4 Teamwork Lessons from a Championship Rugby Team

May 08, 2014 By Dave Chase

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The Rugby team from Brigham Young University capped a remarkable season with a victory over the storied California Golden Bears on May 3, 2014, giving them the title of Varsity Cup National Champs.  Performing before an enormous crowd by collegiate rugby standards, the two teams fought to the last moment in a breathtaking game.  The story of their season provided me some valuable lessons in teamwork and it started before the season began and finished when BYU ran in seven tries against Cal in front of over 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, claiming the championship.

  1. Set a clear vision

Head Coach David Smyth set a goal of a perfect season, start to finish.

“Our main priority was obviously to defend our championship and we did that. I couldn’t be more proud of the work our players put into this season in order to help us win the Varsity Cup again.” 

Smyth set an expectation for perfection.  A leader without vision isn’t a bad thing…they’re just mislabeled…they should be called “manager”, not “leader”.  Coach Smyth led with a clear vision.

  1. Define roles & put right people in place.

A high functioning team isn’t full of clones, rather, it is full of individuals each performing their role properly.  But teams don’t start that way.  A leader must assess their talent and ensure members are in the right place.  That requires adaptability because no perfect team just falls into place.

“We knew we were going to have a solid team collectively this year,” Smyth said, “But we also knew were going to lack in some areas up front, so it took a while to figure out the exact combinations and personnel that we were going to have to lean on when the postseason began. But I think once we sorted that out and the players were able to get to know their roles, then we started building and playing some good rugby.” 

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Jim Collins has described this as having “the right people in the right seats.”

  1. Learn from mistakes

BYU ended their season with one blemish in an 18-1 season.  With a goal of perfection, one loss might have deflated them.  However, they used that loss to their advantage.  They learned from it.  An even greater passion emerged from it.  Speaking of that loss, Coach Smyth said:

“…they beat us straight up. But it was one of those losses that you’re glad to have as a coach because it made our guys open their eyes a bit and you could see them change their demeanor and how they prepared from that day forward.

  1. Celebrate victories, but don’t lose focus.

There will be victories, large and small, all along the way.  Use those victories to celebrate and build the team even further, but keep the team focused on the next prize.  Shortly after the game BYU assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti discussed his teams ongoing commitment to perfection.

“We don’t anticipate any drop off.  The guys were back in the gym on Monday getting ready for next year. So we’ll go about getting ourselves set up on and off the pitch as a coaching staff during this off season and it’s our expectation that we keep raising the bar higher every year.”

David Chase, a partner at Advanced CFO Solutions, has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 15 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

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