“Pleased To Be Sacked”: Coach Pat Lam’s ‘Learnings’ and the Evolution of a Professional Rugby Union Organisation

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Gary Byrne University College Cork

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Tania Cassidy University of Otago

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In 2012 Pat Lam was dismissed (‘sacked’) as head coach of the Auckland Blues, a professional rugby union team in New Zealand. Within months of his sacking Lam had become the head coach of Connacht Rugby; an improving, but midlower table, professional provincial team in the west of Ireland. The purpose of this ‘best practice’ article is twofold. First, to illustrate how Lam used his dismissal (‘sacking’) from the Auckland Blues as a pivotal opportunity to learn, and develop, as a coach. Specifically his imperative that there needed to be clarity and communication of his coaching philosophy, and his quest for alignment between coach and organisation and his ‘belief triad’ (culture, leadership, the game). Second, in an effort to be more than a catalogue of ‘best practice’ strategies, we use the theoretical concept of ‘interruption’ to explain how disruption, disintegration and arresting problematic coaching situations, such as being dismissed as a head coach, can be instrumental in the development of, and learning by, the coach. In outlining Lam’s ‘best practice’ we draw on primary and secondary data sources, which document his stories of redemption and supports Gould’s (2016) case for greater integration of quality coaching stories into sport coaching scholarship.

Gary Byrne is completing a PhD at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland where he previously held the position of director of Rugby. He is a coach development tutor with the Irish Rugby Football Union and holds a World Rugby Strength & Conditioning Level 2. He holds an MA and Post Graduate Diplomas in Sports Coaching and Education.

Tania Cassidy is an associate professor at the University of Otago, NZ and visiting professor at the University College Cork, Ireland. She is the first author of a co-authored text entitled Understanding Sports Coaching: The social, cultural and pedagogical foundations of sports practice (2004, 2009, 2106; Routledge). She is on numerous international editorial boards as well as governing boards of local sporting organisations.

Address author correspondence to Tania Cassidy at tania.cassidy@otago.ac.nz.
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