Robbie Deans at UC – how to be a great coach

Click to see Charlene's interview with Robbie
Click to see Charlene’s interview with Robbie

The University of Canterbury welcomed Robbie Deans to campus this week. Robbie spoke as part of the Sports Symposium series, focusing on leadership in sports coaching and how it applies to life beyond sport. Former Crusader Reuben Thorne, and Dr Jenny Clarke and Gary Downey from the College of Education also joined Robbie on the panel.

It was really interesting hearing about Robbie’s experiences as a rugby coach. He spoke about how he “meandered into coaching by chance” and how he resisted it for quite some time, fearing that it would taint his love for the game as a player.

Robbie soon learned that coaching would be a challenging but very rewarding endeavour. “Coaching goes through a life cycle every week, so adaptive learning becomes a priority”. Robbie thought he’d be coaching for about a year when he first started – and now he’s still coaching nearly 20 years later.

Positive leadership is so important as a coach, and Robbie says he learned to be less prescriptive and gave more ownership to the players over time.

“Leadership is like learning to drive – it’s learning to look further ahead and see challenges approaching before they reach you.”

His key advice for aspiring coaches is to remember that balance is important – you need to foster players’ creativity and input as well as have a sense of humour amongst the team. As a coach, you must be self-aware and courageous: “You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Robbie highly recommends studying sports coaching, saying “there is a perception that it is a narrow degree, but I’d say it’s the most broadly applicable degree you could get. It prepares you for life like no other industry.”

Make sure you watch the video above to hear more about Robbie’s advice for aspiring coaches, including his “three legged stool” analogy, as well as his prediction for the Crusaders this season!

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