In August 2015, Guildford Grammar’s senior football team won the premiership – they had not won the competition since 1958. Leading Teams’ Darren Harris has been implementing a Performance Improvement Program (PIP) with Guildford Grammar school since 2012. The program has been rolled out across the sports department as well as the rest of the school.
Guildford’s Director of Football, Geoff Valentine played football with Darren Harris and he bought into the Leading Teams program immediately, committing time consistently to spend with players and improving himself.
“I’ve known Darren for a long time and know the values he holds dear and the personal qualities he possesses. Leading Teams’ record speaks for itself,” said Geoff.
That said, it was the school’s Headmaster, Stephen Webber, who signed Leading Teams to help facilitate the broader cultural change that he was driving at the school. Leading Teams is engaged with all facets of the school’s operation, not just the sports teams. Darren works with academic faculties, the Strategic Leadership Team and the School Prefect body.
The Senior Football team’s main issue was that they accepted mediocrity and they had low expectations as they hadn’t won a premiership for 57 years. Their performances were being compromised by a lack of belief and by not having a clear picture of what they stood for. It was difficult getting buy-in to the school team as the talent at Colts (U-18) level and external programs affected players wanting to play for the school team.
Out of seven teams in the competition, Guildford finished 5th in the 2013 season (they only beat 6th and 7th place and won four games all season), 3rd in the 2014 season (they beat every other in the competition other than the champions) and obviously 1st in the 2015 season.
“57 years suggests it’s been very hard to win. The first day these boys came together they described themselves as ‘soft’ and ‘easy beats’ so changing the way they saw themselves was an important first step. The transition at Guildford is now they believe they are United, Professional and Hard – these are their trademark behaviours,” said Darren.
Darren ran sessions with the full team every three or four weeks and took the leaders for separate sessions and spoke to them once or twice a week. Every week, the team reviewed themselves collectively and as individuals against the trademark behaviours they had developed with Darren.
The players selected co-captains which went against school tradition and was finally agreed to. Both were extremely successful and the leadership group were very tight. This selection process was done openly by every player.
Geoff empowered the team to make decisions about selection, training, tactics and discipline issues. The players owned the effort. This was important in winning close games and come-from-behind games.
Geoff and his leaders got the balance right between rewarding and not being afraid to challenge players who weren’t being team first in their approach. “Individuals taking responsibility for performance and driving the behavioural standards is one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed,” commented Geoff.
In terms of sustainability, leaders who have driven the program strongly will induct the new players coming through. Some of the year 10 boys in 2013 became the leaders in the 2015 premiership team. Their leadership really grew over the 3 years.
“There is pride in getting the jumper back on – they all want to be involved at school level since we introduced the program,” said Geoff. Some have just chosen the school team and opted out of playing elsewhere.
“Although there’s an immediate impact with Leading Teams, it’s over the length of the journey that the true change becomes ingrained. Darren has been with us for 3 years now and in that time, our culture has improved enormously. Our leaders lead now,” said Geoff. “Success is how I would describe our experience with Leading Teams.”