It was a dream-come-true when I was elected captain of the Harvard Rugby Team. While our successful fall season allowed us to qualify for Nationals, we were fifteenth out of sixteen teams, and nobody expected us to win a game. All I wanted that year was to win the National Championship title. Period.
My goal was very simple but also very difficult.
Personal S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
Even I had doubts, which is why I sat down with the other officers of the team and we had a brainstorming session to discuss our team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It was completely eye opening to actually write everything out and look at ourselves objectively. Once we had compiled the list, we created a plan to reduce our weaknesses and minimize our threats.
For example, our team’s players were physically smaller than the players we would be facing at nationals, so we developed a workout routine that included intense weight training to increase our size.
We also sought to maximize our strengths and opportunities. Since we had a lot of very fast players on our team, we created a game strategy that spread us out very widely across the field. This created more space for our fast runners to make gains.
Develop Measurable Behaviors
Now understanding what we needed to develop as a team, it was time to create some very measurable behaviors to improve over the winter off-season. This was very simple, we ran practices four times per week and in each practice, we included some element of: endurance training to improve our stamina, weight training to increase our size, skills practice to improve our ball-handling skills, and tackling drills to improve our tackling.
We mapped out what the entire winter off-season would look like and developed a timeline for where we expected to be by certain points in the winter. The beauty of our strategy was that it was very simple. We only focused on activities that would help us achieve our goal—winning Nationals.
With a strong game plan in place, we needed to believe in ourselves as a team. A few players on the team were convinced that all of this practicing was a waste of time. Their defeatist attitude affected the rest of the team. To nip this negativity in the bud, I knew I had to talk to the team at the next practice.
“Boys, I know that a lot of people doubt us. Many of us here doubt our chances at the national tournament, but we have an opportunity to do something that few Harvard Rugby players have ever done. Win a national title. Tonight, go home and picture yourself on the field beating the best teams in the country. If you can’t picture us winning a National Title, then hang up your boots and stay home. We need to believe and trust that we can win this. There is no room for doubt…” After that practice, doubt became unacceptable.
Stick to Your Game plan
Arriving at the Stanford Rugby Stadium, we were intimidated by the professionalism, size and confidence of the other teams. Ignoring my own fears, I reminded each player individually that we could beat these teams. Our first game was against number two in the nation, Utah, and we were so nervous at the start of the game that we were fumbling and missing passes. But within 2 minutes, we regained our confidence and began to execute exactly as we had practiced.
We played that game beautifully. I remember crying after the final whistle blew, knowing that we had won.
Ultimately, we won the next two games against Penn State and West Point but lost the championship game to Air Force Academy by a very slim margin. It was disappointing, but we had still done the unimaginable.
The rugby media called us the “Cinderella Story” of collegiate rugby. We were fifteen warriors with no business playing rugby at that level, but by developing a strong game plan and believing in ourselves, we were able to play a level of rugby that far exceeded our individual abilities. That experience broadened my understanding of what a great team can accomplish.
Check out this short video of Harvard Rugby at Nationals:
Applying this to your Life
How can you apply this process to your own life? Think for a second about a particular goal that you want to achieve and then follow these steps:
Identify your S.W.O.T.—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
What are the areas where you must develop yourself in order to achieve your goal?
Develop measurable behaviors
What activities do you need to carry out on a regular basis in order to achieve your goal?
Are you willing to look past your doubts and know that you can achieve what you want?
Stick to Your Game plan
Will you remain focused on your game plan and ignore distractions?
If you follow this strategy, your results will be staggering.
What is one goal that you want to achieve? Share below!
Written by Marc Wayshak, Motivational College Speaker