All Black Kieran Read, who is studying for a sports coaching degree at the University of Canterbury, writes about leadership and passion in modern, professional sport

There are aspects of playing rugby that are not dissimilar to coaching. I believe in leading people by making sure that I have a connection with everyone I am involved with and giving them the trust and belief to do their job well.

When leading, you have to be yourself and have clear values that mirror and portray the way you lead, otherwise you will miss the right path on which to take your team.

In finishing my degree at the University of Canterbury, I believe that being able to live day to day in a professional environment dovetails well with the theory and practical learning that I receive in my course at the university's school of sport and physical education.

I'm really lucky that the university and my lecturer, Glenn Fyall, have given me flexibility to fit my studies around rugby, which hasn't always been the focus of my life.


Before I was head boy at Rosehill College in Auckland, I played age group cricket for Northern Districts and was selected in the New Zealand under-17 tournament side. I had some great coaches in rugby and cricket before Aussie McLean and Robbie Deans asked me if I wanted to move to Canterbury.

Outstanding coaches are also outstanding leaders, responsible for developing, nurturing and challenging people to consistently produce outstanding performance and, with it, the right results. Success can happen overnight, but never consistently without a lot of real hard work, preparation, passion and commitment.

Coaches must demonstrate leadership and enthusiasm as they bring out the best in every player in a squad. But they are also mentors, teachers, facilitators, decision-makers, arbitrators, negotiators and mediators. The public and fans judge a sports team by its wins, and that success usually stems from the coach, just as business leadership in a company starts at the top.

On the field, the captain and team leaders have their job to do, with their experience, knowledge and 20-20 vision about how a game is progressing. The coach sets the mood and atmosphere so the players are in tune with the direction the team agrees on taking.

Coaches do not simply tell players what to do, but they challenge each individual so they know what needs to be done, how to do it and ensure that they have a predilection to dig deep to get the right result.

As players, we have to perform and deliver everything we learned and trained for to get the results we want. I thrive on the role of playing my part to support, challenge and guide my teammates so we get over the line each time. It's a huge commitment each year and I'm indebted to my wife Bridget and family for letting me enjoy giving my best if I am selected for these teams.

We also put life in perspective and realise we are very lucky to be fit and healthy and pulling on a Crusaders or All Black jersey. This is our career, for the time being, but we definitely think of our fans and our people and how much it means to them for us to win.

While I have been lucky enough to win a few games over the years, I've also learned how to cope with and grow from defeat. The burning feeling you suffer from a loss takes a long time to get over, and the more you feel that pain, the more you can switch that energy into deeper determination to bounce back and reverse the result for the next game. It is easier to get a response from a loss, but knowing how to evolve while being successful is a true mark of a great leader.

Coaching education and professional development - the ecological aspect of coaching - is so important to ensure success and effectiveness in the wider coaching world.

At the heart of a top sports team is a coach who carefully cuts his own trail, keeps it simple, plots, plans and devises exciting new coaching methods that keeps the players one step ahead of the opposition.

As a player or coach, it's inspiring and motivating to have like-minded people around you who want to get the results and outcomes that are set.

I'm feeling in good shape for a new season that has so much on offer. I am looking forward to continuing my development as a leader with the Crusaders as we kick into a big year.