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The Story Of How A Westmeath School Shaped Joe Schmidt's Coaching Philosophy

The Story Of How A Westmeath School Shaped Joe Schmidt's Coaching Philosophy
By Conor O'Leary
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A coaches philosophy is an important identity in any sport. It's what the a coach relies on when communicating tactics to their teams. It's what guides successful coaches and teams.

Joe Schmidt Coaching Philosophy

It's clear in rugby circles, that most Kiwis come with a similar gameplan that attempts to stretch the pitch by playing a wide game that creates gaps and space in the defensive line. But for Joe Schmidt, it's a school 50 miles west of Dublin that he credits for a lot of his current coaching philosophies and techniques.

One of the advantages of being able to coach at that level is that you can experiment, because there is no expectation. I've no doubt some of the things I believe in now come from the time I spent in Westmeath.

A younger version of Joe Schmidt first appeared in Ireland in 1990, doing what is described as an "OE" - spending a year getting Overseas Experience. The mid twenties incarnation of Schmidt found himself at Wilson's Hospital and proceeded to turn around the perennial minnows fortunes together with some local coaching influence.

Mick Finnegan, a teacher and rugby coach at Wilsons, explains what the rugby scene was like before Schmidt and local legend, the late Joe Weafer, began to shake things up.

Before Joe's arrival, we played 10-man rugby, the way country rugby had always been played in Ireland.


With Schmidt's influence the team began throwing the ball around and catching unsuspecting teams out. In late December 1991, Wilson's Hospital won their first ever rugby trophy as a result - the section 'A' final of the Senior Cup.

Schmidt brings an infectious enthuasism and energy to every team he's coached, and it's his schoolteacher upbringing that allows him to communicate his highly technical messages across so concisely and effectively.

His rugby journey was enhanced in Westmeath, but the signs of his organisation were already abundantly clear. His ability to get the most out of players comes from the individual responsibilities he gives his players, are products from his time in Westmeath.


Schmidt's experiences from these days as a schoolteacher have shaped him and grounded his philosophy, but that doesn't mean he doesn't evolve. In fact, his days as a teacher inform him that if you speak in the same way to a group of young people every time, they stop paying attention. Schmidt has the ability to change his pace, which allows him to keep his teams winning.

We'll see if the same results happen for Ireland after his highly successful first year in charge.

Photo Credit Brendan Moran/Sportsfile



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