Steve Hansen: The Art of Coaching

I recently read an article on the New Zealand Herald website. This was an interview with the All Blacks Head Coach, Steve Hansen. Although Rugby Union is not my sport I still found the article extremely interesting as it gives a great insight into the mind of an elite level coach, how they plan and encourage their athletes, and also how they are able to reflect on their own performances as a coach. There were several points he struck upon during the interview that I found extremely interesting and also struck a chord with me.

Winning as a Child

A point that Steve touches upon is around how children were being developed as players a number of years ago as they were progressing from young rugby players to senior players, he says:

“Where we got it wrong a number of years ago was when we said winning was not important. You ask any kid from the age of 10 – whether it’s rugby or two kids playing marbles – they want to win. That’s a natural instinct……What we should be focussing on is what are the things that allow you to win? Teaching the skills you need to win marbles under pressure is more important than worrying about whether you’re going to lose your favourite marble or not.”

I found that this point resonated as I find that in the UK in football especially we are struggling to find this balance. We have gone from a mentality in the 80’s and 90’s of win at all costs, to a mentality now where up until the age of 15 or 16 young footballers are being told it’s more about the “taking part” and even at the elite level there have been calls for league tables to be scrapped (Echo, 2011).



As I also undertake the module around performance analysis in sport so I found this point interesting that Hansen alluded to:

“Yes you can over-coach, most definitely. Does it mean you’re over-coaching because you’re watching mountains and mountains of footage? No, that’s not over-coaching. Over-coaching is when you take all that stuff you’ve looked at and then try to make someone else process it.”

I think Hansen makes excellent points, he is saying that performance analysis can be used to help the coaching process and especially reflection. However if you ask your players to solely rely upon that and don’t actually engage them in your sessions, that footage that you have analysed and watched becomes useless as the player simply won’t process all that information. In fact several recent studies carried out around the use of performance analysis in sport show that, if used appropriately it can help individuals and teams to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals (Kuper, 2012).





Reflection as a Coach


Even though Steve is a top class elite level coach who has the won the Rugby World Cup, he still knows the importance of reflection:

“You don’t start out like that. As I said, I’ve probably lived on the negative side for a while when it came to some things, but as you learn to accept that you don’t have to be perfect it’s easier to admit your own failings. Once you can admit to your failings you’ll have greater self awareness then it’s easier to learn.”




I thought this quote in particular is excellent as for myself as a young coach who is constantly trying to develop, I tend to look at how the session could have improved, or how the team could have improved their performance, and I feel like I constantly have to strive for perfection. However Steve says here that even the best coach will make mistakes, and if you understand and realise that, you will be able to reflect as a coach and develop. Steve’s idea fits into the learning by doing theory (Gibbs, 1988). Which is shown above.




Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. London: FEU.

Echo (2011) Former England and Middlesbrough defender Gareth Southgate calls for youth football revolution Read more at: http://www.Sunderlandecho.Com/sport/former-england-and-middlesbrough-defender-gareth-southgate-calls-for-youth-football-revolution. Available at: (Accessed: 03 January 2017).

Kuper, S. (2012) Football Analytics: The moneyball of football. Available at: http://http// (Accessed: 27 October 2016).


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