
GRAND FINAL 2: 2005 WALLABIES SPRING TOUR OF FRANCE, ENGLAND, IRELAND, WALES.
DATE: 12th November 2005
LOCATION: Twickenham, London, England.
GRAB: “You can never give up”
STORY: I was invited to travel with
Head Coach Eddie Jones, said to the coaching team, “I don’t know about you guys, but all I want to do is get out of here and start working and figuring out how we get better for next week!”. the Wallabies on their 2005 Tour of France, England, Ireland and Wales.
The Wallabies lost their game versus England 26–16 and during the game suffered some significant setbacks and challenges to their set-piece play – particularly to their scrum.
After the game, the players, coaches, management and staff were all feeling the loss but had to attend a traditional postgame function at the invitation of our hosts, the Rugby Football Union.
That night, none of the coaching team slept. The coaches met at 7 am the next morning all armed with new ideas, potential solutions and strategies for helping the team to be successful at their next game.
The following week, the team played it’s best game of the Tour with a 30 – 14 victory against Ireland.
1. If you’re a leader or a coach in high performance sport, you have a one line position description…Find a way to win.
2. As a coach in a leadership role in a high performance team, you can’t give up: no matter what the challenges or obstacles may be: you can not give up;
3. If you’re the head coach in a high performance team, the “buck” stops with you! Learn faster, work harder, be more purposeful and deliberate in your actions and give everything you’ve got to the achievement of your goals.
GRAND FINAL 3: 2010 NRL GRAND FINAL
DATE: 3rd October 2010
LOCATION: ANZ Stadium, Sydney, NSW, Australia
GRAB: “Good things don’t always happen to great people”
STORY: In 2009 the Sydney Roosters, a foundation club in the National Rugby League had a disastrous season. They finished last for the first time in more than 40 years.
As part of the organisation’s response to the disappointing result, they recruited a new coaching team led by Brian Smith – a highly regarded, respected head coach with considerable experience in the NRL and as his assistant, Trent Robinson, (who only a few years later would lead the organisation to a premiership title in his Rookie year as an NRL head coach).
I had the opportunity to work a little with Brian, Trent and their leadership team over the 2010 season and observed their leadership and coaching first hand.
There wasn’t an aspect of their leadership, planning, programming, preparation
There wasn’t an aspect of their leadership, planning, programming, preparation or performance environment that I could fault – let alone improve. Their attention to detail, their relationships with the players, their connection and honesty with each other as a coaching group was as good as it gets! They did everything they could to give themselves a winning chance.
or performance environment that I could fault – let alone improve. Their attention to detail, their relationships with the players, their connection and honesty with each other as a coaching group was as good as it gets! They did everything they could to give themselves a winning chance.
I’d seen a lot of professional football teams and Olympic teams – and if any group ever “deserved” to win the title, it was this one.
After collecting the wooden-spoon in 2009, the team found themselves in the 2010 NRL Grand Final: a practically unimaginable achievement in professional football of any code.
Unfortunately, after leading at halftime of the Grand Final, the team was defeated by the St George Dragons, (coached by the legendary Wayne Bennett).
1. Nothing guarantees success: all you can do is increase the likelihood of success;
2. You can do everything right and still not win – but that doesn’t mean you failed;
It is important to note, that Bill, Eddie, Brian and Trent not only demonstrated outstanding leadership and brilliant coaching in these specific situations, but their experience and their subsequently learning has only made them even greater. Now, many years after these events occurred each of these remarkable coaches is still learning, improving and leading.
I’d like to thank each of you for the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you.
Sure – telling stories about summiting mountains and breaking records is brilliant but sometimes the lessons life has to teach you – the lessons you really need to learn – come from failures, disasters, disappointments and setbacks.
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