Parallels between coaching elite sports teams and high performing technical teams

All Blacks coaching and leadership in elite teams

This is an excellent article on successful coaching techniques for elite teams. There are a lot of parallels between elite sports teams and highly performing technical teams. Some quotes:

As Henry stated: “Better People Make Better All Blacks, came from that meeting after that Tri-nations tour in 2004… It’s evolved, and it’s pretty good now. But … you’re always gonna get better.”

What you do shouts so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.’

“The best thing about the All Blacks at the moment is that players can contribute so much. Beforehand I think it was dictated to us what our days consisted of. [Being able] to contribute… makes your work a lot easier than if you are being treated like a schoolkid being dictated to”. Byron Kelleher (All Black)

Both coaches (Hendy and Smith) emphasized the importance of transferring responsibility to the players, empowering them, expecting more ownership, and expecting accountability from them for the team’s success, both on and off the field.

Peer-ownership, peer-responsibility, them running the culture, and the environment of the team was hugely important to the success of the side. Because at the end of the day they knew they were totally responsible when they got on that field… They’d been given the responsibility. …We thought that was the best way of developing a rugby side… The more confidence you can give them in leading the team, in making decisions on the field, the better they’re gonna play. Also it makes them feel good, it’s good for their self-esteem.

So a simple way to live that day-by-day is to not spoon-feed players [as a coach]. And that might be [something simple like] not handing out a daily plan every day.” Wayne Smith, All Black Coach

About every seven weeks we would try and freshen the way we were doing things. So that might mean we would review the game differently. Or we’d change the training week… At one point the coaches all changed [roles]… At the end of 2009, I became defence and counterattack coach… Graham became line-out coach. And Steve became the attack coach… Then, in 2010 we changed again… We felt that we’d stopped improving. …It was seen as pretty radical… [one journalist] said it was like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic. But we had a feeling it would be good for us. Wayne Smith, All Black Coach

We also focused on increasing the enjoyment.

My first sprint-triathlon

Team GBH (Grievous/Grant, Bodily/Bill, Harm/Hubbers)

Today I completed my first sprint-triathlon. The location was the picturesque rowing lake at Eton which will be used for the for the rowing at the 2012 Olympics in London. The triathlon was a short one with shorter distances called a sprint triathlon. To make it even easier the race was run in sequence so each team member had to complete each discipline before the first team member could start the next discipline.

The whole race was a 400 meter swim followed by a 15 kilometre cycle and finally a 5 kms run.

Triathlete Swim 400m Bike 15kms Run 5km Total time
Bill 8.18 28.41 23.32 59.91
Hubbers 8.32 29.20 25.21 62.73
Grant 11.05 30.31 26.24 67.60

On the whole I am very happy with my times although my right calf exploded in pain about a third of the way into the run. At the time the only thing keeping me from quitting was the fact that I would have let Grant and Bill down. Five hours later it’s still quite sore so, at Cam’s suggestion, I have two ice packs strapped to it. I’m not 100% I can fully trust Cam as after imparting his medical advice he told me he is training towards an ultra-marathon in the Sahara so he is clearly mad.

Right calf getting some ice action after triathlon

Full results here

All Black Tickets autumn international tickets from STIL not selling well

In previous years you had to know exactly when the All Black tickets from STIL were going on sale because you would be lucky to get onto the overloaded website and snag a few tickets before they all sold out.

This year however the tickets have been available for several days and only 3 of the available 18 packages have sold out. Possible reasons for this could include:

  • Credit crunch
  • Availability of tickets from the host nations like Italy and France
  • Packaging of tickets into bundles that fans didn’t want e.g. with the Barbarians ticket
  • STIL’s habit of whacking 50% onto ticket prices and the complete lack of transparency of where this money goes

Tooting Bec Lido is FILTHY

Tonight I rode across London to the Tooting Bec Lido because the Lido near my house at Parliament Hill closes at 6pm for some bizarre reason. The weather was warm and the ride was awesome.

Tooting Bec Lido is the biggest outdoor pool in England and it’s lucky that it is because they have to cram a lot of filth into it. The list of things I managed to identify on the bottom of the pool included: dirt (lots of), sand (lots of), leaves, twigs, band aids, toilet paper (I think) and a panty liner. Disgusting.

