This book review by Player Development Project Magazine Editor, Dave Wright of the best-selling book, Legacy by James Kerr outlines some fantastic examples of best practice. In this summary of some of the key points, Dave gives his view on the value of this book and shares several core concepts that you can utilise in your environment.

“Excellence is a process of evolution, of cumulative learning, of incremental improvement”

In your own personal development, having a breadth of reading and a desire to look outside of just football adds value to your own knowledge and your package as a coach. Legacy is one of the best sporting books I have read and outlines some of key but simple ideas as to how you can add value to your players development. The book tries to translate the unbelievably successful All Black rugby culture and investigate how to apply it to a commercial environment. The environment created under the guidance of the coaches but developed by the players is about more than just winning. There are few better books that demonstrate what a team should be and how we as coaches should carry ourselves in our quest for success – however that’s defined.

In this book, James Kerr interviews legends of rugby, business high performers and psychology experts ranging from All Blacks Coaches, Steve Hansen, Sir Graham Henry, Wayne Smith through to Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Chairman,  Kevin Roberts and team psychologist, Gilbert Enoka. Kerr examines the cultural shift that the All Blacks undertook following their catastrophic failure in the 2007 Rugby World Cup by looking within and identifying the key weaknesses in their own environment. This was an at times brutal process in self-reflection but in the end it resulted in the highest winning percentage of any sports team on the planet.

So what can you take away for your own coaching environment?

Character: How to stay humble despite success and using your losses as the biggest opportunity to learn. Not only did the All Blacks learn from their results, positive or negative, but they created a culture where everyone was accountable, not just to their coaches, but more importantly to their team mates.

Sacrifice – Champions do Extra: Kerr discusses this core belief with All Blacks & Brisbane Broncos legend Brad Thorn – a colossus of a man who played over 200 NRL games in rugby league before switching to rugby union and playing 60 test matches. Thorn, known as a fitness fanatic off the field and a war horse on it, speaks about his desire to always go above and beyond in his training. Perhaps this is the reason he played professionally until the age of 40?

Values: By creating and sticking to key principles and beliefs about what the All Blacks team represented, even going to the lengths of creating a ‘no dickheads’ policy, Kerr discusses the values of the team and how the legacy of the team was created through the annals of history and former great players, like Sean Fitzpatrick and John Kirwan.

Learning: How to create the optimum learning environment and then acting on it. Kerr discusses research around how “human beings are motivated by purpose, autonomy and a drive towards mastery” – outlining how good leaders can ensure players or staff within their organisation can go about ensuring that kind of learning environment

Leadership: Kerr examines the concept of player ownership, how the All Blacks implemented this and empowered the players to take responsibility for their own environment, their own team protocols and building the culture.

Pressure: Kerr discusses key ideas with managing, dealing with and embracing pressure. He discusses Richie McCaw’s ability to get ‘back into the moment’ and the idea of ‘red head’ and ‘blue head’ – one being a loss of focus, the other the ability to maintain composure and calm in the face of adversity. Regardless of the context of the game, the scoreboard or the clock. Kerr discusses how can you stick to your processes and believe in what you’ve practiced with key members of the All Blacks playing and coaching staff.

Authenticity: The value in coaches and players knowing themselves, staying true to yourself and honesty within your environment.

“Leaders create leaders by passing on responsibility, creating ownership, accountability and trust.”

From a coaching perspective there is no better team culture to examine in your quest to engage in best practice for your own players. There are dozens of anecdotes and lessons to be taken from this book and it is a must read for all coaches regardless of the level you’re working at.

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