Sunday, 24 February 2013

Mrs Thatcher's rugby franchises

In 1987 the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher infamously stated "there's no such thing as society". Instead there are only individual men and women and there are families.  By this she meant the state was an inefficient deliverer of social support and identity. What did exist in her view was community and culture and  it was in these  that values, identities and meanings were passed on from generation to generation. In community and culture there also existed the mutual interplay of expectations and obligations. Her concern was that the continued recourse to "society" as the provider  and as "the answer"  no longer involved what is termed the social contract- which is precisely that interplay of expectations and obligations.

When discusions of the performance of a  team, club  or franchise occurs no-one ever speaks of a team society or club society. What they talk of is a team culture.  For in sport there is no society. Sport is individual men and women- and the family of the club or team. Yet a club or team does exist in an web of social contracts: the obligations and expectations that exist between team members, management, the owners, the fans- and  increasingly, the media. When coaches speak  of the need to change the team culture they are always speaking of the internal social contracts within the team and  the extended social contracts between the team and the wider community.

The New Zealand franchises provide interesting  examples of the differing ways the social contract is being enacted. If we consider the Crusaders then it appears that which was once a highly succesful culture is starting to fray like a society in breakdown. The Deans years developed a particular culture of community, obligation and expectation that operated on one level as a combination finishing school and borstal. Difficult but talented players were shipped south and either remade or shipped out again. Those with talent gained a polish to both their games and lives. A family ethos, in fact a tribal ethos developed that was far ahead of other franchises as they struggled to adapt to what being professional involved. However, as in all communities, all families, all tribes, the tribal elders determine the culture, ethos and performance. How do they adapt to the changing world? How do they adjust in ways that allow innovation that is intergrated with on-going obligations and responsibities? The way Todd Blackadder has been reported suggests that he is all too aware that a culture change is required within the team and within its leadership. The desire to keep such changes within what can be termed the local tribal elders is a risky one in a time when the notion of the tribe is increasingly fluid. For if the tribe is a fluid resource so too are the tribal elders.

The eminent sociologist Zygmunt Bauman talks of modernity as being a society, a culture defined by fluidity, or in his term, liquid. The origin goes back to Karl Marx and his description of modernity wherein "all that is solid melts into air." Late-modernity is a time and culture of fluid identities, cultures, loyalties and connections. Yet amidst all of this people are looking for solidity, for those things to value and hold on to, for those claims upon how they live their lives that give meaning in relation to others.  The creation and maintenance of a  team culture is really the creation and maintainence of a set of values and expectations, identity and and community amongst an increasingly disparate bunch of young men. It must be fluid in the sense that traditon is not enough in and by itself. It must be innovative in being open to the surrounding changes and possibilities. But it must have at centre a re-thought social contract.

 Consider the alternative of the Chiefs. A couple of seasons ago the social contract obviously wasn't working. So the tribal elders were replaced and in came new leadership who then decided what types of players they wanted within the team. This meant some were let go,  others were retained and re-trained and so was created a new team culture. The players spoke of a new culture, a new culture of expectations and obligations- in effect a new social contract.

Like-wise the Blues appear to have undertaken a very similar approach with an impressive result over the weekend. The turn around of a team playing like a society in urban breakdown last year to a team of collective community this year demonstrates how important team culture is- but also how important tribal leadership and make-up are. The Hurricanes attempted something similar last year but still play as if the social contract is misunderstood at player level. The Highlanders likewise have tried to rethink and reimagine themselves. Yet a social contract is a mutual engagement of management and players, of a fluid interchange of expectations and obligations. This past weekend The Highlanders played like a dysfunctional society, the Chiefs played like a functioning community.
The Hurricanes it seems are a society in transition to a community, while the Crusaders once were a community but seemed on the slide to a society. That is why the Crusders BBQ was such a fascinating and important experience. It was a signal that a culture shift is underway, the return to community.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Why the Highlanders will always be also-rans

I was in Dunedin in the glory days of  Otago and the Highlanders. This was a team composed of grizzled locals and skillful, often intelligent, students. Yet always, despite their potential they could never scale the heights they threatened, for the required consistency was never there. They were capable of audacious moments, periods of great drama, yet also  too capable of losing games they needed to win. In this they mirrored the lifestyle and out-look of the scarfie. The student life is one of peaks and troughs, of playing hard and working hard, of giving things a go because now seems to the right time to do so. The glory of university is that it is a time of privileged escape from the mundane demands of the rest of the world. I won't say the 'real world' for, sociologically speaking, the claim of a particular part of the world, or society being 'more real' than another is meaningless.

