Hearing Pete talk I’m not surprised that he’s achieved the success he has. He sees things differently than most,

“I enjoy watching teams and how they perform: they’ve got a heart that beats. You need it to beat at the right rate. Individually it’s different, you go through the names and think about where is each one in their own belief. I want 11 guys on the field that feel great about themselves. That can’t just be left to good luck. What you say isn’t always what they hear – it’s a longer term thing. You need to see the best version of someone”.

Seeing the best version of someone usually involves helping them see it too. It’s about painting pictures in the mind. Vivid enough to feel real. Realistic enough to make them want to reach out and touch it. Pete takes up the theme,

“The imagination takes them to the ‘end’ but then you’ve got to come back and work out how you’ll get there. Most sportsmen don’t like the words ‘goal setting’ but they do it. To make it effective it’s got to be much more real than it often is to many players. A coaches’ job is to make the connection for them and link it to performance”.

We seem to be getting to the crux here and I make the point to Pete who nods in agreement,

“The two things for me are: Does it make you better? And does it help to keep you on the park? That’s pro-sport. If it’s not getting you better what are we doing it for?”

If it’s not getting you better what are we doing it for?

That’s a big, potentially convoluted challenge for a coach dealing with expectations of fans, the media and the multiple characters in a team with their individual and collective challenges. I ask, “How do you do it?”. Pete breaks a wry smile,

“When I first started in coaching I’d go home and my wife would say, ‘you may as well go back because you’re looking straight through me’. When you first start you’re on a mission to collect everyone’s problems. Now I’ve learnt to give everything I’ve got but when I leave at the end of the working day I turn it off. Now, if I see you’ve got a real challenge, I’ll help you but you will have to overcome it if you want to go up a level. It’s your call”.

All too often I encounter coaches that, one way or another, fail to attend to their own development, so fixated are they with their wards. It can be a lonely existence. Pete is evidently not one of those coaches. He exudes a bright eyed energy and enthusiasm,

“Reflection is one of the best things. I speak to other people. I find that really helpful because you have to look and decide what it is that’s important.

Reflection is one of the best things. I speak to other people. I find that really helpful because you have to look and decide what it is that’s important.

If you say something out loud you’re clarifying it. I always say if you’re doing a job and want to know if you’re doing any good at it, imagine tomorrow is your first day. What would you do? To start with I’d always take the challenge on as my own and I’d want to fix it: now I go to everyone else and see what they think”.

Pete unveils another aspect of his philosophy,

“People think you learn on a course. It’s not the course you learn from, it’s the door in your head that opens. You start thinking. You meet brilliant people and they open the door. I love that. If you find something new then live with it for three months and still remember it then it must be good because it’s morphed into you. As a coach you need to remember that players are savvy. If you try to sell something you haven’t worked out yourself yet they’ll know”.

He continues,

“The moulding of you as a coach comes from many things. Sometimes it’s the overseas players you work with who are top flight performers. That keeps you fresh. They’re a great source of innovation. You can pass it on. It brings a different perspective”.

I think back to our time together on the Fellowship, “What about other coaches?”.

“The nice thing speaking to coaches is sometimes they tell you something you already know so you get a bit more confidence in what you’re doing”.

It seems we’ve come back round to the importance of understanding what you’re good at. I’m off to write my list. I suggest you do the same. If Pete thinks it’s a good idea, I’m not about to argue.