What a treat. Last night I was invited to a get together of Hong Kong rugby dudes to hear Australian coach Eddie Jones and Frank Hadden an ex Scottish coach. Frank was interesting, talking about trying to get Scotland to improve in the face of very few players and money. He was good.
Eddie Jones was excellent. I of course wore my All Black rugby jersey for a laugh. He spotted me coming in and made a couple of jibes my way, I said back that I was wearing it now because the way things are looking, I might not be able to after the 2011 World cup.
He is a great analyst. He noted how rugby had oscillated attack - defense - attack - defense since the mid 90's. He claims rugby is now in a great state, attack is dominating. He thinks by the 2011 world cup defenses would have adapted and defense would be back dominating. Others in the room were not so sure including a ref who believes the new tackle law will ensure attack keeps dominant. I think I side with Eddie. He believes the second person to the breakdown will stop trying to get the ball, but will go into the space beyond the ball and disrupt, enabling defensive teams to slow it down.
He also explained how Aus beat NZ at the 2003 world cup. They had realised that Carlos Spencer liked to kick into his right corner (the defensive teams left corner). He noted that the All Blacks had a brilliant three quarters unit and that if you then kicked back they would run you off your feet. This had happened earlier in 2003 when the AB's had smashed the Wallabies 50-12 at Sydney; he called that game, embarressing. They resolved for 20 minutes that the AB's kicked to the corner not to kick it back. He believes this disrupted the AB pattern, and victory was assured.
Aside from being gutted on the one hand, and deeply impressed by his ability to read on the other, I was impressed with his strategy and ability to read the game. We must remember that Eddie got the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup Final and that he had an advisory role with the 2007 Springboks who won the cup. So he is good! Why doesn't NZ employ him to work with Henry and the lads? Never I suppose, because NZ don't need him. Yeah right.
Anywho. I got to thinking about Christian leadership. Both Frank and Eddie spent hours analysing. Every player gets analysed. Their games are broken down, videoed, analysed and the data used for improvement. Eddie believed that emphasis should go on player's strengths not weaknesses. He said it is a waste of time trying to correct weaknesses, rather they should build on strengths making them stronger, and often the weaknesses improved too. He said teams should do the same, find their point of strength, and then focus on that 70% of the time. That is interesting to me and he is proving this idea successful.
He also noted a need for balance in a team. He talked of the Springbok locking pair, Botha and Matfield. He suggested that Botha is the grunter and Matfield the run around stay out of contact seagull lock. He talked of how you needed that balance. Two Maftields or two Bothas would be a disaster.
I think we as Christians need to be much more analytical in our churches and strategies. Yes, what we are doing is spiritual. But it is also human as well. Strategy is important, analysis is important. This approach for Frank and Eddie was very human. They talked of knowing your players, what motivated them, what made them tick. Eddie mentioned Ben Darwin an Aussie prop who played rugby to make his Dad happy, his Dad and Mum having split. Eventually he got a sports psychologist to work with Ben to get him to play for other reasons, to find restoration. He ended up playing 45 tests for Australia. The point is, that their approach to coaching is very relational and personal. It involves mentoring on a one to one level. This ensure things are not mechanical and the human 'pastoral' element is still central.
We of course need to work to analyse within the framework of the gospel and love. One of the difficulties of Christian ministry is measuring success. However, we must work to find ways of doing this at a spiritual and human level. It is not just bums on seats, but growth in the Lord. But it is still worthy of some sort of measure.
When people are motivated with a clear goal like making profit or winning games, you can work around it with strategies and analysis. We Christians need to get back to recognising our core goals. I see them as: 1) Seeing people won to faith in Christ through the true Gospel; 2) Seeing them grow to full maturity; 3) Building God's people in church's that reflect the mission and pastoral heart of God; 4) Expressing our gifts in the world in mission seeing God's world built up i.e. work, play, life.
We need a strategy for our context. Jesus had a clear strategy: grab 12 men, go through Palestine preaching the good news of the Kingdom drawing people to faith in Christ, suffering rejection and dying on a cross to save the world and lay down a pattern for human existence, rising from the dead, empowering his people with his Spirit and calling them to go to the world and make disciples of every nation.
Paul had a strategy: to go move progressively west from Jerusalem proclaiming the King and Kingdom, establishing church's in the main urban centres, equipping the new disciples for the mission, and moving on. He hoped to get to Spain with this strategy.
Wherever we minister, whether it be in a business, school, church, family, workplace, sports club or wherever, we need a strategy. Of course it will include our core business. But it will have a localised dimension right for our context e.g. Glenfield in Auckland. We need to analyse our progress, our leaders, our approaches. We need to do so in an atmosphere of grace and not judgement. This perhaps is the character key for the human strategy. Analysis soaked in love and encouragement.
It is amazing what you get out of a rugby chat.
One more thing. He thought the All Blacks will win the Tri Nations this year, Australia second, South Africa third. He thinks the Springboks are now too old. We will see if he is right. My pick: SA 1st, Australia 2nd, NZ 3rd. I don't care who wins this year, its about who peaks in November 2011. He did not say who he thought would win.