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'The Needle' on what makes a winning team and winning performance

by Richard Gladwell on 3 Jan 2014
Sir Fred Allen - the most successful All Black coach in history . ..

The late Sir Fred Allen, was the most successful All Black coach ever.

He retired/resigned/was replaced with an unbeaten record, having previously shepherd the Auckland Rugby side through what is known as it's Golden Era in the 1960's.

Sir Fred was also a keen sailor, being a long standing member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, but was also the savior of the Manly Sailing Club, where he lived in his retirement years

In this interview replayed after his death in 2012, Fred Allen explains some of his philosophies on coaching and developing a winning performance both from individuals and as a team. Often there is a lot to be learned from the approaches and methods used in another sport, and on several instances Team New Zealand has had discussion sessions with the current All Black coaches on their methods and approaches. And of course in the current situation World Champion rower and Olympic Gold medalist Rob Waddell brings a different perspective to the team from the Volvo, America's Cup and Match Racing sailors.

Fred Allen acquired his moniker 'The Needle' from his ability to run through a team at a team talk or training, and be able to address the very essence of an issue or expectation of a player, and of the team. He did this in a very simple direct way, and was a master at the timing of some of his comments - including the ability to stay completely silent - and leave his players to reflect on the obvious.

Obviously this interview relies a lot on Rugby background from another era - before the game went professional. But in the sailing context many of the values remain the same - about the pride in representing your country, what it should mean, and training to the point - where when the pressure goes on at the last quarter of a game or a race - you can continue to perform and think - and lift your game to win.

Also obviously, Fred Allen was from another era. And when people talk now days about Old School values, this is what they mean.

In the first part of this hour long interview he talks mainly about his background, and in the second half relates this to coaching and winning performance using rugby anecdotes.

Always a Gentleman, Fred Allen is very understated. But in his day he was the bane of administrators, who wanted to be able to control the way he coached, but could not argue with his record of success. In the end they won and Fred bought down the curtain on a brilliant era.



For an earlier story and interview with Fred Allen by Peter Montgomery click here
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