Coaching the U.S. Ryder Cup Win

by marilyn on October 2, 2008

Sports analogies are often used in describing coaching so I was particularly interested in reading about how Paul Azinger, captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, used traditional coaching techniques to bring his team of rugged individuals to victory recently. The keys to their success: a clear, well-defined plan and personal profiles on each player so the coach really knew who they were and how to pull on each team member’s unique strengths and get them to bond as a team.

His actions? He put four guys together in practice rounds and they played together every day. During the competition, they were the four guys that stayed together the whole week and were never going to come out of their small group. Azinger found the way to create the missing unity by how he organized the 12 individualists.

His inspiration? Four or five years ago, he said he watched what turned out to be a military documentary showing an old SAS tactic of forming “clusters” and thought it would be something he would do if he ever became Ryder Cup captain. He also devoured psychology books for two years, gave all the players (whether they liked it or not we’ll have to assume) personality or style assessments, split them into three groups and assigned an assistant captain to look after them as they ate, practiced, laughed together and bonded. Azinger then sat back and let the bonding ritual take its course. In the end, it was, however, up to the players. He said, “I had to trust my guys and they came through.”

This is coaching at its best– planning, assessing and speaking to the team members’ individual strengths, motivating through creating a positive environment, and, above all, trust in your people. Skill is absolutely necessary but not sufficient for top performance. This is where coaching (pardon the pun) comes into play.

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