Looking back 18 months, I draw on many different factors that have developed CLF Rugby to where it is today. Was it my interest in the sport? Possibly; was it being able to see what could be achieved? -Maybe. I really feel though that the real driving influence is that the students wanted to be there, they owned it, it was theirs and something they felt empowered about. They could decide how far this ‘project’ ran and what they wanted to get from it. CLF Rugby is a collaboration of six of our federation schools training and playing together. We train on a Wednesday morning and play regular games against local and regional opposition. Our aim is to provide opportunities and representation for students. We are not looking for students to develop into professional rugby players but to play to the highest level they can and sustain their involvement in the sport. Secondary but as important is to develop the students as all round athletes and to develop their inner selves. We saw an opportunity to expose the students to some real out of comfort zone rugby experiences and develop them as individuals and as a team further than their single school rugby would.
I couldn’t help but notice the rollercoaster ride that have been the All Blacks over the past 15 years, being consistent favourites leading up to major tournaments and falling at the last hurdle. I had heard excellent things about a book by James Kerr called ‘Legacy’ and how it describes fifteen steps to the journey of the All Black success at the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
James Kerr quotes “He rangi ta Matawhaiti, he rangi ta Matawhanui” in his book which translates to “The person with a narrow vision sees a narrow horizon. The person with a wide vision sees a wide horizon.”
This personifies for me the calibre and character of student we have that represent the CLF Rugby and fundamentally work hard every week regardless of weather on a Wednesday morning. The players developed their own code of conduct in the summer as the CLF Rugby came into fruition from the BBA Elite Rugby. Which led the players to decide that they needed to be accountable, whether they have played for their country or at a local rugby club, they are proactive in putting out, sorting and putting away equipment, similar to the ‘Sweep the Sheds’ habit mentioned by Kerr. They also have developed ‘individual integrity’, by arriving early and setting their own in house consequences if late.
CLF Players Code – adapted from the book ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr
We have had some great successes in the past 2 seasons, last year with BBA Elite Rugby and know the wider CLF Rugby with more on the horizon. Not only do we still get students out of bed for a 7am start on a Wednesday morning, and more are joining out of school clubs. We played a series of high profile games which created a buzz of excitement around the Federation. We have just received our first international call ups and looking to play games further afield. Most interestingly, after adopting the “Legacy” ideas, the boys have taken an extra sense of pride in the CLF shirt, just as the All Blacks do and after each game, instead of throwing the shirts in a pile of the floor, they carefully fold them and put them in the bag, in a ritual to ‘Be a good ancestor’ as mentioned in the book, to pass on the next person fortunate to wear that shirt.
The next stages of development for the Elite, using inspiration from Kerr’s book, is to really ‘Embrace expectations”, so that the students really know that they can be the best and when we as a group get there, not being complacent; ‘Going for the gap’ really push on, change what we do, going against the whole ‘if it isn’t broke why fix it’, but to further widen the gap for excellence and inspire others to follow our practice.
CLF Rugby Four Stage Plan (June 2013)
I was fortunate to attend Colston’s Collegiate School, during the early noughties, when they were quoted as THE nursery for Premiership rugby clubs and swept all in front of them at national and International Tournaments. I am pretty sure we had some of these elements to make us successful, even though they were not categorised as they are in “Legacy”. I can remember one newspaper headline being compared to Leicester Tigers and Manchester United, who at the time were superiorly dominant in their respective sports.
The comradery and spirit was immense, even as a group of 17 year olds, we would eat, sleep and dream together. Excluding the top level professional players that I was fortunate to of played with and against, the rest of us were a bunch of decent rugby players, but ones that were grounded, desperate to learn and develop and had absolute commitment to the cause, which allowed us to outperform. Something I see in droves with CLF Rugby and I feel proud to be a part of it.
I’m sure Alan Martinovic, who was the Director of Rugby at Colston’s at the time would be too modest to accept comparisons to Graham Henry, coach of the All Blacks during Kerr’s examples in his book, likewise Bob Crooks, who was in charge of the revolutionary Saracens Academy and first exposed me to ‘Serious’ rugby, but they had a persona and character about them that oozed passion and demanded excellence but also developed individual’s mindset.
I recently met Bob after being invited to take part in a Preseason session he was overseeing in his new role as Director of Rugby at Ivybridge College. He describes his methods it as ‘Anti – Pavlov’s Dogs’. I was intrigued as I watched the boys set their own standards, ran their own drills, coach, lead, feedback and evaluate, allowing Bob to reflect and to refine coaching points to individuals. This has led me to develop my teaching coaching and leading here, being confident to step back from a situation and making adjustments if and when needed. It was great to see a skilled master in action. Being able to remain quiet, not talking because it seems the ‘norm’ and allowing the elite players to evaluate and coach themselves at points was a challenge for me, but one that has quickly come second nature this has helped with the CLF grow over the past few months and which will spiral in the future.
Remember “Haere taka mua, taka muri; kaua e whai”– Be a Leader not a Follower.