General Patton was a World War II general who served in the United States Army. Very often he had to make decisions in the heat of battle with limited information, and even less time. But he knew that hesitation in combat could be deadly. It would afford the enemy the opportunity to maneuver and defeat his troops. Which often meant death.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR COACHES
Now, obviously, in rugby we are involved in a far less deadly endeavor than General Patton. We’re not worried about bullets and bombs, but rather tackles and tries. That is not to say, though, that this quote has no meaning for us.
For a coach like myself, I have to provide instruction to my players in the heat of a game, not battle. I can take advice from assistants, and sometimes even players, but a plan has to be made and provided to the players. Once the whistle goes, I do not have time to toy around with every bit of information, or concept, to find the perfect plan. If I see something wrong, I have to instruct the players in what to do to fix it. If I see an opportunity, I have to instruct the players in how to take advantage of it.
This means, it may not be perfect, but if everyone gives their all, I trust that, more often than not, the coordination and unified effort of the group, will overcome the shortcomings in the plan.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR PLAYERS
When I was a younger player one of the most frustrating things was when a team mate did something I wasn’t expecting, that wasn’t “the plan”. Particularly early on in my career, this had the effect of getting me disengaged. I could end up not doing anything. Sometimes my fellow team mates would do the same thing. Can you imagine what that looked like? One player going off with the ball, while two, three, or more of their teammates stood still and watched them? It must have been a sight, for spectators and the coach.
The breakthrough came when in one game I just started throwing myself into supporting my teammates ideas of the moment. Instead of one player alone, they were SUPPORTED by their teammate, and it created more opportunities for them and myself. I realized that my teammates plan may have had a low chance of success if we participated, but it usually had NO chance of success if we didn’t.
WHAT IT MEANS TO ME
If you’re a coach, hesitation can be the difference between scoring and being scored upon. Don’t hesitate to communicate the plan until it’s perfect. Communicate it with your players with clarity and confidence.
If you are a player, participate fully in the plans of your coach, but if your teammate sees an opportunity, and improvises, participate in the improvisation.
Support each others plans fully and your dedication is what will transform an average plan into a great one.