National Seven’s Rugby Coach, Gareth Baber believes that past experiences whether personal or professional can be enhanced to strengthen a person’s ability to be successful.
He shared these sentiments when speaking on the topic “The Business of Rugby” at the Japan ICT Theatre, Laucala Campus, as a guest speaker in a panel discussion event organised by The University of the South Pacific Faculty of Business and Economics.
“I have enjoyed my time here in Fiji, there have been a lot of inspirational learning particularly, using experiences that I have had prior to rugby coaching.
Mr Baber was a former Welsh national player before transitioning into coaching.
His initial coaching experience was with Cardiff Blues as a rugby skills coach. He went on to become the head coach of the Hong Kong men’s team in 2013. He has been with the Fiji Rugby Union since 2016. “Initially, as a regional team’s coach, dealing with fully professional players, you’re looking at stakeholders in terms of sponsorship, budget, the whole team and their families.
“It dawned on me that this was a massive step away from that element of self-driven development and that I was not only in the business of rugby, I had to generate money – money being a reflection of success on the field and in terms of the outcome.”
As a rugby coach, Baber highlighted that the responsibilities vary and that in addition to working on the field with players, there are other fundamentals that a coach needed to also consider.
“I had all these responsibilities where you need to apply elements of leadership, responsibilities, care – these are principles that I have carried with me here (Fiji) as well.”
He added that as part of the business of rugby with respect to managing players and the pressure from the public, it is about having the right mind set.
“For anybody who has worked with players, and has worked in Fiji, knows the expectations and pressure that comes on the players and staff,” Coach Baber said.
“My part in the business is to ensure that everybody is aware of the expectations. It certainly made me think harder, develop and to look within myself and see how I can make this work in this business.”
An element of the business of rugby that helped Coach Baber when dealing with the ridicule from the Fiji media, was his confidence.
“I never shy away from the processes,” he said.
“In any business, there are expectations, demands, and outcomes to be harnessed regularly. It is the same in the business of rugby, when you have a plan, you stick to the process.”
Coach Baber added that one of his challenges when working with Fijian players is “trying to harness the unique abilities of Fijian players and their talents for the sport.
“For rugby, the general system of the sport is all the same, here in Fiji it is played differently and I still haven’t worked out how they do it.
“We want it to be mystical and almost not trainable, and people around the world can’t really work out how it is played. My role as a coach is to try and harness that and be able to help a player process that and to have a high performance personality to be able to deliver.”
The National Rugby Sevens Coach was also part of a panel discussion followed with panelists including USP’s Executive Director and former Permanent for Youth and Sports, Jone Maritino Nemani, Oceania Rugby Women’s Director and World Rugby Council Member, Cathy Wong and Athlete representative on the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) Executive Board and Board Member, World Olympians Association, Carl Probert on the topic “Sports for Development and Peace”