Sir Gordon Tietjens, where art thou?

Dear Editor,

A few months ago, I found out an unusual arrangement between S.R.U. and the genius-of-a-coach in Sir Gordon Tietjens. Apparently, S.R.U. leadership agreed to have Sir Tietjens coach our beloved Sevens team from a distance, very distant!

To put into perspective, I say a distance of 3,263 km away and 3 hours behind kind of distance; a distance between Samoa and New Zealand.

All I know is that the well-respected coach and a one-time World Sevens Series champion Stephen Betham is coaching our Sevens team.  Meanwhile, the multiple World Sevens Series champion coach is in the land of the long white cloud sitting, sipping, sunbathing and all other ‘ing’ for all I know. 

He only meets up with the Sevens squad days before the tournament. I am sure he gives detailed instructions to his locally based subordinates but this is not enough for me, and surely, not enough for the whole country.

We expect more coach!

From my very limited knowledge of both the arrangements and the supposed strategy of coaching from the distance, I need to concur that this is too much to process with my obsolete CORE i5 Intel mind. I should get the latest Apple computer with more sophisticated processing software.

So confusing that I need to mentally justify the decision made by the S.R.U. by asking a few questions to make sense out of this mind-boggling decision. Remember, I am trying to defend the decision of S.R.U. to convince myself and others that long-distance coaching is a sound decision.

My first justification question is; if completing a degree can be done online why not coach a beloved national team from the distance?

Can we at least draw a comparison using the similar approach for coaching a beloved national team and securing a degree online? Of course, we can, but the former benefits considerably less and the latter benefits considerably more. 

And also, using this logically erroneous justification creates other concerns. For one, if S.R.U. thinks distant coaching is an effective strategy, and still get the results we all want to get, why not hire more world-class coaches to coach every discipline Samoa participates in international games? Saves us money and saves us time, win-win right? Yeah, right!

To this day, world-class teams, regardless of sports, continue to provide luxurious packages to world-class coaches just to be with the players they coach. 

Why? That is because world-class organization knows that hands-on coaching does wonder. Wonders that can’t be replicated by distant coaching most of the time, and frankly, our Sevens standing speaks for itself.

The thing is, taking online classes and coaching a team are two different situations that require different answers. While distant learning works well for the busy professionals and others. Whereas, learning the finer details of Sevens rugby is a couple thousand miles another case. In short, the comparison ends near where it starts.

To a decent extent, I like the idea of distant coaching but not when it comes to coaching a national team. Especially, we have a limited budget, we have to make sure to make every dime we invest is worth it. Once we start winning consistently again then maybe we can strategically entertain the idea of distance coaching because by then sponsors will freely come to support our team financially. 

Enough with justification question. Let me ask this more important question.

Sir Gordon Tietjens, how can you build a solid rapport with each of your players when you are a couple thousand miles away from them?

No, you can’t! Because distance fuels confusion and contempt; space breeds coldness and aloofness. This is true to any relationship including coach-players relationships.

With my deepest respect Sir Tietjens, Education 101 teaches us to build a real personal relationship first and foremost with your learner before you even teach the curriculum (strategies). Without this personal relationship there will be no trust and without trust, there will be no learning— these are tightly intertwined with each other. 

I speak of impactful learning, a kind of learning that last beyond training sessions and sticks around with the players (learners) in crucial moments of the game. A kind of learning that lifts the obscure and mediocre into greatness. In all likelihood, all your philosophies, strategies and techniques go to the bin when the pressure is on.

Again, the Sevens results explain pretty much what I am trying to say here so I leave it for the fans to think about. 

Learning the world-caliber skill-set of Sevens rugby takes time, hence, needs more of your presence Sir Tietjens, not less of your presence.

Your one-on-one session, your real-time performance assessment, in short, your hands-on training is a primary ingredient for our Sevens to succeed. Other state-of-the-art technologies and proven techniques are only secondary tools.

I am not here to bash or insult your greatness because without a doubt no Sevens coach, past and present, has achieved more than you. You’ve done it all! I am not even undermining the abilities of Stephen Betham, far from it. 

I am simply asking in the strongest but the civil way the Whys of this arrangement from S.R.U. and your sir Sir Gordon Tietjens. I hope to get the appropriate and acceptable response from SRU. And as always, leave the decision to the people because Manu 7s and 15s side are the people’s teams- not S.R.U.’s. 

Lastly, let me invite you Sir Gordon Tietjens to take the hands of our players, open their minds, touch their hearts, and unleash the greatness in each of them and of the team. You can only do these, and more, when you’re a breath away from them.  So let me end this inquiry from where I started; Sir Gordon Tietjens, where art thou?  


Ryan Christian Flor Nemes

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