One of the toughest jobs as the coach is managing selections. It is also one of the hardest parts for players as well. It is never nice to tell a player that they are not selected, and it is doubly hard when you are telling them they are not selected for an international tour. I had to do that, along with my assistant Luke Gross, at the camp in Colorado Springs where 30 players were selected out of 43. Those are difficult conversations to have, but they are part of the job.
My view on selections is based on generally not being selected for teams in my career. I was good enough to make squads in my career, but either not make the team or sit on the bench, so I am very sensitive to the non-selected player. I also believe that it is an important part of the head coaches job and one that is critical to the relationship between the player and the coach.
There are a couple of principles that I think about as a coach when managing the selections:
- Players need a lot of feedback on their play at all times. This allows them to always have performance goals and motivated them to work to improve. If they are constantly getting feedback then they know what they need to work on.
- Players need a chance to show that they should be selected. With the Eagles we talk about “Fair but not Equal” which means that we want to give every player a chance, but players do get treated differently.
- Non-selected players always need their time to deal with the decision. I always try to give players a chance to have some time away from the team before selections. They should be upset and disappointed in the decision, but after time they have to deal with it and the coach needs to give them that time. This means that they will know that they are not selected before the team knows.
- You never talk about how players relate to others in the squad. Non-selected players always want to know why the other player has been selected, but that is not important. What they need to know is what they need to do to be selected next time, which they can control.
- Explain the expectation that once they have their time, they need to focus on the performance of the team. They must put the team first.
It is the last point that many players struggle with. I have had non-selected players use the next training session to prove that they should be selected while the team is trying to prepare for the next match. This is counter-productive for the player because it demonstrates that they do not put the team first. One of the challenges of a tour, or the World Cup, is that many players are not selected and may not make any of the game day rosters. The team cannot afford a non-selected player to put themselves first and detract from the team’s performance.
So selections are part of the game and part of the role. They provide challenges for both the coach and the player and how they both handle that challenge will help determine the team’s performance.