COACHING IDENTITY Coach and Athlete in Education spoke with Scott Lawrence, a leading US rugby coach, successful career man, husband and father of 3. Coach Lawrence discussed his coaching beliefs and helps us understand his coaching identity.
COACH LAWRENCE HOLDING THE IRB JUNIOR WORLD TROPHY
INTERVIEW: WHO IS COACH LAWRENCE?
C&A: Who was your most influential mentor? CL: I can't say that I've truly had a mentor as my start came as a default coach. I take value each and every time I work with coaching colleagues but have never had a mentor per say. For example Dan Payne on peer based culture, Justin Hickey on player relationship building, Peter Thorburn on player empowerment. I pride myself on modeling after no one but borrowing from everyone! C&A: What drives you? (What’s your why?) CL: There is spiritual value in helping young athletes obtain their potential. Late nights and extra sessions are easy when you know that you're leaving no stone unturned in providing every opportunity for those athletes to succeed. In conjunction with this it doesn't matter if its a rock skipping contest or a spelling bee I'm going to win the preparation battle.
C&A: How does your team reflect you? CL: They don't. They reflect the identity they've set for themselves. Encouraging a team to set an identity and guiding them on how to execute that identity is the ultimate challenge. C&A: How do you motivate your players? Grandioso speeches? Quiet whispers? (How do you determine when to shout and when to whisper?) CL: I tend to focus more on confidence than motivation. Again, this comes from detailed preparation which gives them confidence to execute the game plan and react to change. On a player by player basis I find the greatest motivation is in 1:1 direct dialogue in which you pose the challenge to get better in a specific way. True competitors embrace that challenge. C&A: How do you establish a culture/ mentality in your team? CL: Find the leadership fabric within your team, work with them to establish the desired identity, then put governance in place that pushes accountability for everyone involved. C&A: Is winning a habit? Is losing? CL: Winning can certainly bring confidence which leads to more wins and enhances the mental state of players in preparation and game play. Losing can certainly have an opposite impact. Neither is a habit if you remain emotionally intelligent in wins and losses always focusing on the process. C&A: How do you deal with a loss (as a coach/ as a team)?
CL: Some specifics depend on the type of loss and when it is. In all situations it starts with inward honesty and self-reflection. Same as with a win. Regardless of the result it was a learning event from which you can get better. C&A: How do you get players to follow you? CL: By embracing the role of leadership through service first. Its not necessarily a preplanned set of activities. More setting core values for yourself that you live every day. This encourages athletes to do the same. C&A: How do you know a player/recruit will fit the dynamic of the team? CL: Recruiting can be the ultimate lottery. Many times the kid you see or hear about isn't the same kid once he or she is comfortable. In general you make sure to ask questions, meet the parent(s), ask around, and examine who their friends are. C&A: How have you evolved? CL: Over the last 5 years I've changed focus from simply being a coach who loves the game and enjoys leadership to finding love in the development process. There remains a competitive fire but its much more tempered now as I look for the teaching value in most things. C&A: How do you self reflect? CL: Most of it is spontaneous and I don't wait to write it down. If we're in an intense preparation cycle or a camp I'll write down the improvement idea for myself or the team right away. I then go back and read through my chicken scratches to form the big picture and put an action plan into
place. Much of my reflection also comes from solicitation of others for feedback. C&A: How do you prepare a team if you are a predetermined Underdog? CL: The same as if we're favored. It's wasted cycles focusing on the other team's on paper advantage. C&A: What was the first big change you felt necessary to make on day one as head coach? CL: With the USA U20s it was to acknowledge I was not Moses on the mountain top as a representative Head Coach. I had the knowledge, experience, and dedication of every coach providing athletes to the program at my disposal. I knew that was extremely valuable and aligned the program and its activities around harnessing that value. C&A: What has been the biggest surprise of your coaching career? CL: I've had some players fail at life in general that I didn't see coming. Good kids that got mixed up and ended up in some tight spots. I was surprised by how much this impacted me personally and lead to feelings of self failure.
CL: The day starts with a plan that is time sensitive and leaves contingency. Its just the way my brain works. It's helpful to have a wife that reminds me when one part is lacking attention. To be as boring as possible I really find no enjoyment in watching TV, playing video games, or anything that doesn't have an outcome or benefit my wife or children. C&A: Where do you look to for fresh ideas (other sports? Other coaches?) CL: All over. I look to business leaders on organizational alignment, other coaches from different sports for best practice, colleagues I can bounce ideas off, and try to have at least 2 books in rotation of being read at all times. C&A: What has been your proudest moment as a coach (not directly related to a win)? CL: There have been so many that I would be tough to mark one as the absolute proudest. The ones that stand out the most are the e-mails from former players saying that I impacted their life in some way or meeting former players that I've helped be a better employee, spouse and/or parent.
C&A: Which player(s) have you learned most from? CL: My son Jackson and coaching him with baseball. Every day the little guy and his big heart makes me a better man.
“Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).”
C&A: How do you balance coaching, the media, your family, your own down time? 4
C&A sat down to talk coaching identity with one of the top rugby coaches in the US. Here is what Coach Lawrence had to say: