In a lengthy interview, ASM Clermont Auvergne chief sportsman Juno Gibbs discusses his take on the role and the way he’s taken it since arriving at the club in order to propel the group higher. Between men’s knowledge, accuracy and organization, the New Zealand strategist is looking forward to the rest of the season and the next. interview…
Juno, does this victory over Toulouse reward the investment of the band you have been highlighting a few weeks ago?
Yes, we’ve had some complicated time with the pandemic and game postponements that have disrupted our work weeks. The adaptation of the staff and the group’s investments made it possible to put in a great performance against Toulouse Stadium: it’s the spirit we want to see and it’s good for everyone.
It’s also a game in which the team managed to hold its own over the 80 minutes. Work pays off…
You can’t say we were perfect in this match, we had a tough time, but the big positive is that we never gave up. When we made mistakes, we were able, with the next business, to make up for it thanks to a full investment and great generosity.
“Rugby is like all companies: it is a group of people that you must understand and gain confidence in order to work together!”
Since you arrived at the club, you have talked a lot about the pride you have felt and the responsibility you have at the head of an athlete… Can you tell us more?
Pride is when you are appointed at the helm of this team during the first months, the responsibility is after the matches against Castres or Ulster or preparing for the match in Toulouse. It is a huge responsibility because ASM is an emblematic French rugby club with a rich history and a deep heritage. We are all here for the best of this club and in honor of our jersey. Yes, it is a great responsibility but above all a great and motivating opportunity that gives me a lot of energy in the work that I share every day with a high quality team. You’ve found a group that has been through tough times but wants to progress and grow. I continue to be a regular fan of seeing the investment and determination this group puts into practice, these are massive positive indicators. The first part of my job was to analyze men. I really got to experience this club, I knew the culture of the business, the work of ASM, its environment, but I needed to get to know the people and understand their motivations. It’s not over yet, we’re still learning from each other, looking for common values. In any relationship, it’s important to take the time to get to know each other and gain confidence moving forward. Obviously we are still at this point where I must understand how best to use the personality of all the men who make up this group to achieve maximum cohesion. Rugby is like all companies: it is an association of people that must be understood and built in order to work together! I’m not with a stereotypical framework, I’d rather they all stay original and use each other’s nature to do something that makes our group unique. To get the best out of everyone, sometimes you have to add a little motivation, sometimes a little positive reinforcement, my role is to find the right balance…
How would your management, in which it increasingly engages former players with legacy, describe a “yellow and blue” transition like Dato or Aurélien?
I think inheritance is the most important thing to me. It’s part of my education in New Zealand. We grew up with the desire to respect and improve our shirt, to pass on to those who pursue something better without radically changing it. Dato and Aurélien in this vision have different backgrounds but clear common values. They are the guardians of the principles of this club. We have a lot to learn and nourish ourselves with what they can give us. Didier (Retière) in another record will also bring additional things. He is a very experienced figure in French rugby with very specific tasks in Marcuse around development and technology. It will be a very interesting source for the club. Our job together will be to continue to understand how to use the resources that we have as a player but also as a man, in the best possible way.
We feel that you are committed, after taking an inventory of the existing forces, to open up new opportunities and develop the club’s players…
My priority is to assess and understand who wants and aspires to grow this club, make their mark, and make their career there. Young people coached at the club can have this ambition with the desire to take their place. Today I know who I can count on. The past six months have allowed me to see the good days with the good victories but also to see how the players have been able to react after defeats against Castres, Perpignan … or to assess the character of the group in a period of a complex epidemic. I have real vision now and can be meticulous about my choices and decisions.
Were these six months necessary to make this trip?
Yes, what takes time is understanding the man behind the player. You don’t need to motivate all players the same way, some don’t need to ‘sting’ others if…that individual action and depth is what takes time.
This brings us to the future of the club’s players…
I think a lot of work has already been done on the extensions we want. Very quickly, we will be in a position to announce it. The goal is to score them in progress. Stay or go is not the end. What should motivate us is to keep moving forward and to understand our expectations. Like I said, the important thing in my vision is the transfer of values. Of course there is the issue of salary but the most important thing for me is to understand how each player can improve their environment and our team. The composition of the group is never finished, it is a permanent and continuous work. We are working for the current season, next season, but we should really plan for the next season…
Are other developments expected in the future in order to strengthen your employees?
My job is to advance the athlete and create the best possible experience for the players. I am always looking for improvements to allow players to be more consistent and efficient. I’m listening and watching what we can do to reorganize the way we work. The work of a coach always goes against time. You should use all possible energies to prepare for the weekend game, but you should always keep the future of the group in mind. Obviously, if we have opportunities to strengthen ourselves with complementary people in a context where teams are more and more competitive, we will do our best to give ourselves the means.
Juno We are in the wishing period, so what do we wish for the association and your players for next year?
As I said after Toulouse, I have a feeling that those who were on the field or in front of their television saw a committed and resolute team that carried the values of solidarity and generosity for this club. Our ambition is to find consistency, the ability to play with these values every week, and to make those who support us proud to always be by our side. The goal is to create engagement among all those who make up our environment: players, employees, partners, supporters and our region. It’s easy to say things, but everyone expects actions, that’s what matters.
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