by Tom Billups
At the University of California - Berkeley, we say that there are only two types of teams; those that are getting better, and those that aren’t. With the 2007 Rugby World Cup about to begin, it will make for interested viewing to see which teams improve as the competition evolves.
There are several categories which to gauge a team’s improvement and most aspects of a team’s performance can be positively influenced by the coaching staff. The team’s fitness levels, technical plans, and discipline are top of the list. The impact that a coaching staff can have on establishing a culture of continual performance improvement is dramatic, and can make good players great.
In the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the U.S. team I coached were 1-3. Our team’s ethos was one of constant daily improvement. Our tournament opened with a narrow one-point loss to Fiji and in the third match we defeated Japan. By defeating Japan, the U.S. had its first Rugby World Cup victory in sixteen years.
In a post-cup International Rugby Board bulletin, former British Lion and England coach, Dick Best reported, “The USA must take great credit for the improved performances of the team. Without a doubt the best-prepared and most successful Eagles’ team in a Rugby World Cup tournament. They played with desire and self belief…considerable skill and knowledge”.
I had previously experienced what it was like to be on a rugby team that was constantly improving in 1999. We defeated Tonga and Fiji on consecutive weekends, and later defeated the Canadians by challenging each other to reach our individual potential while the coaching staff collectively challenged us. The culture of our team tied the concept of continual improvement to the goals we had set as a team. Later that same summer, we lost by only seven points to a very good Samoan national team in Apia. The score line was close because we believed strongly that we had a sound technical plan, and had earned the right to win the match though our hard work on the training field.
Here’s to our 2007 Rugby World Cup team and for yet an even more improvement.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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