For any senior leadership role that we work on, whether it is on the performance or business side of the organisation, the briefing process is vital in identifying what criteria are important for the ideal candidate to have.

In terms of Head Coach recruitment this is an invaluable part of the process that we always assist our clients in considering carefully. In our experience, this is the role where decision makers are most at risk of being hijacked by their emotions when hiring. There are many key competencies that come up regularly and are undoubtedly fundamental– whether it be a tactical understanding of the sport, communication ability or the capacity for self-reflection. However, there is one area which we think is becoming increasingly important in a leadership & sporting context, a lesser evaluated and perhaps more left-field aspect of a Head Coach recruitment process – HUMOUR.

We believe humour and laughter, as with play and fun, is one avenue necessary for building a connection within a team, breaking through boundaries, and creating a platform for the more difficult conversations that will undoubtedly need to take place in the future.

In our experience, this is now more the case than ever before to help Head Coaches forge influential links with millennial aged athletes. Teams are more likely to trust someone that is prepared to “keep things real” as opposed to the hard-nosed dictator, who is big on culture but who creates a clinical high-performance environment devoid of the fun and inspiration which, so many athletes yearn for.

When these athletes first pulled on their boots as a 6-year old, the millions of pounds and thousands of fans were not even a blip on their radar.  Their sole motivation was more likely to have been keeping fit, having fun with mates and working as a team towards a common goal. The coach who taps into that, succeeds, and it’s an evolution (perhaps even a revolution) from the coaches of the past. ‘If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway’ as Paul Tagliabue the former Commissioner of the NFL once said.

Some people may not agree with us here, but from what we’ve seen those who effectively use humour as part of their delivery, and/or are prepared to allow it to be used within the program, will forge a competitive advantage. This can also be used across a number of areas within the club.  Shane McCurry who has worked as a consultant and coach to many elite teams highlighted a recent example of one coach who uses a short “bloopers” type segment as part of his weekly Match Review using some of the clangers, ugly supporters, funny faces caught on the broadcast. The reason why, to engage players much more in the review content and end the review on a positive note. The group that laughs together, sticks together. This can help relieve pressure on the players, a crucial role of the Head Coach in the build up to any big game.

The challenge now is how do you screen for this in a selection process. We believe it is possible to test and if it forms part of the evaluation criteria, then selectors are aware of it and can look for cues that give them some indication of whether the candidate possesses such attributes.