What university- and a university town- offer is the experience of the tensions of tradition and innovation, of being accountable and being given on-going chances, of exploring new options and choosing some badly, of living life most often in the present. Those Otago and Highlanders teams had the advantage of being able to attract students and hangers-on who wished to live, study and play rugby in an environment that was- and still is- New Zealand's only university town. Crucially, it was a time when the university was smaller and its reputation as a party -town was secondary to that of a student life-style. The  difference is significant. The student lifestyle attracts a different type of person to that of the party-town. For to maintain a play-hard/work-hard attitude is in the end the ethos of the amateur. The question is raised of how many of the great Otago and Highlanders players of the past would have decided to pursue a professional rugby career from the age of 20? Of course many of them did so at a latter age but they still played with the ethos of the amateur.

In this they reflect the ethos of that constantly shifting body of students who make up the bulk of Highlanders supporters. Students are amateur in ethos for they are in that transition zone between school and career, teenage years and the career-demands of adulthood. A clinical, fully professional team doesn't fit. Secondly, the 'almost achievers' legacy of the past sits heavily upon the town. The Forsyth Barr stadium squats  as a forlorn, expensive expression of the mantra of 'Field of Dreams': "if you build it, they will come".  This may being true of the fans who were not turning up to Carisbrook and now turn up to be be as much part of the crowd experience as they are to necessarily watch rugby.  But building a new stadium does not easily result in  creating a championship-winning or even conference-winning team. The players who are attracted to come south are not necessarily easily integrated into  becoming a coherent, consistent team.  To import stars, often ageing stars, nearing the end-years of their career speaks of the problem of attempting to build a team from the players  already available. These imports may be the gritty professionals, but we see very few of the gifted amateur. This means the Highlanders teams have suffered from being neither the expression  of the gifted amateur nor the gritty professionalism of the modern professional team. They can at times play both- and to marry them together as they did at times last season gives continual hope to all who do or have once supported them in person. Yet as tonight's loss to the Chiefs demonstrated, in the end they lack a consistency of both options- neither gifted amateur enough nor coolly and clinically professional.   Further, to have to choose a winger as your Captain speaks of a startling  and concerning lack of possibilities elsewhere on the field.

What we saw tonight was a team of journeymen who could sparkle individually at times but lacked both the sustained discipline of the professional and the sustained collective attitude of possibility of the amateur. It may be too early to call, but I fear the Highlanders are going to end up bottom of the New Zealand conference.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Crusaders open day. Collecting relics of the demigods

Last weekend I took my two youngest kids on a contemporary pilgrimage to collect relics of the demigods. This was not any common or every day event, this one was select: an event for the inner circle, those few thousand who are Crusaders/Canterbury season ticket holders. We were to be allowed close, dignified and controlled access to the demigods who would await our homage, supply relics, feed us and dismiss us.

Having collected another family of pilgrims, we made our way to the home of the gods, Rugby Park on the edge of Merivale. The choice of the theophany was important. This is not the place whereupon the ritual of combat occurs during the season, not a large, impersonal stadium where everyone else also attends in worship, celebration, collective despair and ritualized hope. No, we were to be allowed close access in the place where they train, the place where the campaign is based and planned. It is decidedly low key, homely even, with a grassy embankment opposite the small, intimate grandstand, a mechano-constructed commentary box and is ringed with deciduous trees: chestnuts, elms and other english imports. This is the romanticized vision and  present heritage memory of what rugby was  meant to be. It signals that while the Crusaders are really a business, a corporate entity in the multi-million global brand of super rugby, at heart we are meant to see them, experience them and support them as a community club, that symbolizes all those 'good, honest' memories and experiences of grass-roots, school and club rugby. This was the Crusaders saying, "We are your club.  We open our home to you and offer you hospitality."

