Ardent rugby fans with great expectations for the Rugby World Cup may be surprised that All Black coach Graham Henry does not consider his current role as vital as his former profession.
“Being a school teacher is way more important than being an All Black coach,” says the Massey University graduate and former school principal.
Henry completed a Bachelor of Education in 1979 and credits his university and teaching days with giving him the skills to become the nation's premier rugby coach.
“I was involved in education for 25 years. I loved it and got a lot of personal satisfaction out of it,” he says.
Henry is a keen advocate of athletes pursuing an academic career while playing professional sport, and says universities like Massey are making it easy for them.
“The universities are going out of their way to ensure international sports people get opportunities to do that and they will bend the system to enable them to,” he says. “They may sit exams overseas, they may have a longer course rather than a short course, or it may be that they do two papers instead of six a year.”
Finding the right balance, on and off the field, is a skill Henry believes the All Blacks should hone to become better players. Lock Sam Whitelock is a current example, studying agricultural science.
“I think that’s marvellous,” Henry says. “It’s a great balance – the pressures of rugby are alleviated by the pressures of his academic career, and vice versa. Those who pursue those things actually finish up better players.”
And if, or when, the All Blacks hoist aloft the William Webb Ellis trophy in triumph come October, Henry promises to pay kudos to the role Massey University played in his personal success.
Massey University today launches its Rugby World Cup 2011 webpage. Add this to your favourites for access to media experts on a range of rugby-related topics from sports psychology, to nutrition, training techniques, the economics of sporting events, sports betting, and the statistics of winning.