The Power of Effective Training

Chase Langdon
Chase Langdon,
Certification Coordinator,
USA Rugby
Josh Sutcliffe
Josh Sutcliffe,
Coaching Development Manager,
USA Rugby

This month, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with Chase Langdon and Josh Sutcliffe from the USA Rugby organization to talk about the importance of training. They’re in the midst of a broad-spectrum initiative to educate their players, coaches, and the entire sport about critical issues like substance use, performance enhancement, and head injuries. When asking people to partake in training, especially when those people’s roles are volunteer-based (as many involved in USA Rugby are), the training better be exceptional! Here’s what Chase and Josh had to say.

Why is training so important to you?

Training helps us achieve our strategic goals and beliefs. Player welfare is at the top of that list. Attempting to create a culture change among rugby coaches, athletes, and referees is a challenge, but we believe we have social responsibility beyond the game to increase safety and awareness. Education and training help us address sticky subjects like substance use and concussion issues.

What makes training engaging and effective?

Interactivity and relevance. If you’re just talking AT people, they will not participate or retain any of the necessary information. You need role-playing, games, quizzes, examples, and a “pick-your-own-adventure” type of feel to make an impact. Training also has to apply to those who are going to experience it – content-wise, context-wise, everything. People need to leave with a feeling that they’ve gained some knowledge they can use in real life.

What should leaders keep in mind when planning and creating training initiatives?

  1. Ask people what they want and need from training. Conduct a focus group, and make sure you’re creating a course they will want to complete.
  2. Convince your audience of the merit of the initiative in advance (Step 1 will help with this).
  3. Be aware of the time commitment you’re requiring with the training and how that affects the trainees.
  4. Develop and deliver the curriculum in a manner that will resonate with your audience – audio, visual, written, online, or a combination.

What examples of great training have you experienced?

The most effective coach education program we have seen was with the Australian Rugby Union. The national team coach was instrumental in promoting the initiative, and it was very successful. When they created the program, they didn’t purport to have all the answers. Rather, they wanted to give you a piece of knowledge to add to your experience. When people hear that from someone they respect, it can be very powerful. This lays the foundation for continuing education and for creating a culture of improvement where people are actively seeking knowledge, wanting to learn. This then elevates the universal level of productivity. When we have better coaching courses, coaches will want to take them. Then they’ll coach better, and, as a result, players will play better. The quality of the whole organization and all of its constituents improves.

If you could give other leaders one piece of advice when it comes to creating training for their organizations, what would that be?

Be realistic about the goal and don’t get discouraged by the roadblocks. People may not like being told they need to educate themselves. They may resist the idea of learning, feeling like they already know all they need. But learning is a noble endeavor. We believe that as a nation, and as an athletic organization within this nation, we need to recommit to continuous education. It’s a fight worth fighting.

Chase Langdon is the Certification Coordinator and Josh Sutcliffe is the Coaching Development Manager for USA Rugby. Founded in 1975, USA Rugby is the national governing body for the sport of rugby in the United States and a Full Sport Member of the United States Olympic Committee and the International Rugby Board. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA Rugby is charged with developing the game on all levels and has over 115,000 active members. USA Rugby oversees four national teams, multiple collegiate and high school All-American sides, and an emerging Olympic development pathway for elite athletes. In October 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rugby Sevens (the seven-a-side version of the game) will appear in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.