This is how and why we found ourselves lined up along the green corrugated iron fence  stretching down the footpath on Innes road on a Sunday morning. Those of other devotions were worshipping elsewhere that morning, yet unlike them we were guaranteed the theophany, the experience of real presence. The objects of our worship and devotions were to be fully present, were to interact with us, if even for a brief couple of seconds. This was what the Hindus call darshan - whereupon in the act of seeing the god the god sees us and we gain a blessing. Moreover we were to be granted relics that signalled we had been in the presence of the demigods, that the event was one of real presence. All this with bread and sausage and cold drink- it was big and little kids idea of heaven.

The lining up down the street was important for those of us old enough to remember having to queue up along corrugated iron fences to enter games. There was that peculiar smell of warming paint on corrugated iron, that echoing rumble of scattered conversation that reflects off the fence as the crowd stirs in expectation. As the anticipation grows and parents check their watches at children's requests suddenly the gate opens and in we file, as orderly as excitement allows, having to show our email rsvps as evidence of our piety and right to be there.

Inside the conversation buzz elevates as first Aaron Mauger, looking little changed from his playing days, is sighted handing out the team photo sheet. Then, a silver head above the rest of the crowd is spotted: Todd Blackadder.  He stands at the door to the marquee, pen in hand,  brief responses at the ready, the first to sign, the first to be encountered, the coach who acts as sentry, high priest and totem.  Younger members of the crowd, which now stretches back over 100 metres inside the ground are informed by their parents as to who exactly Mauger and Blackadder are. You become suddenly aware of the brevity of fame, of the contemporary currency of what being an All Black entails. For most of the crowd it appears that 'All Black' is only ever a current identity and not a long-term  aura. That is, 'All Black' is the current wearer of the black jersey, moreso, is the one who plays rugby on TV, the one who appears in the advertisements. Once media presence is over so is the currency of 'All Black'. It is only the older fans who still venerate the player and not just the media image.

I was aware of this on seeing Richard Low at a Twizel rowing regatta. He still carried something about  him that made people respond. Those who did not recognize him often asked 'who was that?'
 It was not just his imposing physical presence, it was the  presence of someone who has spent twenty-five years in the public arena, someone who learned to live in the experience of public reaction and response, someone who knew that he  occupied a special place in society, and more so carried a series of responses and expectations, knowledge and falsehoods around with him for the rest of his life. The witty and pithy Richard Low of re-Union is, for many, a far cry it seems from the on-field player that was. The Richard Low  in dapper dress, chatting comfortably with friends and acquaintances, aware yet oblivious to the glances and comments is and yet is not the eye-gouging, nose-breaking enforcer of days past. For many this latter Low is the real Low, however there still remains the media images of reckless brutality of the younger Low as player.  Yet this tension, of real and media, of presence and present, of past and ageing, is what makes the open day so poignant.
For inside the tent, sitting behind trestles, pens in hand are the current Crusaders team.

Here, in close proximity, in shyness, brashness, feigned and real interest, engaging and  slightly distant, articulate and shyly gruff are the young men upon who reside our hopes and dreams, our frustrations and exhilaration.The crowd is not only parents with children, it also includes teenagers with studied coolness, excitable singles, ageing long-term Canterbury stalwarts who have spent most of their supporting days pre-Super Rugby, and then, as with any holy site, any pilgrimage, the crazed, the suffering and the tragic.

The collection of relics begins: team sheets are passed from player to player along the table to be signed. Arms, jerseys, swords and capes are all presented to be inscribed with the mostly often illegible signatures. One  does not have to be able to decipher the signature, it is enough in itself to possess it.  Young children in particular all receive a very positive welcome and comment. Chuckles occur as my three year loudly comments: "they don't look so big sitting down".

Others get photographs of players, photographs with players, the new tourist postcard of the sign of the real:  I did 'meet them', here is the image to 'prove' the truth of the claim. These are just young men in red jerseys sitting in a tent on a Sunday morning. They are bigger, more thickset than the average,  but they are just young men who have had a series of expectations thrust upon them because of athletic ability combined with a certain temperament. The crowds who are usually kept distant are here allowed over that fence- both 'imaginary' and real- that usually separates them.  Here  the team  do have the safety of a controlled encounter with the elect who are expected to know how to behave.
All encounters are kept brief by the necessity to keep the crowd filing in an orderly fashion. There is the mutual acknowledgement of the dialectic of fandom, the necessary dialectic of the fan and the player in professional sport out of which a synthetic third space occurs. This is a tightly controlled, in fact a tightly scripted encounter in which both sides understand the roles they are to play. Neither is to become engaged beyond the superficial and  if the stars are expected to turn on the charisma the fans are expected to perform enthusiastic yet controlled veneration.

