Warren Gatland

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"It's about not being afraid to be challenged and, above all, trying to enjoy the experience," says the Welsh rugby head coach.

Raise Your Game: What has Welsh rugby given you, and what have you given Welsh Rugby?

Warren Gatland: Welsh rugby has given me an incredible amount of enjoyment, particularly in the last 12 months. In terms of what I've given Welsh rugby, it's having some experience in terms of my time coaching Ireland, Wasps and Waikato. Culturally I can bring a lot of different views, experience of having had success and understanding what success is all about, as well as being part of a winning team.

There's no better feeling than sitting on the team bus travelling to the Millennium Stadium knowing that the team will be playing in front of 74,500 people. You're driven through the crowds where you see the smiles on people's faces and I get a huge buzz out of that.

RYG: What makes you a good coach?

Profile

Name:
Warren David Gatland

Born:
17 September 1963

From:
Hamilton, New Zealand

Game:
Rugby

Position:
Head Coach

Teams:
Wales

Achievements:

  • Six Nations Championship winner with Wales (2008)
  • Air New Zealand Cup winner with Waikato (2006)
  • Zurich Premiership winner with Wasps (2003, 2004 & 2005)
  • Heineken Cup winner with Wasps (2004)

WG: I get on well with people and I have really good relationships with the other coaches around me. I don't know everything about the games and I'm still learning all the time, so it's important to have an open mind.

Having a social appetite for knowledge and wanting to develop and improve as a coach is important, but I believe in empowering people, particularly the other coaches that work with the team, giving them ownership and responsibility.

The same applies to the players. I want them to challenge me, to question me and ask why we're doing a certain thing, so they feel that they're taking ownership.

My aim is to create a happy environment where the players are working hard, but enjoying themselves. You've got to enjoy yourself, and you've got to have a bit of fun as well.

RYG: What's more important attitude or talent?

WG: Attitude is really important to me and I talk about that with the players. Often players don't realise that if they've missed out on selection, the most important thing is how they respond to that. Of course we understand that they're going to be really disappointed, but if they're positive they're really supportive of the rest of the team.

How they respond to their disappointment makes a difference because during future team selections you're going to remember how that player responded to that disappointment. The attitude in terms of how they work both on and off the field has a massive impact on us as coaches but also the performance and how the team does as well.

RYG: Do players respond better to the carrot or the stick?

WG: I think it's got to be a bit of both. There are times when they've got to feel that if they work hard and they give everything, they get the carrot, but they also need to know that there's a stick. There are certain standards and certain things that we need to address or live by in terms of rules that we follow. If we don't do that, or our performance, discipline or attitude isn't good enough, there is a bit of the stick and there will be a punishment.

In some ways the players are no different to kids as you've got to set boundaries and you've got to work within those boundaries. If you work hard and you do everything that's asked of you, there's great reward afterwards. That doesn't mean winning every time, but it does mean you put on your best performance and have the best attitude.

RYG: What's the difference between a good rugby player and a great rugby player?

WG: We've all seen talented young players who get to a certain level but there comes a point where that talent will only take you so far. The great players go away and work on extra things. They work harder on their skills, they start having early nights and they think about their diet and training. That is what takes them to the next level.

We talk a lot about doubling up or tripling up on our efforts. Whereas a good player might do something really good in a game, a great player might do something two or three times in a row. That's what great players do, but they also work incredibly hard off the field in terms of the extra effort they've put into making sure their own performance gets better.

RYG: What can we learn from rugby?

WG: Rugby has always been a game for all shapes and sizes. You have the superstars and the fast guys who score the tries, but you also need the workhorses and the people who play all the other roles. They're not always the stars, but they keep doing their job. Unless they all work together as a team then it's really going to affect the performance. Everyone's got to rely on everyone else.

RYG: What advice do you have for somebody looking to follow in your footsteps?

WG: If you play the game and you think about coaching, you should know it's about listening to people and learning. For me it was all about being involved, and taking the best qualities from the coaches I had as a player and moulding them into my own personality.

It's about not being afraid to be challenged and, above all, trying to enjoy the experience. A lot of it is about results and if you don't get the right results, you're going to get criticism, but if all things are going well then you can enjoy yourself.


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