Central Sport students were privileged to hear a talk this month from arguably one of Australia’s greatest coaches – Ric Charlesworth. Ric hasn’t just reached the top of the sporting world. A snapshot of his resume includes:
- WA cricketer, opening batsman, Sheffield Shield winner
- Trained and worked as a General Practioner
- Silver Medalist Men’s Hockey 1976 Olympics
- Decade in Federal Parliament as Federal Member for Perth
- Coach of women’s national hockey team the Hockeyroos for 7 years (winning two Olympic gold medals)
- Coach of men’s national hockey team, the Kookaburras for 5 years (winning the 2014 World Cup).
- High Performance Coach for New Zealand cricket team
- Father of five
Ric was in Leederville as part of a series of talks from sporting leaders aimed at guiding and inspiring our sport students. His presentation focused on the skills of coaching and the development of high performance.
He began by talking about the importance of ambition. “If you want to be successful, I don’t care what it is, you better have high ambition,” he said.
Ric quoted the first book he came across that introduced the concept of ‘sports psychology’ – Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics. Written in 1960, the author introduced the idea that life changes according to the image we hold of ourselves. “In our lives we are like guided missiles, we usually end up where we aim,” Ric reiterated.
The presentation then moved to a discussion on the parallels between business and sport.
“International sport at the highest level is extremely competitive and it is very hard to remain at the top for an extended period,” said Ric.
“In addition, in the sporting world unless you win the premiership, or the gold medal, or the final you are not seen as being successful. There is that edge to sport that makes it a very competitive environment.
“Business thinks it is competitive. Yes, you can grow your business and you can make a profit and you can consider it to be successful, but one major difference between the two is that high level sporting achievement involves constant TRAINING. Athletes spend more time training than they do actually playing,” he said.
Ric believes the business world would be quite different if every situation and every transaction was seen as a training/coaching opportunity in the same way as high level sport.
The presentation moved on to a breakdown of the ingredients required to be an effective coach. In his opinion, these are simply:
- Be yourself
- Know what you want and stand up for it
- Assume leadership-which is about knowing where you want to go and getting people to follow you
- Insist on quality in everything
- Make it fun and interesting (most important part)
- Listen to other people, be open to opinion
- Trust your judgment
- Be a learner
- Take responsibility
Ric outlined that in terms of performance, moments of inspiration are nothing compared to the elimination of error. In other words, it is repeatability that matters, being able to perform at the critical moment, making the throw or shot every time. If your team is going to perform under pressure, this consistent delivery is essential.
In Ric’s experience, successful sports people all have one thing in common – they don’t know how good they can be.
“It is up to a coach to lift them up and give them the ambition to work hard and be as good as they can be,” he said.
“Coaches don’t change anybody.”
Ric went on to describe the qualities top teams have in common, which are:
- Smart– they use technology and innovation e.g. GPS, video to their advantage. Win or lose, they measure results and track progress to improve weaknesses and consolidate strengths
- Healthy– for Ric the most important part of all is a healthy organisational culture that allows for open honest conversations and criticisms in order to constantly improve. This involves clear values, a prescribed style of interaction, honesty and openness.
- Diligent– a strong work ethic and attention to detail, making sure everything is covered
- Skilled– technical ability gained through practice and challenging themselves, the 10,000 hours of practice doctrine.
To prepare for the high stakes of World Cup or Olympic finals, Ric would create challenging training situations. He would suddenly change the rules, make the goals smaller, let one side have more players, or perhaps deliberately make a bad call.
Such moves were designed to make training more difficult than the actual game and create resilience within the group. In Ric’s view, the more you have thrown at you in training, the more prepared you are to tackle anything that may occur on the big day.
In closing, when asked how he would like his coaching to be remembered, Ric responded with simply – “That guy, he really pushed us”. For Ric, taking athletes beyond what they thought they were capable of is what being a good coach is all about.