Maximizing a players’ potential is not just a physical thing. There are certain life qualities to recognize and identify that will boost a players’ performance. Coach Friday, said, “If you want a better player, make them a better person. The players need to understand they are playing for something bigger than themselves”. To be a gentleman does not take away a players’ ability to be a fighter. It actually enhances it. Let’s understand the brilliant mind behind this valiant Englishman who combines chivalry, valor, and warrior; distinct in the form of greatness and magnificence.
We all know the qualities that make a great coach: leadership, positivity, Communication, and goal-oriented. However, actions speak louder than words, and, many times it is hard to see the qualities of a coach flourish. However, in 2014, a new sheriff came to town for the USA Rugby 7’s team. Coach Friday took the team from being an anchored fixture in the bottom rankings, hauling them up to a resurrected 4th place position in the world. And, since his 2014 arrival, they have been a force to be reckoned with never sinking back to the depths further than 5th place. Top teams like New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia can no longer think the game will be a walk in the park victory.
Coach Friday’s Leap to Success
Injuries usually diminish an athletes’ ability. On the other hand, an injury was Coach Friday’s leap to success. He had suffered an ACL injury and underwent reconstructive surgery during his professional athletic career. His leap was not of physical ability. It was from his passion and sincerity. In his time of healing, his local rugby club needed help and sought his assistance, and he decided to help the team. At this time, not realizing what life had in store, little did he know the integration of his expertise, skill, and mastery was predestined to be placed on a pedestal. His previous work experience, combined with being a professional athlete, revealed his true identity and personality to take a new and huge step forward.
Many times, life unexpectedly changes and pushes you in another direction. What you love to do is never a day of work. It is a passion and a pleasure to go above and beyond the call of duty. Your life experiences act as a guide to help you realize your true intentions. Although Coach Friday’s intention was to get back into the competition to play, he accidentally returned to the field differently as a coach.
Coach Friday used to work in the corporate business world, building teams in different environments to maximize their business potential, the “soul” purpose of a coach, and the perfect fusion for him. The key thing Coach Friday mentioned was, “You have to understand different types of people, vision, and strategy to fit in. Understand the environment you are entering, asses personal dynamics, and adjust them to maximize the delivery’s potential because results are important. Building teams from corporations and sports require the same tactical techniques to achieve alignment”.
When Coach Friday took the team’s helm in 2014, he said the relationship was very volatile for about 12 months with the players. The players challenged his strategy, methods, and techniques often. Through Coach Friday’s patience, selflessness, strong principles, and tactics, the players evolved to the realization that “No one is bigger than the team, including me.”
Players Need to be Individuals
During our interview, Coach Friday stated, “Everyone has a different identity that you need to mold and integrate with other molds. It is the fusion of the various talents and skills molded into a team that creates success. A player’s identity and mold are just a piece of the team. The team must be accepted by the player for the team to function properly. This is a complicated process because many alpha player personalities come together from different walks of life, cultures, beliefs, etc., especially in the USA. The players all don’t need to like each other, but they all have to accept each other as equals and understand each player’s talent and role on the team. It is the blend of talents that produces success. When this Communication is not present, the team suffers. You can’t let identity interfere with team contribution. Sacrifice is worth the end goal”.
The core of Coach Friday’s philosophy is to maximize a player’s potential like all coaches want to do. However, Coach Friday’s process is not just focused on a cookie-cutter strength and failure approach. It is a psychological process that shows elite athletes, to be the best and maximize their potential, “They must go to the dark place. Not everything is perfect, and you have to know how to bounce back. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You don’t have to like it, but you have to accept it. It builds physical and mental resiliency. Selflessness is required for sacrifice, and sacrifice is a team value that must be molded into the players’ identity. Players have to learn how to sacrifice their ability to secure the team result, or failure ensues. This is what makes the players run blood into the water for each other”.
Rugby is a very different game than other sports. It is an open decision game, meaning you have to play with the flow. A rugby player has multiple functions on the field; he is the offense, defense, sprinter, ball passer, and kicker. A player is always making split-second decisions that require them to use their exceptional ability as a team; the reason selflessness and sacrifice to make decisions either leads to winning or impedes the victory through ego and selfishness. Unlike the NFL, it is predominantly a closed decision sport. The coach calls in the play, and it is executed.
Coach Friday’s Core Values of Coaching
The more authentic and genuine you are, the more you can learn physically, mentally, and in life. You have to be able to get players to understand their failures and adequacies- to be vulnerable. This is difficult to do with elite athletes because, again, they all have alpha personalities. However, vulnerability creates trust, so the coach needs to nurture vulnerability.
Communication is the heart to remaining authentic and genuine. It produces transparency, builds relationships, and trust in the relationship. A coach needs to have good management, self, and communication skills to explain what he wants and be flexible and prepared to change his style.
This doesn’t mean treating everyone the same as each member of the squad is an individual. However, make sure the players understand the boundaries and your words, actions, and what you want from them. Talking is one thing and doing it is another. Consistency produces accuracy. You need to be accurate with goals, expectations, rules, etc. Do not compromise your values and what you want.
“Coaches need to be leaders and good people. Coaches are no different from players and have to admit being wrong. It creates humility, and humility brings the best out of you. We all have to get it wrong to get it right. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Go find it out and learn it for yourself. If you don’t know how to teach core skills, then go learn them”.
“Understand, if mistakes are a symptom or a cause? Be reflective and proactive in the situation. Have boundaries to rectify the attitude. Leave it at the door to move on. You have to be able to offer change to the player if they want to change,” said Coach Friday.
Coach Friday teaches PRIDE and stated, “It is a safe, successful process that creates value and morphs PRIDE into the players’ identity to maximize individual potential. Let everyone be an individual. The coach and the players must gel together to form a collective unit, to provide an environment to be the best. The coach needs to mold himself around the players and adjust the personalities around the team. You have to mold the players to find their identity because you have to align their personalities on and off the pitch (field). Molding yourself around the players is half the challenge, and this is where your core values and principles as a coach come into play. Players need to understand they are playing for a greater goal than their ability. They are playing for the country. Therefore, sacrifice is a big part of it. Just like vulnerability creates trust, it also leads to understanding sacrifice”.
You Need X-Factors
Coach Friday believes in individuals coming together to create an elite dynamic strategy to compete. He stated “Some have speed, some have endurance, some are better kickers, some have better agility. You don’t want linear form. You need players who are great and excel in one area. This is your X-Factor. However, to have the X-Factor, you must command all the basic fundamentals of the game. Without having the basic fundamental game skills, it is hard to have an X-Factor. You will not see it in the game and it will not fuse to the team and affect the other players’ X-Factor ability during the game. Therefore, the team will not have alignment on the field and will affect the game strategy”.
Final Words from Coach Friday
“Players need to have enjoyment. Enjoyment is a part of productivity, progress, and understanding on and off the pitch. Comprehend when a mistake is made, is it critical or fundamental? Be honest with capability. Don’t give false hope but empathize. Illustrate and show what is possible and constructive. Help players when they fall off the rails. Let them know they will need to get things wrong to get them right. If you don’t understand your players, you don’t know how to nurture them”.
“Be the best at being brave.” Coach Mike Friday