When North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green explains why he recently met Google representatives and then describes the significance of the Atlanta Hawks having a barber shop at their players’ training facility, you sit up and take notice.
Green has been on a whirlwind tour of the United States with aims of improving his club and himself on a personal level as a leader and mentor.
Green, who was accompanied by Cowboys CEO Greg Tonner and football manager Peter Parr on parts of his trip, visited training and stadium facilities at NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Major League Baseball franchise Atlanta Braves and NFL outfits Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets.
A new $250 million Townsville stadium is to open for the 2020 Telstra Premiership season and the Cowboys hope to construct a state-of-the-art high-performance facility nearby.
“We have an opportunity to start from scratch here, so it is important to get that right,” Green said.
Green was particularly interested in the way the facilities are designed to make players feel comfortable in their environment … which brings us to the barber shop.
“They have a lot bigger budgets than us and money is no object for some of them, but we looked at the way they put the training facilities together and things that are important to different people,” Green told NRL.com.
“For instance, at the Atlanta Hawks' players’ training facility they have put a barber shop in there because that was really important to the players.
“Culturally, in the southern part of the States, men would often meet in the barber shop to talk to their mates about bloke stuff. From a community view the barber shop was a focal point for men to meet.
“A lot of those young guys coming through at the Atlanta franchise had seen their dads do the same thing, so they incorporated that into their facility to make the players feel comfortable and more at home, so they could relax and be themselves.”
Green said that kind of attention to detail was important and the same principle could apply in “all contexts”.
“The players spend a lot of time at these training facilities so you want to make it feel like home in some respects,” he said.
The New York Jets facility was also an eye-opener.
“They have a full-sized indoor field under a roof as well as five or six other fields outside, so it was amazing from that point of view,” he said.
“The stuff that was really interesting was around those themes of who they are and how they structure their learning environment.”
Rugby league clubs have access to an increasing amount of data, but Green said his meeting with Google representatives was all about learning more about getting the most out of the information available.
“There is a lot of data out there and everyone has got pretty much the same data in terms of game stats, but it is all about what you do with it and how you use it,” he said.
“You have to ask the right questions with that stuff to find out what you need to, otherwise you can drown in the data.”
Green also met with leaders in the field of sports psychology and profiling, while a highlight of his trip was a week-long course he undertook at Harvard University.
“That was a great week for me,” he said.
“The course was called ‘authentic leadership development’ so it was about looking at yourself, what makes an individual tick as a leader and following that through in all parts of your leadership.”
Green is a big believer in self-improvement and practises what he preaches in that regard.
“You’ve got to keep learning,” he said.
“For me as a person, that is just the way I am. I am curious as a person. But because of technology, information is becoming so quickly available now that the speed of change is also quick.
“You need to be able to move with it.
“You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water either so it is not about change for the sake of change, but you have to make sure you are open to that.”
The old saying that if you stand still you fall behind in any field applies, but Green said there was more to it than that.
“It is also about keeping ahead of the curve if you can,” he said.