Interestingly, there in the right hand corner, three-quarters of the way through is Dan Carter. Thinking about it, the placements appear well thought-out. As we enter, having been granted access   to  the sanctum by Todd Blackadder, we first encounter Andy Ellis. As a local player, as a parent, as an All Black, as a senior pro, as a player who in his success as landscape designer and now budding radio host is the closest thing to a Crusader renaissance man, Ellis is the ideal first player. He can chat with children, he understands media commitments, he is intelligent, conversational and has the aura of the All Black still lingering. We then move  from the initial high ikon through a series of lesser ones along to Kieran Reid who occupies the centre of the trestles. Reid has real presence, he radiates an enthusiasm but also an engagement with the fans. It may only be a performance, but it appears that this is a pleasure for him. He has an intensity of gaze that almost stuns small children. Here is the All Black in close proximity, and whether it is something we lay upon him and respond to, or whether  it is the experience of fame and expectation mixed with that unique combination of physical ability and temperament that all top athletes require, there is something that makes him stand out, something that we all seem to respond to against the rest of the team. That he  is seated centre-stage, surrounded by decidedly lesser members of the team only enforces his difference. He is set apart. He is to be noted and responded to as different. He is the centre of our procession, the centre of our veneration. He is the apex and yet why is not Dan Carter next to him?

The answer is obvious.  It is not only that Reid is the captain and so the central totem of the team. It is obvious when one does encounter Dan Carter. This young man is charisma and presence personified. The reaction of the crowd is very much that this is the god among the demigods. He reduces previously verbose young girls to almost silent inarticulacy. He smiles and your response cannot be separated by the host of media images and occasions that the smile accompanies. He is the STAR, the gifted one; the gift in fact that they as a team have been granted, that we as fans have been allowed to encounter. We come upon him when least expected for he is not centre stage beside Reid, rather he is almost hidden, so one comes upon him almost unexpectedly. This also ensures, being seated as he is on the cusp of the final hinging right angle of the tables, that the crowd cannot hesitate too long without disrupting all who come behind. This is the holy of holys kept special, kept sacred in the original sense of set aside. We come upon him where we would least expect him to be; this may be a staged humility, a staged enforcement that this is a team whereupon the captain is central. And yet the inverse reading occurs. Carter is too special, too important, too sacred to be presented in the most obvious place. That he is so special, so different is enforced by where he sits - and the limitations it places upon our ability to engage. The one who most would wish to linger with is the one  with whom it is most difficult to do so.

And so then we move along the final table and there, at the end, the perfect counter balance to Andy Ellis, the perfect repository of many fans' delight and excitement, is Robbie Fruean. Unfailingly polite and engaged, constantly smiling and with a comment for all, many times a 'thank you' for, in effect, responding to the  team's invitation to worship and venerate.

Then we exited to the bbq sausage and bread, a choice of cold drinks and then, nothing. That was it. You could sit on the embankment and eat your sausage and drink your soft drink. Kids could run and play on the rugby field that was unfortunately just ending its sprinkler cycle and so was somewhat wet.  Nothing else. A bit of chatting and a look back along the crowds still arriving to line up and file in expectation as we had just done.

Looking around, adults and children clutched and wore their freshly signified relics, their evidence of being in the presence of the demigods.
For what is the meaning of these scrawls in marker pen on pieces of paper, on bits of fabric, on soft plastic swords, on rugby balls. It signals firstly that you were in their real presence. The signature is the guarantor of the authentic event. The signature, as the individual identifier - whether legible or not- is taken to be the accepted record of a meeting with the one deemed so special that the name now stands in for the person. My signature is worth nothing because in the world of the fame I do not exist. The signature is proof of the existence of fame and societal meaning and value. This is why the younger, newer, lesser members of the team often seemed uncomfortable, or reticent, or joked about having so any wish to collect their signature. For its signals a shift in their identity- perhaps only seasonally fleeting. For the moment they have fame by wider association. What they signify- as a a member of the Crusaders- is more than  what they embody either within that team or outside it on a daily basis. The fans who now request their handwritten proof of  this player's individual identity would not wish to have it if their signer was not a part of this team. Many  players would also be very aware that many who got their signature had no real idea as to who they were.  Such team members are just part of the collective experience for the fan.  Yet as the team was seated in such an order, we as fans had no real choice as to whether we got their signature or not. It was a demand placed upon our participation. If you want access to the stars, if you want to venerate the stars, if you want this special experience of fandom then all of the team are included. This was strictly controlled and the effect was to signal that the team is more important than its individual starts, no matter how we as fans may wish to concentrate on some over others. The lack of any alternative activity after the signing was also important. We were fed and watered, that is rewarded, for having participated. But there was nothing else to do, for what could compete with the experience of real presence?

