CARVER Essay-Andy Friend

This essay is an extract from Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Book for Irish Youth

Andy Friend is the Connacht Rugby Head Coach. He is highly experienced having previously worked as Head Coach for the Australian Mens Rugby, Suntory RFC and Canon RFC in Japan, The Brumbies RFC in Australia and Harlequins RFC in England. He believes in a holistic approach to athlete development, ensuring that players are nurtured and guided both on and off the field, with a strong focus on building character and leadership in a positive, sustainable culture. I have asked Andy to share with you what he believes is the importance of character in sport and indeed life.

It has been said that sport is a microcosm of life – a statement that I truly believe in. As coaches, we have a huge responsibility to educate our chargers, not only in the skills and attributes to play the specific sport that we teach, but more importantly, to guide them in developing the right character traits that will assist them in being the best versions of themselves, both on and off the sporting field.

So what are the ideal character traits that I believe are integral in both life and sport? Below I have listed my top SEVEN…

1. RESPECT

Treat people the way you wish to be treated. Sport offers you many opportunities where one can ‘take advantage of’ or disrespect another person. It is important for athletes to stay true to one of life’s golden rules – ‘do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.

2. HUMILITY

In nearly all sporting events, there are winners and there are losers, and most accept this as the likely outcome whenever competitors face off. Nothing is more disheartening than to see a winner who lacks humility. The competitor who can win on the scoreboard and remain humble in doing so, is the true champion of the contest.

3. ACCOUNTABILITY

Own your actions. Too often we see people use what I call the ‘BCD’ principles when something that they’re involved in goes wrong. They either Blame, Complain or Defend the action that led to the error. The real champions in life take responsibility by holding themselves to account, regardless of the outcome that is delivered as a direct consequence.

4. HONESTY

It is important that we teach our athletes to earn their victories through being truthful and fair, and not through taking cheap wins through dishonest means. Rules will always be broken, and individuals will test them to their limits. But if a victory is offered that wasn’t earned fairly, it’s dishonourable to accept it.

5. DEPENDABILITY

One of the greatest attributes you can possess is that of dependability. If a teammate or coach says ‘I know I can count on you’, then you have truly earned the trust of that person. Whilst that sounds like a simple message to receive, it’s only ever earned through a huge amount of self-discipline and hard work. The commitment you show at training, the diligence you display in the way that you prepare, the honesty with which you speak to your coach & peers, and your everyday focus and determination is what will earn you that highest of praises from your teammates and coaches.

6. COURAGE

Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Sometimes this is for the betterment of oneself, but more often than not it’s for the betterment of the team or a teammate. Sport offers many an opportunity for someone to either display courage, or to shy away in the face of it. If you can learn to face your fears head on, then your opportunity for growth is greatly enhanced.

7. COMPASSION

The capacity of an individual to identify and feel another person’s suffering, and to then feel compelled to offer support in order to ease that suffering, is a character trait that is rare and special. Whether the suffering be physical, mental or a combination of both, the sporting arena lends itself to this type of situation on a regular basis. Those who can show the appropriate amount of compassion at the right time, are unique and special.

Those are the character traits that I believe are paramount to success both on and off the sporting field.

I wish you well on your way,

Andy Friend

Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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