‘Play to Inspire’ – Johan Ackermann building more than a Team

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'Play to Inspire' - Johan Ackermann is building more than a team
BARNET, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Johan Ackermann, Head coach of Gloucester arrives at the stadium prior to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final match between Saracens and Gloucester at Allianz Park on May 25, 2019 in Barnet, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Following on from his contract extension the talk of how well Gloucester have done under Johan Ackermann has revived itself.

‘Play to Inspire’ is written on the walls and the kit that surrounds the Gloucester team and it’s not just a cheesy one-liner.

‘Play to Inspire’ – The Ackermann culture

Speak to any player in the Gloucester squad and they all mention one thing. Culture. What Johan has brought, they say, is that togetherness and team bond they haven’t had for a while, or at least not to this level.

Having a motto or a mantra can often come across as unnecessary or pointless, with a lot of people taking the approach of say as I say, not as I do.

Ackermann brings a positive religious influence with him but doesn’t push any of it on to players but instead ensures they are an inspiration for all who watch.

The players have fed off it and it’s propelled them from seventh in Ackermann’s debut season to third and a semi-final in his second.

Ackermann a Kingholm fan favourite

The return of Champions Cup rugby has also bloomed Kingsholm in to life as the fans who forever follow their side with an unwavering passion raise the volume levels to Motörhead proportions.

The ‘Play to Inspire’ motto has been fully bought in by all members of the club and as such will see a tight knit squad head into next season with plenty of confidence.

It’s poetic justice that the man leading a side which plays such attractive rugby and has such a powerful message is such a loveable character, not just by those at Gloucester, but for those in English rugby.

His jovial grin and positive outlook on life beams through even after a tough loss or poor performance.

Always looking at the positives, the totemic frontman of Gloucester Rugby has transformed the side into this fun-loving side but one that can do damage if it goes right.

He’s repeatedly said that he is more focused on the performance than the result. A dangerous cliff to sit on if you start to lose despite playing well, but it’s clearly working as the side recorded just eight losses in the regular season.

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Players have bought into the ambitious new culture

Ben Morgan has been a key figurehead this season and that’s largely down to his buy-in to the mantra set by Ackermann. “A big driver that Johan has come in here with is ‘Play to Inspire’ regardless of the result. That’s our ambition, to go out and inspire people.”

From the outside you may just believe he’s a top-class coach but he is more than that for so many people. The time he takes to meet and greet everyone and having a positive influence on life translates into training.

The smiling faces and buzz at Hartpury when the players come back in after training and head in for press duty is contagious. As a head coach the most important thing you can do is get the players to buy into your plans.

They have done just that at Kingsholm.

Players enjoying what they do

Johan ensures his players focus on the matter in hand, don’t get too far ahead but most importantly enjoy what they do.

“I want them to enjoy the environment they’re in and become better men if they can. I want us to be a family that will greet each other and have a great reunion. How we can inspire each other will be a success.”

A simple message but delivered with a punch. The honesty of Ackermann and the selflessness to want to improve player’s lives beyond the rugby field shows what he is all about.

He’s a father figure everyone wants to be around.

He makes the pressure fall off the player’s shoulders as if it were nothing. But it is something. It’s the weight of needing top flight European rugby and the need for domestic success that hasn’t occurred consistently for years.

 

Play to inspire – the Johan Ackermann way

He’s a leader. A man who wants players to try something new but won’t punish them if it goes wrong. That simple deed has boosted morale and eased the team into the role they play not just in a rugby sense but for their community.

Saying you believe in something is easy. Actually believing and engraining it on your brain is another. The way the players slot in around each other at training and live with each other allows this to seamlessly occur.

Each individual knows their role and how they represent themselves and the ‘whole squad effort’ mantra and playing every player in a meaningful manner has boosted how they build this culture.

The message coming from HQ is that Gloucester are not just building a team, they’re constructing a culture….. and boy are they doing it right!

It’s an exciting time for Gloucester fans who will revel in the chance to build on this next season as they look to become a team that wins trophies, although befitting of the Ackermann mantra, maybe that’s not what this side will be known for.

If Gloucester continue to build their squad, can fix the silly performances that blight their season and distance them from the top two then they can truly be a team that goes places.

Under the leadership of Johan Ackermann this side can go places, on and off the field.

 

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