So we left, enthused, excited,  in anticipation of the season ahead. We left feeling that we had been part of something special, something  important yet not  really aware of why and how.  But what it was is simple. It was the pilgrimage and ritual of  the relics of  fandom.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Rugby and the Social Pattern

In 1953 the political scientist Bob Chapman published an essay in the journal Landfall entitled: 'Fiction and the Social Pattern: Some Implications of Recent N. Z. Writing',[ Landfall, 7, 1 (March 1953), pp. 26-58.]
 Chapman's article focused on the idea that literature tells us something about the social pattern of the society which produces it. Unfortunately social scientists in New Zealand have tended not to follow in Chapman's wake, in the main ignoring the cultural products of a society as a means to understand and investigate its social patterns and structures.
Recently I bucked the trend by looking at the way the claim 'rugby is New Zealand' religion' developed and circulated in various forms of writing - both fiction and non-fiction- both as an explicit claim and as a more nuanced, implicit idea. That was the first major study of its kind, surprising in that the claim, as I discovered, first arose in 1908. The essay came out late last  year in The International Journal of Religion and Sport and when I get a PDF from the publishers I will publish a link here.
 However I also wish to extend the idea of using rugby to investigate the social pattern by thinking through what we see  of the teams in the Super 15 and the ITM this season. For not only do I want to follow on the more general, often commonly accepted claim that rugby reflects  the social pattern of New Zealand in various ways, but  I also wanyt to focus on the idea of whether  the rugby of differing franchises and provinces itself reflects differing, regional social patterns? Does the rugby of Auckland and the Blues reflect something of the social pattern of Auckland? What does the on-going failure of North Harbour tell us about the North Shore?  What does the rugby of the Highlanders, Otago and Southland tell us about the social patterns of the deep south? Is the success of the Chiefs a signal of a changing social pattern in Hamilton and the Waikato/BOP? What does Hurricanes rugby tell us? As for the Crusaders, does the recent failure to win a title signal an end to the success of the type of attitude that won titles earlier?
 My view is just like literature, music, art, and other cultural productions express and perpetuate social patterns, that rugby, the type of rugby played and supported, the types of players taken to symbolise a team all reflect- and create a certain social pattern- not only of fans but also of the wider self-perception of the franchise and the province.
 This means the game is never just a game, rather it is a type of social and cultural text playing out social patterns in front of us. The start of the Super 15 is more than the start of the rugby season, it is the beginning of a new way to think about New Zealand society.

the missing centre

The news that Israel Dagg is being seriously considered  as a centre not only points to an on-going mid-field issue for the Crusaders but also signalled concerns at national level should Conrad Smith become unavailable. Centre has long been a weakness in New Zealand rugby, hidden by the luck of having long-term, rugged, skilled centres in the All Blacks. Yet from the 1970s onwards, if we take out Bruce Robertson, Joe Stanley, Frank Bunce, Tama Umaga and Conrad Smith then there is little to draw comfort from. At Super Rugby and ITM levels a centre above the merely adequate is hard to name. Tamati Ellison was perhaps the one possibility but he is now out for most of the season. Ben Smith is solid and fearless but in an earlier era would only ever have been a dirt-tracker, mid-week game All Black- if that. Richard Kahui was never not injured enough to really show us what he could do and perhaps was always best suited to be a winger as his play at the World Cup demonstrated. The same issues  will confront Ireland after O'Driscoll and now challenge Australia after Mortlock.  This raises the question of whether centre  is perhaps the most difficult and crucial position on the field?

