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Dublin: 4°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

'When I found rugby, I found my self-esteem, my sense of worth'

Former Connacht head coach Pat Lam is this week’s guest on the How To Win At Dominoes podcast.

Pat Lam (file pic).
Pat Lam (file pic).
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FORMER CONNACHT BOSS Pat Lam speaks to Shane Keegan in this week’s episode of How To Win At Dominoes.

The topics of conversation include his time as a school teacher and the influence it had on his coaching, being a “pain in the back-side” as a player, learning from being sacked and the ideas that drove his successful stint at Connacht.

Lam, who is currently Director of Rugby at Bristol Bears in the Premiership, also speaks about leadership and says he was not a natural leader as a youngster.

“A lot of people particularly in primary school would be really surprised to see what I do now,” he explains.

“When you’re growing up and you’re a minority from the Pacific Islands growing up in New Zealand, obviously there’s a lot more there now, but at the time, you’re certainly seen as the minority and probably working class. You’re expected to work in factories and so forth, but when I found rugby, I found my self-esteem, my sense of worth. I realised I was pretty good at it mainly because I was a little bit bigger than the other kids. My classmates and everyone wanted me to be on their team and that made me feel good. 

“Obviously, I ended up playing on a lot of teams at an early age, so when I was 10, I was playing with the 13-year-olds

“In high school, when I was 12 or 13, I was playing with 17 or 18-year-olds. So by the time, I was at that age by the end of school, I’d been in the team five years. Naturally, they gave me the captaincy, because I’d been there the longest.

“I ended up being deputy head boy at school and prefect and all of those things, so in school, at that early age, the answer probably would have been ‘no’.

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“But I grew into it over my life experience coming into my teenage years, being given opportunities to lead. And it sort of made me realise, even when I’m working with players, it doesn’t matter what other people think. If you give a person an opportunity and a bit of direction, anyone can lead.”

He adds: “There are all different types of leadership and people respond differently. The best leaders are able to cater for everybody’s needs. You can get ones who talk very well, but the ones who are most effective are the ones who lead well by actions, by great habits, who people look at and go: ‘Man he’s class.’ That’s probably more powerful than words.

“Being a good speaker is important, but what you say and what you do has to line up. We all saw ‘The Last Dance’ and know that Michael Jordan was driven, but as he said, he would never ask his team-mates to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Those are the sort of things you respect.

“We all have the ability to influence and that’s exactly what leadership is.”

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