When a superstar team beats a team of superstars (Part 1)
August 5, 2016
I have been lucky enough to play in some of the most amazing premiership wins you could imagine. Pure Hollywood style, backs to the wall, never given a chance, wins against the odds. As the saying goes, you make you own luck - but more about that in another blog.
The first one I would like to share is a cricket premiership when we scrapped into finals and were all but dead and buried in a semi. Somehow we found a way to win the A1 Premiership for the first time in the club's history. I was in my first year as Club Coach and we had built a team that we knew could compete with the best on our day. We had a gun batsman and a gun bowler and they took us a long way towards our success. But it was the way the rest of the team were able to stand up and chip in when it really mattered that was the difference.
Many of our opponents were known for offering significant incentives to former 1st class players and high quality grade cricketers. One club that season boasted 3 players who had played for South Australia and a former Australian ODI player, Our club had 4 players with first grade experience in Grade Cricket but no player, including myself as coach was paid.
The season in question started with about half a dozen of us shovelling 20 tonnes of sand across the oval to even out the infield. Our oval remained a sand pit for most of the season. We started slow with only a tie in our first 3 games, before winning 6 straight and then losing the penultimate game of the season. Having lost a premiership only 2 years prior, we were determined to avenge this and in the final round needed to win our have 3 other games go our way to make finals in a very even competition.
Personally, I had a horrible season and was struggling at different stages with a back complaint, broken hand and balancing the requirements of coaching a club and developing my own game. I was not a good enough player to simply walk out on the field and perform, I needed to spend significantly more time on my game than other players, my inability to balance this requirement with that of the team and club resulted in a massive loss of form and confidence. So much so I dropped myself to the B grade for a good part of the middle of the season, which coincided with the 6 game winning streak!
In the lead up to the final game I wrote a letter to the 16 players in our squad and hand delivered to each player. Some players had not played a game in the A grade all season, but anyone who had a chance of playing finals was included and I provided individual comments for each player on how they could contribute to our success.
Unfortunately I do not have the full letter anymore, but below is an excerpt which highlights the essence of the message:
We may not have the star players like some of our opponents, but what we do have is a squad of 16 guys who love playing for our club and more importantly, for each other. At the start of the season (our captain) and I spoke about what makes our club special......
We don't have money....
We don't have clubroom....
We can't buy former 1st Class players....
We don't even have grass on our infield!
We have a group of hard-working blokes who sacrifice their spare time to keep our club running. Rest assured, even if they are not on the field or have never played an A grade game, winning an A1 Premiership will mean the world to these club men. WE OWE THEM!
What makes us special?
MATES - NOT MONEY!
Following are some individual comments that I would like you to take on board and use on our journey towards finals. I strongly believe we have the squad to do the job this year...
Something never achieved before by our club!
Something nobody else thinks we can achieve!
Something you will never forget!
An A1 PREMIERSHIP!
This letter had impact and I will expand on that in my next post. Perhaps I didn't realise it at the time, but upon reflection, there were some key points that came out of these decisions I made as coach in that season:
The team must come first, ahead of personal gain or glory
Note the use of "our" and "we" in the letter - this builds ownership and belonging.
Making the journey about the club, not the team, not the individual. Including those who are a part if it, even if not on the field on Grand Final Day, this creates a story and a reason to reach deeper for success.
Uniting the team by highlighting the uniqueness of our club - something that we can own and have pride in.
Ensuring every player who may be involved in the finals felt needed, required and capable of contributing to our success.
Providing individual advice, feedback and support for every player in the squad:
Acknowledging any challenges or barriers the individual was facing;
Advising them of their role in the team;
Convincing them they could be the one that could win us a premiership.