Rugby motivational speeches are a building block of the game, something that is not surprising since this team sport demands full commitment. Anyone who listened to former Wales international Scott Quinnell’s team talks to unemployed men on School of Hard Knocks, his rugby psychology TV show with Will Greenwood, will know the power of the pep talk.
Quinnell emphasised the importance of focus and mental resilience in rugby and life by using passionate and brutally honest words.
If your team is to become a band of brothers, then rugby motivational speeches will need to become part of your dressing-room environment.
Learn from past inspiring speeches
After the British & Irish Lions had lost the first two Tests to South Africa in 2009, the series was over, and the tourists were playing for pride in the third Test, now a dead rubber. Coach Sir Ian McGeechan delivered one of the greatest motivational speeches in rugby history, reducing himself to tears. And that’s a key starting point – communicate through your body language.
You should use anecdotes to hook the listeners in from the start and display every ounce of your passion. Your teammates will follow you if they know how much what you are saying means to you.
It’s no surprise that Sir Ian’s Lions roared in that third Test, producing one of the most heroic displays in their history.
Make it a play for passion
Irish legend Paul O’Connell was a master of whipping up emotions, often peppering his pep talks with profanity, again to command his men’s attention from the outset.
After being mauled by Wales in the 2007 Six Nations opener, O’Connell’s Ireland needed to turn things around quick-smart, so the lock unleashed a volley of swearwords to rouse his troops, who went on to fight with uncommon ferocity in the 20-7 loss to France.
Remember to play on your passions – you want to win, and you want your men to want to win, too.
Simple is sometimes stirring
Dramatic pauses can have as much impact as O’Connell’s ranting did. Focus the players’ attention on achievable, easy-to-digest targets within the match – their thoughts will be like washing machines, so keep your ideas clear and simple. It’s a good idea to form a huddle either on the park or in a corner of the dressing room so all eyes are focused upon you as you deliver your motivational talk.
Underneath the passionate words and rhetoric, there must be a seam of cold, hard logic, so plan ahead what your keywords will be and how you will set up the simple goals for which your team will strive.
Speech topics should include, for example, how players have the tools for any game scenario, those tactics drilled into them on the training ground.
The right time for rhetoric
You will have to set certain ground rules for your team so that, when the time comes for talking, your players are fully switched on. If you tell them to attend a squad briefing, then make sure that they also have a period in which to unwind or self-motivate.
During the 2015 World Cup, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen used his half-time words in the semi-final against South Africa to turn around a game that was drifting away from the Kiwis. As they trailed 12-7, Hansen told his team to regain their composure and impose themselves.
It was the right time for a recap of the All Blacks’ imperious form, not a lambasting for their first-half failure. You should also tailor your words to the occasion – it’s not a good idea to remind players of their past imperfections, but to reassert that they have the skillsets to overturn any troubles that they might face on the pitch.
Recall all the hard work done in training to counter calamity and make it part of your rugby motivational speech now.
Motivating your team during hard times, sharing your passion for the game and elevating your players is an integral part of being a good rugby coach. Read on to find out if you have what it takes to become a rugby coach.