Fill Your Boots – You were a player and now your the coach of the Bristol Bears, do you get the same buzz that you may have done when you played?
Pat Lam – No, no without a doubt, I love the game. when you talk to most players when they retire, what do you miss about the game it’s the comoradary, it’s the working together to a common goal, it’s the building relationships and the toil and sweat. So fortunately I went straight from when I was still playing my last few years, Ian McGeechan brought me into coaching Scotland so I was playing and coaching. it’s exactly the same, I just don’t have to put my body on the line but I love it, I really enjoy.
I was a school teacher by trade so I’m really still a school teacher but I have a subject I’m a little bit more passionate about instead of maths or English.
FYB – Is the transfer market tougher now, now that it’s more lucrative for players?
Pat Lam – No not at all,everyone thinks Steve Lansdowne is one of the wealthiest owners, people look at his fortune and say that’s all we’ve got, there’s a salary cap. What Steve has done is make sure that our pot which is the same as everyone else’s team, is guaranteed. We are not worried we have to get this, this and this to make it happen. That gives us stability and a huge amount of support, but what we have to do is not about having the most money, it’s about spending the money wisely right through the programme.
There’s so many players with good names that could have come here but recruitment and retention is huge for me, you have to get the right people and the right players and going through that and making sure they understand no one comes here to play Rugby, they come here for the vision, the purpose and what we are trying to do, if you want to come then great, if not,not a problem. They know right up front what we are about.
For us, it’s more important to inspire our community with Rugby success on and off the field.
FYB – Are you going to get to many grassroots clubs during the season to inspire them?
Pat Lam – Yeah of course, our whole organisation. we’ve got 900 kids on our junior academy and we have relationships with all the combination clubs. There are lots of people within Bristol Rugby working within grassroots Rugby, the women’s game and the school game. It’s all about making sure that they are coming though. Our responsibility is making sure we prepare the best that we can so what we put out on the field is something that will inspire people, also the way we conduct ourselves on and off the field so that kids say that they want to be a Bristol Bears player.
FYB – Who from the Bristol Bears squad are the “One’s to Watch” this season?
Pat Lam – I think There’s a few, there’s a lot coming through at the moment which is great. Last season we were 50% English, now we have 75% English qualified.
I wasn’t overly happy we were in the Championship last season, but it was a blessing in disguise on many fronts. One, that we were able to get our organisation all on the right path but the second thing, I managed to find some gems in the Championship. There’s some great players coming through, Jake Woolmore & Jake Armstrong who are two Props from Jersey, then you have Piers O’Conor, Luke Daniels, Tom Pincus, they are all young, they are hungry, they are willing to win and they are coachable and that’s what I love. Lewis Thiede also, he’s a prop from Ealing Trailfinders.
There is unbelievable talent coming through but the best part is that our foreign players are also able to mentor them, George Smith has been unbelievable with some of these guys. When I told those guys that I was bringing George Smith to Bristol Bears, i gave them the heads up. Some people would have been a bit down on it, but these guys were excited and couldn’t wait to tap into his ability and his knowledge of the game which is what he is giving.
FYB – Is it key for the young guys to learn from someone like a George Smith, John Afoa or Charles Piutau?
Pat Lam – It is because I want to be a Champions Cup team so I have to have good players and I want players to play for England. They get better from learning from these guys and it’ll increase their chances of playing for England.
FYB – Now that you are coaching, how do you motivate a player on a day to day basis?
Pat Lam – It’s a bit of both, I have to create the environment. I have to create the game where it allows each player to run, catch, pass, tackle because that’s why we play the game. It makes no sense to have a player say you don’t touch the ball you just run and hit rucks. That’s not what the enjoy,end of the game is.
We have to have a programme where they get challenged, because if your not challenged you get stale or you don’t enjoy things then we have to make sure that they enjoy the environment when they come in so they don’t see it as work, they see it as they get to hangout with their mates everyday and get challenged.
FYB – When your sitting in the stands, do you ever think, I could still do that?
Pat Lam – Ha ha, no! I always look at it and go I’m glad I’ve already had my time.
We would like to thank Pat & Bristol Bears for their time with us and wish them all the best of the upcoming Gallagher Premiership season.
Image courtesy of Premiership Rugby.