Sports coaches play an important role in creating an environment of support, trust and open communication. By creating a culture that values hauora and waiora, the sense of winning goes beyond the scoreboard – the ultimate prize is the collective support, strength and spirit to overcome challenges on every front, whether in sport, or in life.

The ‘wellbeing wins’ is what Healthy Families Hutt Valley Practice Lead, George Lajpold saw as the gold from this year’s rugby league season, after having the opportunity to return to Randwick Rugby League Club, his origin club, to coach the Premier team and to mentor a new group of coaches that will look after senior grade teams. One of the key focuses was to adopt a hauora and waiora approach with the players and putting the person first before the athlete. To support the players, the team took part in a Find Your Front wellbeing wānanga with New Zealand Rugby League just prior to the start of the season.

Now that the club season has come to an end, George shares his reflections on the season after embedding NZ Rugby League’s mental wellness approach, Find Your Front, across the senior men’s and women’s teams at Randwick.

This season wasn’t an easy journey. At times we found ourselves having discussions with members of our community because our measurement of success conflicted with the traditional line of ‘wins on the board’, but these discussions were an opportunity to share our approach and raise the awareness and importance of hauora and waiora and Find Your Front.

Our motto was ‘One Team – One Club’.

George Lajpold (pictured left) with the Randwick Premier Squad Leadership Team.

What I suspected and was later affirmed was that our people are very busy and operate on limited time because life outside of sports has to take priority. Commitments to other sports, whānau, work, church, injury, illness, tangi, personal issues, holidays and personal wellness were some of the key factors that limited the availability of players.

As the premier squad, from our first week of the competition to the end, we had:

  • 57 training sessions, totalling to 6,840 minutes of training

  • a total of 41 players playing for the premier team

  • 17 of these players making their premier debut

  • 275 absences

  • and we did not field the same team twice during the season.

For me, our season this year did not focus on the number of wins but instead, and more importantly, it focused on ensuring our players normalised conversations around wellness and letting them know that they were well supported in this area.

When I reflect on what I observed with the players and what I was a part of in the application of hauroa waiora, our season was a huge success. I saw players conversing in matters around their hauora waiora, players checking with one another on their wellness, players holding each other to account and the bonds of the brotherhood that come from playing sport strengthen across the squad and on the board we were only 2 wins away from playing in the grand final.

More information about Find your Front

New Zealand Rugby League Wellbeing services

Find your Front podcast