Alando Soakai is a former New Zealand professional rugby player of 12 yrs. Successfully representing Otago, Highlanders and international rugby with New Zealand Sevens and Junior All Blacks. After spending 8 years in NZ, Alando made the move to Japan in July, 2011 signing with Kubota Spears. After the 2015-2016 season, Alando retired from playing and transitioned into full time coaching. He is currently in his 4th season as Forwards coach for Kubota.
In recent years my rugby career has come full circle. Growing up in Auckland and playing rugby from a young age, and now in my new role as a professional coach, I have seen plenty of talented rugby players come and go. Sadly, some of the most talented players fall off the rails for one reason or another. Many of the guys I grew up with had the potential for rugby success.
As a coach now into my 4th season, I look at players in a new light and value certain qualities. Qualities whichare important to fit the team vision and what we want to achieve on the field.
If you are passionate about rugby and want to make a career out if it, here are 9 tips I believe are important to help you achieve your goals.
- Natural talent: Talent will only get you so far, but hard work is what will actually get you places. It may have worked at high school but outside the school gates, it is a different ball game. Big boys play outside the school gates. If you don’t put in the work it will soon become clear and you will be found out.
- Sacrifice: Should be a common theme if you want to achieve your rugby goals. Whether it is sticking to a regular diet (nutrition), staying off the booze during in-season or giving up a weekend with your mates. Somewhere along the way, tough decisions will need to be made. Down the track, is where you will reap the rewards.
- Extras/Hard-work: Extras are the ‘behind the scenes’ work you do, when your coach and team mates are not around. It is doing the extra fitness or skill session, even if the weather conditions are terrible. There is no substitute for hard work.
- Consistency: Consistency breeds self-confidence. It will allow you to find what works for you and what doesn’t. The key is to consistently demonstrate your strengths week in and week out. That’s why you are there at the first place. Extras/hard-work & sacrifice all fall into this category.
- Understand your role: Important to understand what is needed to achieve your personal and team goals. Find out what are the coaches expectation of your core roles and responsibilities for your position. Understand the game-plan ‘inside & out’. Your team vision, values and also how can you add value to your team culture. Coaches are always seeking players who have the potential to do the following and beyond.
- Resiliency: During your career things can change very quickly. An unexpected drop in performance, non-selection, outside influences and injuries are things everyone experiences in their careers. How you deal with these setbacks, your work ethic and the character you show to get back on top is what people notice. Tapping into your support network is vital at keeping you on track. Stay focused on the big picture and continue the good fight.
- Bros/team-mates: Find a crowd/team-mate that share the same interests as you. Who will work alongside you to achieve common goals and more importantly, who will challenge and support you. You will all go through ups and downs on and off the field, but you will enjoy it more when you are doing it with a bunch of mates, fighting the same fight. Off the field, mates that you find who may bring you down, are people you might want to spend less time with.
- Support network: This is like your entourage. Parents, family members, coaches, mentors, good mates and partners etc. Again, the right crowd comes into play. These people will pat you on the back, but will also be the ones to bring you back down to earth, when it is needed. I cannot stress how important support networks will be for you throughout your career. My entourage were invaluable throughout my career during setbacks, injuries and pushing me to finish university.
- Balance/Education: Rugby 24-7 can be mentally draining so finding an escape is key. A hobby of some sort is a good start. My early years in rugby, university studies were my outlet. One day your rugby career will come to an end. For some, it will be much earlier than expected. So it is important to have something to fall back on. If formal education isn’t for you, there are plenty of work experience opportunities out there. Be proactive while you are still playing so the transition after rugby isn’t so rough.
Thank you Soaks for sharing your knowledge with us here at Rugby Yarns.