Success in sport is measured in results, but progress is not so black and white.
Yorkshire Carnegie are two places higher up the Championship since Tommy McGee succeeded Gary Mercer in mid-November but they are no closer to reclaiming their position in the top four or striking fear into the division as they have in the past.
A record of one win and two defeats in the three Championship fixtures McGee has taken charge of suggests little has changed.
However, progress can be seen in the honest appraisal of their situation, the determination to improve and the embracing of new ideas.
Those new ideas are the return to the attacking intent that was curtailed under the defensive-minded Mercer, with a little tweaking by McGee.
The determination has been so strong it has bordered on over-enthusiasm, according to McGee, who fears his players are too impetuous in their desire to rectify the mistakes of the first half of the season and make up for lost time.
That manifested itself last Saturday in the defeat to London Scottish, which prompted that honest assessment of their current predicament.
“We were very honest in a constructive manner, but also in a manner that had to be cruel,” said McGee of the review conducted into a game in which they squandered a lead against one of the top four teams in the Championship.
“Because if it’s not honest then we’re hiding behind it, and we don’t progress like that.
“We’ve been very honest this week, very clear about what we’re looking for and how that impacts on the team.”
Indiscipline cost Carnegie dearly last week, angering McGee more than any other performance in his two years at the club as a scrum coach, forwards coach and now stand-in head coach.
Rectifying those basic errors out of his team has been the message this week ahead of back-to-back away games against unbeaten league leaders Bristol, in the Championship tomorrow and British and Irish Cup next Friday.
“How do we knock that indiscipline out? By listening, as basic as that sounds; to the referee, to the leaders or the signal callers, or the coaches; we listen, we adapt and we do it,” said McGee.
“I’ve not finger-pointed, suggesting people are not good enough, that’s not the case. Because the guys are desperate to impress. They’re over-enthusiastic as opposed to cynical or lazy or not good enough, and they are more than capable.
“We’ve got a great squad with good people here, but they need to listen when the game develops and the heat intensifies, we need to adapt and do the right things at the right times.
“They probably are trying too hard. It’s about curbing those emotions and enthusiasms.
“When you’re under the cosh under big periods of intense pressure there may be an offside or a missed tackle etc, but it’s the avoidable penalties, the ones that are non-negotiable, we’re looking to cut out.
“I really put the squeeze on them this week with intense sessions, just trying to create stressful situations to help them adapt.”
Together with an improvement in game-management and discipline, McGee and his team are also trying to rediscover the attacking instincts that served them so well in past seasons.
Once they marry the two, the black and white progress of results will emerge.
And then, and only then, can Yorkshire Carnegie consider making a push for the top four – a position that has been almost automatic in recent seasons.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said McGee, when asked about the progress made since he took over. “The half-backs are still finding their feet with the speed we’re trying to play at. The shape is something we are continuing to evolve to help us create more chances.
“We are creating more, you saw that in the first 20 minutes against Worcester. Unfortunately the Scottish defeat held us back a little through our own discipline.
“Where are we to where we were two months ago? I think we’re in a better place.
“Are we anywhere near where we want to be? No. Is that going to happen overnight? No.
“But I’ll keep challenging the guys because we want that progression sooner rather than later.
“There’s no point thinking about top four right now. We need to think about Bristol, we need to think about putting Scottish right and putting a good week’s preparation into action.
“Then maybe incrementally we’ll start climbing the table.
“It’s all right having an end game, but if the small steps aren’t correct then the end game isn’t going to happen for you.”
To add to the uncertainty about the ‘end game’, McGee is still working on a week-to-week basis with no discussions with, or suggestions from the club’s new board – who have committed more than £2m of investment into the club over the next three years – about the permanancy of his position as head coach.
“Nothing at the moment,” he said. “I just crack on, one day at a time, one week at a time, but I’m hoping for some good news soon.”