Eddie Jones: The art of coaching (part 2)

ENGLAND rugby coach Eddie Jones created back-page news with his superb session at the Soccerex conference this week. It might have lasted only 35 minutes, but this was as intense and stimulating as one of the Australian’s coaching sessions.

Here is PART ONE.

This is the rest...

8. Engaging players:

EJ: The players have changed considerably from 10 years ago. You have to treat them differently - they have different motivations and values. It’s neither right nor wrong. You can’t just tell them what to do, you’ve got to guide them to discover what to do. That’s the fun part of coaching – if you don’t evolve you don’t carry on.

We try to create a really strong learning environment in the team. If you look at how young people learn now, it’s completely different to 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve really changed the way we learn. We don’t have old-fashioned team meetings where the coach gets up and makes a speech for 10 minutes.

It’s not like that Al Pacino movie Any Given Sunday. People would love it to be like that but it’s not. We never have a meeting that lasts longer than 15 minutes and we never have a meeting that has more than three points. So when they walk out of those meetings they understand those three points and there’s been interaction between the players themselves and the coaches as well.

It’s harder. When you create that sort of environment, people who normally wouldn’t voice an opinion do. So you get creativity. And whenever you get creativity you get conflict. It’s about bringing things back onto the same page and when we step out of that room everyone’s clear on what we need to do.

One of the great things Dylan [Hartley] has done is start a rule that when we’re in our team meeting no-one is allowed to look at their phone. It’s changed the way players communicate. Now they sit down and they can’t just go to their Facebook, James Haskell can’t put a new picture of himself half naked on Instagram. They’ve got to communicate and that’s really changed how the team operates.

It’s indicative of a strong leader setting some simple rules - simple is always better - about how you have to behave and how important the team is.

9. Guardiola’s intensity:

[Jones spent time with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in November 2015].

It changed the way I coach. I came out of that session embarrassed about how I’d been coaching. When I was young I used to coach pretty hard and probably got criticised a bit for it. I went and watched Pep’s session. Here are some of the best players in the world, it's minus five, it's freezing. They did quite a traditional warm-up and I thought ‘maybe I’m not going to learn anything today’.

Then they played three teams of seven and were working on getting into space, their body position, and Pep was out there running the session, speaking in four or five different languages, telling [Arjen] Robben what to do, and it was just really enlightening how hard they worked in those 20 minutes and how he was embedding his philosophy on that team and how they’d bought into it.

I remember them coming off with sweat pouring off them. I’d seen many football teams train and watching that session was up here and the rest were down there. It’s definitely changed the way I coach since then. I work the players much, much harder.

10: Creating space:

I can’t work out why in football they’re always talking about formation, because when I watch the game I don’t see the formations, I see them trying to get space and keep some sort of shape. The teams that run hard forward and back and have good awareness of space are the good teams and if you have a Messi you have a great team. You can see the way the coaches coach the teams that run hard and the teams that don’t run hard, it’s quite evident.

I was really impressed by the way he [Guardiola] had looked at other sports to try to work out ways to create space. The reality is football, handball, Aussie Rules, rugby union that we are all about trying to find ways to create and find space. You can never learn too much about that and that’s why I find football managers fascinating.

11. Tactical periodisation:

We’ve borrowed a lot from football. We’ve taken two concepts – the game model, making sure we really announce the game model very strongly, and then we prepare with the rugby version of tactical periodisation which has definitely helped the teams I’ve coached because we get much more consistent performance and are able to actually improve teams during the season.

We went to Argentina and had 28 senior players unavailable and five weeks to prepare them to the last game. In the first week of training we got something like 14% of accelerations at training, which is far too low. By the last week we got 40% and it was all by doing it through the game, none of it through acceleration work.

I’ve read a lot about it and went down to Aspire. There’s a Spanish guy there, Alberto [Alberto Mendez-Villanueva], who is absolutely brilliant and helped me a lot in understanding tactical periodisation.

12. Being open to new ideas:

[Last] weekend I was listening to this sports psychologist [Ken Ravizza], he was just brilliant. This old guy walks in - 69, with hearing aids, faded Lacoste shirt, jeans straight out of Arkansas and a pair of white sneakers. He looked like the most uninspiring guy, but his ability to make sports psychology into a usable form was just absolutely outstanding.

He told this story about how he was involved with the Chicago Cubs. They play 162 games a year. At their first meeting, the coach put down 162 balls, then he put down another 19 balls at the end to signify the play-off games. He spoke to the squad and said, 'look you're not all going to be picked for the first game, but there's somewhere along this line where you're going to be involved and the only game that really matters is that last one.'

I thought that was a nice visual way of putting a season down.

13. Removing limitations:

Coaches put limitations on the player. No-one knows how hard you can work. It’s the old story about Roger Bannister when he ran the first four-minute mile. All the medical texts at the time said that if you ran a four-minute mile your body would disintegrate. In America now, every year 20 people run a four-minute mile.

We don’t know how much the players can do but because we put limitations on them and therefore the players themselves come up with limitations of what they can do. The fact is we don’t know where that axe is going to fall and that’s the fascinating bit. We went to the States and spoke to this guy who’s a lecturer at a University in Houston about the little things you can do to play tricks with the mind to increase the capacity to work harder without knowing about it.

For instance, you do a Yo-Yo endurance test and run it at 25 metres. Next time you run the test you do it at 26 metres, so the players think they’re running the same distance and you find at least 60% of the players will do more. Why? Because they don’t understand they're breaking their limitations. That’s our job as coaches, to break our own limitations of what the players can do and then get the players to adjust their limitations.

I still think there are gaps in physical preparation. With my limited view, teams are playing a more pressured game, so they’re pushing harder, so acceleration becomes a much more important physiological trait. So how can you improve acceleration? That’s one thing that’s being looked at very closely in rugby and I’m sure in football. And with the length of the season how do you keep churning players out to give tough performances week in and week out? That’s where I think the psychological side comes into it much more.

14. Changing a restrictive mindset:

One of the things you try to do is understand how society operates and historically what has worked and what hasn’t. In Japan, I got someone to do a thesis on the Samurai culture for me, because I wanted to understand what was the basis of how Japan ran their society. Three things came out – trust, hard work and discipline, so we made that the values of the team. Young people in Japan don’t resonate with Samurais, but those values are taught by their parents to them, so making that part of the team was quite easy.

[But] they were a team that were happy to try hard and get beaten. I knew that was the most important thing I had to change - their mindset, that it wasn’t ok to lose.

[In June 2012, following a heavy defeat by the French Barbarians, Jones gave his captain and team a public dressing down during a famous press conference].

When the captain laughed, I thought, 'here we go, I’d better give this a twirl.' And he was a great little guy. The chairman came up to me at the end and said, 'it’s about time someone said that.' And it did have an effect on the team, because it became quite evident that it was never good enough to lose and we were always about winning and it helped change how the Japanese thought about rugby.

I definitely didn’t plan that but it was the best thing I did because it helped change the mindset of the Japanese. When you get those sort of mindsets, about a losing club or a losing country, it’s not just the team and it’s not just the players, you find it’s the fans, you find it’s the media and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you’ve got to break that.

In England there is definitely a fear of failure, definitely a fear of not doing what everyone else is doing. What I found was that underneath was this great desire, the RFU the same, but no-one wanted to break it, because there was a tradition in the way you did things. What we’ve been able to do is break that and bring things up, although it can go down again quickly if you're not careful.

PART ONE: Eddie Jones, the art of coaching

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