This is #CoachingtheTouchBlacks
Congrats on being named Touch Black Open Men’s Head Coach through to the next World Cup. Can you share with us what being the Head Coach of the Open Men’s team means to you?
Firstly, thank you Pat. It’s not often we get an opportunity to do interviews like this so I appreciate your time and effort.
To be named the head coach of the NZ Men’s Touch Blacks is an absolute honour. I don’t mean for it to sound cliché but it means a lot for me to be working with some of the best athletes in our sport.
It not only allows me to spend time with great characters but has allowed me to be in an environment where I am always challenging myself at the highest level, am constantly learning and trying to better myself as a coach and a person.
I feel privileged to be in a position to chase my passion and create a culture that wants to help those involved succeed in all aspects of life. There are many exciting things coming up and I am looking forward to leading this team to achieve goals that have not been achieved yet.
What would be your personal highlight of your coaching career to date?
The 2019 World Cup journey would be my most memorable highlight to date.
The build-up was pretty cool and required a lot of planning and organisation. As a management group, working alongside Paora Peawini and Toni Wall, we challenged ourselves to bring a professional approach to an amateur sport with our on and off field preparation.
We tested ourselves to think outside the box, to try be innovative with our training/playing structures and to create an atmosphere that hopefully allowed each squad member to have a lifetime experience.
Each member of the team was superb. We were well led by our captain Mita Graham, who I hold in the highest regard. What he has done to support me in the last few years to bring about a change in our approach has been unbelievable. What we have envisioned and tried to create is a culture that strives for excellence on and off the field. He definitely leads by example and is well supported by our leadership group.
The week in Malaysia was amazing. Despite some testing conditions, nothing was an issue and we had a great bunch of people wanting to achieve a common goal. Unfortunately, we came up just short, however it was a special time and the experiences and memories will always stay with me and adds more fuel to the fire.
I'm sure there have equally been some teachable moments - can you share with us something you have learnt from the job?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is to always keep evolving. I pride myself on being organised, having a clear plan and forward thinking, however in a user pays sport you have curve balls thrown at you all the time.
Therefore, it is important to have a holistic approach to coaching. To get to know your players and their respective journeys, to be empathetic and adaptable to overcome hurdles that a user pays sport faces. The players are the most important cog in this sport - so we want to make sure that no one is left behind and that we have a lot of fun along the way.
The other major lesson that I have learned is that success is not necessarily based on what you know rather the ability to learn and grow. I have come to understand that everyone teaches you something and if you are willing to listen.
What is something about the job you never get used too?
I think the hardest part of coaching is having to “cut” squad numbers for tournaments and games. That is something that I will never get used to.
I have however, been blessed with amazing players who have put the team first and realise they can play a different role in helping the team.
What's the dream?
For now the goal is to prepare for the 2020 Trans-Tasman in Newcastle. We have an exciting squad to work with and looking forward to playing Australia on home soil.
The ultimate dream is to win the 2023 World Cup – a few years down the track with a lot of hard work in between. It's a work in progress. More to come…
When it's all done and dusted, what will be your legacy?
That’s a tough question,
To be honest, I haven’t thought about legacy. I suppose when you start thinking about legacy, you will stop living in the moment. I’d rather just work hard because it would be a disservice to the people I coach if thought about it. If I do things right, legacy will take care of itself.
My personal coaching philosophy is based on three main foundations - creating a culture around competitive excellence, whanau values and continuous improvement.
Right now, I want to lead by example, empower our players to uphold our culture and make a significant impact on the skills and development of touch in NZ. In the process, making sure we are all accountable for our actions and take the necessary steps required to perform at the highest level.
I am excited to see the momentum the game is gathering in NZ and want to continue seeing the game grow.
I want the NZ Open Men’s to have more on-field success and we want to play a style that is innovative, intelligent and relentless. A style that challenges us mentally and importantly built around our natural kiwi flair.
As mentioned above, it is important to me to have an environment that allows individuals to succeed in all circles of life. The necessity for the group to understand our identity – who we are, what we stand for, and our collective and individual responsibilities as a Touch Black.
If I can develop character leaders through our sport (and get a gold medal haha) then I have done my job.