As one of the other swimmers said it was, “it’s good for your immune system”. My personal opinion is that if you swim regularly in the Tooting Bec Lido and you don’t die then you probably have nothing to fear from swine flu.

This photo is stitched together from two photos taken using my not-very-wide-angle Canon Ixus 970 using the magic of photoshop.

Tooting Bec Lido - London's filthiest pool (stitched)

The New Zealand Herald ran a story about the All Black tickets markup scam

The original post is here

A friend helped me get my blog post brought to the attention of the New Zealand Herald. They ran this story titled Fans put hard word on NZRU over agent’s ticket charges on the day of the final autumn international against England.

The thing that got me about the article is that when Ms Faisandier from STIL was asked where all the money went she couldn’t say.

Ms Faisandier said she could not say what percentage of the money went to the rugby union.

She told me on email that it was “about 50/50”. Strange she wasn’t prepared to make the same claim to a national newspaper.

The other thing that struck me was that when NZRU were asked they didn’t have a clue either! I wish we could all run our businesses in such a haphazard manner where letting millions of dollars of potential revenue slip through our fingers wasn’t such a big issue.

NZRU commercial manager Paul Dalton said he could not say what percentage of the money gained by STIL came back to the rugby union.

This quote astounded me because the Herald also had this story where they indicate that the NZRU financial situation isn’t that strong at the moment.

The NZRU is on track to post a small profit this year, a much improved situation from the one predicted six months ago.

You’d think that if they were that broke they’d be wondering if they could have had some of the millions of dollars that have been added to All Black tickets in the UK over the last few years.

Oh yeah and we crushed England 32 points to 6 so it was an excellent day to be a Kiwi.

All Blacks 32 England 6 Twickenham 2008

100% mark-up on All Black tickets brought from Sports Tickets International Limited

If your tickets have been marked up by STIL please leave the details in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Cam, Russ, The Giant Nun and Hubbers

Earlier this year Grant, Cam, Russ and I purchased tickets to the Ireland, Wales and England rugby tests against the All Black in the UK this November.

The purchase was made through Sports Tickets International Limited who are, according to their site, the Officially Licensed Match Ticket Company of the New Zealand Rugby Union (“NZRU”).

The total amount that my Visa was charged was 922.85 but when I picked up my tickets yesterday the face value of all 12 tickets came to a meagre ?632. This means that STIL added on a whopping 46% to the price of the tickets!

That is one hell of a mark-up!

This table shows the breakdown.

Test Face value for 4 tickets STIL cut Total
Cardiff ?200 92 ?292
Twickenham ?164 ?75.44 ?239.44
Dublin ?268 ?123.28 ?391.28
?632 ?290.72 ?922.72

Naturally I have emailed them to find out what is going on.

STIL have replied

STIL have added a handling fee to the face value of each ticket. This fee covers the cost of making this facility available (including website and software charges, travel, administration, wages and processing fees), and as a result the face value of the tickets will not equate with the amount charged. Any income, which remains at the end of this project, once all costs have been paid, will be returned to the NZRU to assist with the development of Rugby in New Zealand.

I have copied and pasted the below from the Terms & Conditions Page on the STIL website, hope this helps.

How much money do STIL make?

If we assume that our tickets are the average price then STIL is making roughly ?25 per ticket. If we also assume that they have 5000 tickets per game to sell then they will have 25000 tickets which means that they will take ?625,000 or 1,766,519 New Zealand Dollars (today’s exchange rate is 2.826) to perform the duties mentioned above.

I am pretty sure that I could do it all for less than that.

I have emailed them again and asked them how much money is returned to NZRU for the development of NZ rugby.

STIL have replied again. In answer to the preceding question they said:

The breakdown is about 50/50

So NZRU get nearly ONE MILLION NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS for the development of NZ rugby which is good. And it costs STIL nearly ONE MILLION NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS to sell Kiwis in the UK tickets to 5 games of rugby.

So I asked STIL

So you are saying that it costs nearly one million New Zealand dollars to provide tickets for New Zealand fans for 5 games of rugby?

And they threatened me with this email:


I am not sure where you are getting your figures from and where you are going with this, but we will not be following any further line of communication.

