Fiji’s rugby sevens men’s team blew away the opposition at Rio 2016 to win their country’s first-ever Olympic gold. Here, their English coach, Ben Ryan, shares some of the methods he used to help create a winning culture and achieve sporting greatness.
The first thing I did was listen, ask questions and look. I didn’t want to go in and start throwing my weight around as some English bloke that thought he knew it all. I had to understand the environment and the Fijian culture, in order to utilise its strengths around a framework I believed in, and then plan my work.
A strong training culture
It’s about creating a consistent environment where everyone can be their best version. One that promotes a team-first mentality, where everyone connects behaviour off the field with success on it.
Take time to know your players. Listen to them in order to understand, rather than just answering their questions. Have black and white with everyone – no grey, no delay in having difficult conversations with them. Be consistent in your behaviour with everyone.
All this creates a psychologically safe environment for a player or member of staff to really thrive.
The Olympic gold medal match
Every single player and staff member knew exactly what was required on and off the field. When you achieve that then you don’t feel over-confident; instead, you feel over-competent. When that happens, the pressure that might otherwise be pressing down on you lifts you up.
My ultimate goal as a coach is to make myself redundant, because everyone knows exactly what is required and can execute that. Achieve that, and you have truly created a culture that’s bombproof.
We always said that if we didn’t win the gold medal, it wouldn’t be a dropped pass or missed tackle in the tournament that caused it, but something we did long before that in our preparation.
When that connection is understood and lived, then amazing things are possible.
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