Blitzboks head coach Neil Powell gave Nelson Mandela University coaches an interesting talk this week about his mentoring approach which has made the national sevens team one of the best in the world.
The webinar was organised by Madibaz Sport to give coaches and managers an opportunity to learn how to apply the values behind the team’s success to their work with the Madibaz student-athletes.
Powell took over as head coach in 2013 and guided the national team to the IRB World Series titles in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
One of the major aspects they focused on, he said, was to ensure that they had a proper team culture into which everyone bought.
He said this was developed after a ground-breaking meeting following a tournament in 2008 when Paul Treu was coach.
“The values that we felt were important covered family, integrity, humility, diversity, excellence and leadership,” said Powell.
“The important issue is that it must be all-inclusive. So when you discuss it, everyone who plays a role in the team must be involved.
“In this way you keep them accountable for their actions because they have been part of developing the culture.”
Powell said the values were worth nothing if the top management and the senior players “don’t live this culture”.
“You can’t expect the 19-year-old in the squad to be on time for meetings if I, as head coach, am not on time. So it applies to everyone, without exception.”
When it came to the playing side, Powell said their focus was on the processes rather than the results.
“Our focus rather is to talk about success and that translates into the implementation of your processes,” he added.
“The aim is to do your job to the best of your ability, so if the effort is good and implementation of the processes is good, the result will look after itself.”
It was equally important, he felt, to ensure the players had time for fun and enjoyment.
“Besides the fun you need to create off the field, there must be enjoyment on the field.
“When you get to the venue the focus and concentration do rise, but there must still be smiles on their faces. I always know if the guys are not enjoying themselves and too tense, then we are in trouble.”
They also adopted an inside-out approach, which meant the player had to be able to drive himself to become the best he could be.
“You need that element to try to become number one in the world, rather than someone looking over your shoulder to check if you are doing the hard yards,” said Powell.