If you like, we will take you off our database, and recommend you purchase your tickets direct from the host unions in future.

Kind regards

Margaret Faisandier
Sports Tickets International Ltd
The Official match Ticket Licensee of the NZ Rugby Union

You know what I am getting at Margaret Faisandier, you are profiteering from loyal All Black fans!!!

What should be done?

Out of respect for the loyal fans and for the good of rugby in New Zealand in the future I recommend NZRU take the following actions:

1. NZRU should have a regular (two yearly?) and transparent tender process for the job of selling UK tour tickets to New Zealanders in Europe. This will minimise the cost and maximise any revenue for NZRU.

2. NZRU should make a clear statement about what percentage is to be added to the tickets and how much of that money goes to the development of New Zealand rugby. I am sure that most Kiwi fans won’t mind contributing to the ABs via their tickets especially given the economic pressures NZ faces from European teams. The key thing is that NZRU should be open and honest about it so that the fans don’t feel scammed or ripped off.


A friend of a friend (NZ is a small country) helped me get this issue brought to the attention of New Zealand’s biggest daily newspaper. They ran this story titled Fans put hard word on NZRU over agent’s ticket charges on the eve of the All Black match against England at Twickenham.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here. NZRU clearly don’t know what is going on in their own back yard and millions of dollars have been wasted over the last few years leaving fans feeling bitter and ripped off (see the comments below). What will NZRU do?

Update for 2009

My friend from university got two England v All Blacks tickets for Twickenham from STIL Rugby and he paid ?100 for each.

When the tickets arrived they had a face value of ?50 each and they were in the worst part of the stadium!

How can this be viewed as anything other than a massive rip-off of loyal fans?

Update for All Black tickets in 2010

All Blacks autumn international tickets have gone on sale through STIL. The cheapest tickets available to the worst seats at Twickenham were roughly &#pound;100 meaning that STIL are still adding a 100% markup to All Black tickets. The STIL website terms and conditions now says this:

STIL have added a handling fee to the face value of each ticket. This fee covers the cost of making this facility available (including website and software charges, travel, administration, wages and processing fees), and as a result the face value of the tickets will not equate with the amount charged. Any income, which remains at the end of this project, once all costs have been paid, will be returned to the NZRU to assist with the development of Rugby in New Zealand.

But there still isn’t any indication as to how much of the hundreds of thousands of dollars added to All Black tickets by STIL are returned to the NZRU to assist with the development of Rugby in New Zealand.

Surely there should be an open and competitive tendering process to maximise the return for NZRU?

Cam completed the London Marathon

I am not sure how I have lived in London for over 10 years and have never taken any notice of the London Marathon. This year a good friend ran so we were forced to sit up and take notice. It was an awesome day that was well worth getting off the couch for :)

One of the things that really impressed me is the large number of people who run in costume. Some do it because it is fun but I suspect most do it as part of their sponsorship arrangements. Like the guy dressed as Borat in the photo below.

Borat runs the London Marathon

Through the miracle of public transport we managed to see Cam in three different places during the run, at the Cutty Sark, Canark Wharf and finally at Tower Hill. Every time we saw him we yelled and screamed support and offered beer.

Cam at The Tower of London - looking strong at mile 22

One of the other things that really surprised me was that a lot of runners put their names on the front of their shirts and a lot of spectators yelled support to runner they didn’t know if they though they looked like they needed a boost. That was something that was very cool about the marathon, how people reached out to complete strangers when they were really suffering.

Cam finished his first marathon without stopping to walk once in 4 hours and 13 minutes and he raised ?3600 for prostate cancer. An awesome effort.

Protests at the Olympic torch run in London

Rachel and I went down to Russell Square to see the Olympic Torch march and associated protests. Hundreds of protesters turned up to make their voices heard.

The police line near Russell Square

Naturally the police were out in force to make sure the torch reached it’s goal and to stop any trouble.

Large numbers of police surrounded the torch at every stage of the run

What really surprised me was the large number of pro-Chinese people there.

China had loads of supporters too

Many of the China supporters were very vocal and more than happy to argue their case. Their arguments came down to a few main points:

  • Sport and politics should be separate
  • Tibetans kill Chinese people you can see it on Youtube
  • You haven’t been to China so you can’t have an opinion

These seriously were the points made by many seemingly educated young Chinese men and women as a justification for the recent violent actions of the Chinese government. The irony of engaging in vigorous debate to support a regime that violently suppresses all dissenting views was lost on them.

