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Lam lays out vision to inspire the community

Pat Lam cited an old Maori proverb as he laid out the blueprint for his reign as head coach to the gathered media at Ashton Gate last week.

The phrase, ‘whakaki ki te maunga, tai ki the whenua, hook ki te rangi, tai ki te pukerunga’ – meaning, 'aim for the mountain tops and you will hit the flat lands. however, aim for the stars and you will hit the mountain peaks' - was used as Lam set his stall out in typically personable style while meeting the local press, outlining lofty ambitions to deliver Champions Cup rugby to Ashton Gate, while placing ‘inspiring the community’ at the top of his agenda.

“I’m a vision man, I’ve got to have real clarity about where we’re going and what we’re doing,” he said.

“When I got invited to have a chat with the board, my main focus was the vision and as I listened to them speak, I could sense it was all around success on the field, and it was all around inspiring the community.

“Then when I had the pleasure of having some time with Steve Lansdown and his lovely wife, Maggie, there was no doubt about his passion for Bristol.

“But certainly, I wanted to get the vision really clear so the first week we got here, once I knew what the vision was, we took the whole management and staff away for a couple of days of team building, but also to get absolute clarity on the vision because when asked everyone to write it down, there was probably seven different answers and perceptions.

“It’s like having seven different doors, you’ve got people going out of different doors. So when I revealed the vision of our board - which very clearly is to ‘inspire the community through rugby success’ - I asked them to look at what they had written and I asked them: ‘does that answer what you have? And overwhelmingly the answer was yes.

“What that meant was we had absolute clarity on which door we’re going out of and where we’re going.

“I suppose the big reason we needed to establish that is because the vision drives the leadership, the leadership drives the culture, the culture drives the performance and that’s what leaves the legacy – and we’ve all got understand which way we are heading.”

With community at the heart of Lam’s vision, the head coach was quick to stress the magnitude of the Bristol community and the potential reach of any on-field success.

“I’m a vision man, I’ve got to have real clarity about where we’re going and what we’re doing.”

Head Coach, Pat Lam

“If we get our stuff right and get rugby success, we’ll inspire our community which is right around this area, but also right around the world.

“Where are the Bristolians? They’re all around the world, so if we nail and get our jobs right and we get serious rugby success, we have the ability to inspire people all around the world. I’ve asked the staff and players: ‘raise your hand if you believe you’re part of the Bristol community’ - and they all put their hands up, and that probably reflects what Bristol is.”

Lam’s belief is that players and staff must understand and appreciate the people they are representing when they cross the whitewash and has urged his squad to immerse themselves within the community. School visits have already been pencilled into the diary and the head coach believes an understanding and connection with the city and the supporters will prove pivotal when the season gets under way. 

“We all come from different places – in the amateur day, you only played for your school, your club, your province and your country – woe betide if you moved out of that. But the moment it became professional, it became a job and you moved out of that, but I don’t see professionalism as being paid, it’s the way you do things - and there’s no reason why the amateur ethos of understanding who you represent, understanding who your teammates are, can’t remain.

“When I lived in New Zealand and I was at the (Auckland) Blues, we had players come from Christchurch and all those Christchurch players grew up hating Auckland – so I couldn’t fool them and say: ‘you’ve got to be an Aucklander now’, but what I could do is introduce them to who Aucklanders are and who they represent.

“It’s the same thing here, whether they come from Bath, Newcastle, Samoa, New Zealand, or South Africa. Wherever they come from, when they’re playing for Bristol, I’m dead-set on making sure they understand who they represent and the only way they can do that is by getting out, meeting the people and meet the community and from that, when you’re down by five points or ahead by five points, that’s when it counts.”

By Will Carpenter.