 It is easy to be an adequate centre, yet an adequate centre will more often than not only result in an adequate team. For the centre not only runs the outside backs, they direct the play and defence of the inside ones as well.  We need to remember how both Nonu and SBW lacked the skills to play top-level rugby at centre.  That they can shine at second five is partly because of the opportunities that position allows. Also, the second-five game calls for a much smaller set of skills than the players inside and outside them.  Yet without an excellent centre outside them then the second five falters. Consider how SBW improved at  the All Black and the Chiefs when he didn't have Freuan outside.  Conversely, the adequate will be able to appear more talented by the presence of a top-flight centre. Yet an adequate second-five with an adequate centre is a recipe for mediocrity.

Perhaps we have also traditionally put too much emphasis on the first-five? This is understandable because of the players we have had in that position, but also because we are enamoured with the mythology and romanticism of the first five being the 'little general'.  Yet, imagine if, instead of coming in a position, the young Dan Carter had gone out one to play centre? Carter against Mortlock? Carter against O'Driscoll? Perhaps we could also have kept Nick Evans in the country? Consider also the World Cup final. We covered more than adequately the gaps at first five, in the end winning with a 4th-ranked player in that position. Yet if Conrad Smith was unavailable it is highly unlikely that we could have won.
 The player for the future at centre is Charlie Piutau. He may be currently a winger/fullback but he has all the skills, intelligence, and presence to be a top-flight centre.The Blues need to play him there this season not only so they have a title chance, but also in the interests of future All Black player development.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

clipped wings

It was a sad delight to see Sean Maitland score on his first outing for Scotland. Hopefully Maitland will continue to remind us of the way his potential was not fully developed or indeed recognized here in New Zealand. The problems of Zac Guildford, the injury to Corey Jane, the continuing injury concerns of Richard Kahui, the inability to consistently focus of Hosea Ger, let alone the lack of a  long-term back-up to Conrad Smith all point to a potential crisis in our outside backs. As he showed in 2011, Maitland is a world-class player- and he was- and is- still young. All of us who lived through the Canterbury quakes know that they affected everyone in different ways- and that 2012 was in many ways the hardest year as the adrenalin of constant fear wore off and the brutal reality of mundane life here took hold.
I am not saying that that was the main reason behind Maitland's drop in form but he was not from down here and so would not have had the single-minded provincialism and desire to stay come-what-may  of other players in the Canterbury and Crusaders franchises. More concerningly, two young, highly talented players found themselves in the outer.  Were Guildford and Maitland ever really a good fit for the Crusaders? Likewise the way Israel Dagg played for most of last season signalled a young man not totally focused and happy to be here. That is understandable for it is a city that, if not exactly dynamic before the quakes, has become increasingly provincial and limited post-quakes. Yet there is something more. Can the Crusaders only develop young backs to a certain level- especially if they are not from down here? Look at the way Tim Bateman has developed as player at the Hurricanes since his return from Japan. Is Canterbury only a backs incubator now, a type of conditioning paddock that then needs to send imported talented young backs out to other franchises and unions?
 Todd Blackadder is an excellent forwards coach, but the question is what is happening with the backs? How are these young backs managed, understood, and developed after the first couple of years.
Of the the very young backline, the question needs to be raised as  who mentors them consistently? It can't be resident All Blacks,  for their status is too high and they are often absent. Rather it needs to be older, top-level players who may have once been- or briefly been All Blacks, but are not any longer. In the forwards that role is held by George Whitelock who continues that stellar role of 'almost players'- such as Don Hayes, Angus Gardiner, Matt Sexton, Rob Penney.  In the backs however we only have Andy Ellis- and at half back he  is too close in to perform that role. He is also looking to still be an All Black  and so understandably his focus is elsewhere. Therefore the revitalization of Crusaders back play requires the buying in of an 'old pro'- ideally from outside New Zealand.

I was interested to read Robbie Deans in the great Australian site the roar:

Everything that made Robbie such a great coach at provincial level is what makes his life difficult at international level. For the international coach has to, in effect, forget all that made them a success at provincial level and start again with a new ethos at international level. For you are dealing with players who are the products of coaching systems and environments that you have no control over. It is clear that Deans is still thinking like a provincial coach- and as long as he does that the Australians will never achieve the success they should. Ewan McKenzie is the international coach in waiting.