Watch the ball into your hands
January 23, 2017

Watch the ball into your hands

He was very small, balding, stocky, red faced and angry 90% of the time for no apparent reason.

But he had something that I had no choice but to respect from the very first day he called me. He had played 15 tests for the All Blacks in the 70’s, an era where there were few tests matches per calendar year and to accumulate 15 caps took him 5 years. His reputation was wild as Chris Laidlaw summed him up “Don’t mess with me or I’ll punch your lights out.”

Grant Bernard Batty (born August 1951) was head coach of the Gold Coast Breakers when I joined in 2003. A club he took great pride in and had one goal for… annihilate all of the opposition and win the competition that season. His standards were incredibly high across the board but his approach was the simplest I have seen.

It was not common for teams to analyse matches as Batty did in that era. On a Tuesday night after a Saturday game he would publicly read out to the team the stats of some of the players. Tackles made along with grade of tackle, ball yards gained, passes made and the accuracy of them, balls caught, balls dropped, the list goes on and every single point on it mattered.

His attention to detail on being able to catch and pass the ball was insane, he cared about nothing else if you were unable to do this. Hence (unless we had lost which resulted in a nightmare punishment by fitness) every single session would start with the most basic catch and pass drills you could imagine and every single time one of the other unlucky players or I dropped the ball the words “Watch the ball into your hands” would bellow out on the training ground of Breakers Stadium. These catch and pass drills on some occasions could last the entire session with an increasing volume and more aggressive tone from Batts every time the ball was dropped.

In reflection over 13 years later I believe there is a lot we can take from this. Yes from the words and yes from the increasing volume and aggression as the same mistakes were made over and over. My summary comes in 3 points:
1. Do the basics insanely well: In rugby catch and pass is the basis of the game, one that so many teams overlook these days. What are the basics of your life? Are you doing them well? Do you practice them often or are you taking them fro granted? With mastering the basics in anything we do in life how can we expect to win.
2. Have high standards: Being 70% efficient at the basics is never good enough, Batts wanted 100%, he wanted the very high standards. How often do you demand the very highest standards in your actions? Please do not settle for second best. Become a perfectionist on the basics and you set youself up for so much more success.
3. Be ready for abuse: Batts was not shy to add absolute venom to his phrase “watch the ball into your hands”. He would make us feel small, inadequate, like we didn’t deserve to be there. And this approach was right. How if we were unable to do something so simple could we expect to win the competition. So if someone calls you out for not keeping high standards then accept it, don’t fight back claiming that your 70% is ok, it’s not. Batts wanted the very best for us, he wanted to be the best. I genuinely want the very best for every single person and that’s why as a coach at times I am going to be super hard on you. Keep high standards or be ready for the consequences.

Don’t think this is just something that is applicable to the sports field, the carry over to life and every single part of it is huge. So go out, become freakishly good at the basics, have incredibly high standards, be ready to be abused if you are falling short……and always watch the ball into your hands no matter your playing field.