Personally I think we are all lucky to be living in a country where people can have a vigorous and heated debate on the side of the road.

This is my favourite photo of the day. It makes me wonder if the huge number of police present are part of the Chinese dream.

Share the dream indeed

It’s going to be an interesting year for all involved and sadly I don’t think we have seen the end of the blood.

Lessons from the world cup

The main lessons that all All Blacks supporters must learn are the following

  1. Don’t count your chickens
  2. Don’t count your chickens

I think that is pretty much all of the important things.

Gripe about the quality of the tickets

When we purchased our tickets for the Cup we opted to pay the extra money and get the second best of the four categories available. This led to us getting some great seats and some pretty dismal seats. In some stadiums like Marseilles and Toulouse we had amazing seats. But in Lyon, Edinburgh and Cardiff we were stuffed up behind the goal posts on the lower levels. They were hardly the second best seats available in those stadiums as it is very difficult to understand what is going on in a game of rugby from seats like these. The root of the problem seems to be that some stadiums like Marseilles seem to have a clear understandable hierarchy of good seats and bad seats. Some other stadiums like Cardiff and Edinburgh you can end up sitting almost anywhere regardless of what you pay. My personal conspiracy theory is that this is done by home stadiums to charge away fans a premium price and still give them rubbish seats.

These pictures should show you what I mean. The first one is Marseilles and is pretty good. The last two are Cardiff and Edinburgh and the good seats are all over the place. The order of the seating quality is

  1. Pink (best)
  2. Blue
  3. Green
  4. Orange (worst)

Merseilles seating plan

Murrayfield Edinburgh seating plan

Millenium Stadium Cardiff Seating plan

This is definitely something that should be looked at for future world cups and international tests in general.

Kiwis need some bloody better songs to sing at the rugby

A lot of the time during the semi final ther was so much French singing and general noise that it felt like the game was being played in Pais. Basically the fans need to lift our game in the stands when the All Blacks need more support on the field.

Liverpool has “Never Walk Along”. England had “Swing low”. The French have at least two anthems about blood letting that they all know and sing like there is no tomorrow. These songs fill the stadium with noise and must give a hell of a lift to the players on the field. All we have is “All Blacks, clap clap, clap”?. It’s depressingly slow even compared to dirges like “Never Walk Alone” and “Swing Low and I don’t imagine it provides much emotional support for the players on the field.”

We have loads of great songs as a nation we just need to choose a few to belt out at the rugby. I have decided on the following criteria:

  1. All Kiwis must know all the words – we can work on this
  2. It must be easy to sing
  3. If must be a song where the tune is mostly held in the words
  4. It must be uniquely Kiwi and emotionally motivational

I am open to suggestions.

Russ and I are starting a Facebook group to get some discussion going on this.

Give the Japanese a go

The other Facebook group that we are starting is one backing Japan to host the Rugby World Cup after New Zealand in 2015. They have already hosted a thoroughly successful and much larger football world cup in 2002 and they deserve it. Also I would love to spend 7 weeks in Japan backpacking and getting to know the locals :)

The French have hosted an excellent World Cup

Those of us who have been to all the games agree that the French have thrown the best world cup ever. The stadiums have been sold out even for the games between small teams from far away places. The way the French have throw themselves behind the World Cup and the general atmosphere has been awesome. They even managed to convince the locals not to whistle when opposition goal kickers are taking shots at goal. Add to that the sunny weather in Southern France and the French food, French wine, not to mention the topless beach and it has been a magical few weeks in France.

If the intellectual titans at NZRFU don’t send a delegation to France to look long and hard at how the French organised this world cup then they will have missed a golden opportunity. Mind you these are the same monkeys who when they had a golden opportunity to build a brand new stadium for the World Cup in NZ in 2011 instead managed to secure temporary seating for run down old Eden Park. Not a good omen.

Unanswered questions

  1. Why did we lose to a third rate French side away from home? I am still not sure.
  2. Why do all the French smoke so much? Don’t they know it is bad for you?

That is all I have to say for now.