Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Does Your Rugby Coaching Have a Personal Signature? by David Clarke

This post is by John Grisby

It makes no difference if you do not understand the mechanics of American football, the scoring system, time keeping, or players’ positions. In this specific case, these things are irrelevant to understanding the scope of the coaching achievement.

Over 30 seasons coach Roger Barta has won 273 games, lost 58 and guided his team to six state American football championship titles. His Smith Centre High School team from Kansas are currently on a four-year winning streak. During 2007-2008 they have won 54 games in a row and outscored opponents 844 to 20. They broke a national record set in 1925 by scoring 72 points in the first quarter of a game, and despite replacing the entire senior team before halftime with first year freshmen, they went on to win that game 83-0.

Barta’s approach could not contrast more starkly with the way most coaches push their players in competitive sports. For this team, playing football is almost the last thing on their mind. In fact they are not really bothered about winning games. The “how”, “who”, “what” and “why” of what they do goes far beyond the pitch and gives an entirely different meaning to the word “winning”.

Coach Barta possesses years of technical, tactical and strategic expertise. He still enjoys writing his scouting reports and running the same offensive and defensive formations season after season. Yet there is something very different about how under him, each individual as a member of the team approaches every practice, game and championship title.

What emerges is a picture of how he uses his qualities as a coach, both as a leader and a human being, combined with his football expertise, to make an impact.

That impact starts in the first year a player steps on the field right through to their senior year, and, one would imagine, continues throughout their lives.

Ask any Smith Center player what makes him perform so well and it is probable that he will not mention football but rather the qualities of the coach. Here are some examples:

Purpose – “He puts special things into winning. Small things like silence on the bus and holding hands before taking the field”.

Challenge and enjoyment in the process
– “We like to set different goals every game like only allowing ourselves a certain number of yards each time we have the ball”.

Leadership – “As good a coach he is, he’s a better guy. He treats everybody like gold”.

Mentoring and Being
– “He speaks with us about how to be men, things like respect – then shows us”.

Responsibility and awareness – “Each player signs a contract to be drug, alcohol and tobacco-free – for ourselves and the team”.

The qualities Barta demonstrates are especially powerful in the critical years when young talent needs to be nurtured in order to flourish. According to the players, the result is a transformational experience for each player.

Coach Barta’s success shows at the very least the enormous potential for a professional development club or youth academy to adopt this approach. If you can develop coaches who have a personal signature powerful enough to inspire people and an entire system, it usually delivers huge returns to the club, to the coaches, and most important of all, to the players.

About the author: John Grisby is a Performance Coach at DNA Performance which helps individuals and teams become aware of their potential


1 Comment so far
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This shows how much the coach can make a difference to a player and the role model he has to be.

Look out for my piece based on John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success in the latest Rugby Coach newsletter.

Comment by Dan C

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