Warren Gatland uses story to build a winning mindset when under pressure.
I interviewed Warren some years ago and got a great insight into his thinking as a coach and how he creates high-performance teams quickly. One aspect of his approach is to use story to drive a positive mindset.
An example he gave me was when he was managing the Irish team. The squad was preparing for a game that they were expecting to get hammered in. There was a lot of pressure and fear in the squad. The fear of not being good enough, the fear of getting shown up or of losing by a large amount. Gatland gathered the team for a talk and he told them a story.
There was a group of Marines during the Vietnam war that were driving out of base in their Jeep when they got ambushed. They jumped from the Jeep and took cover in the terrain. But they were pinned down and it was only a matter of time before they would be killed. They knew they needed to turn the Jeep around and get out of there fast. It was agreed that 4 of them would go and lift the jeep to turn it around while one marine gave them fire cover. The four marines ran to the Jeep and took a corner each and lifted it and turned it around. They then provided cover for their comrade as they all piled in and made their escape. When they returned to the camp they told their story. But they were not believed. “Four guys can’t lift a jeep”, was repeatedly said. So they decided to show the platoon. The four guys went outside and took a corner each and tried to lift the jeep. They could not do it. No matter how hard they tried they could not do it. Gatland finished by saying that fear is a great performance enhancer if used properly. Your fear will make you great. At this point, Gatland could see the team processing the message. But a hand went up, it was Peter Clohessy (The Claw). He had a question. Why didn’t the Marines put the Jeep in reverse? Lots of laughter but the message had landed.