Paul Roos: Making His Mark

 
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Paul Roos or “Roooooos” as his affectionate fans would roar, is what you might call an uncomplicated champion- grounded and laid-back despite a highly decorated AFL career. Currently, Roos is the successful coach of the Sydney Swans Football Club, a position he has held since 2002.

In his relatively short coaching career with the Swans, he has amassed some coveted medals, most of which experienced coaches would be proud to hang in their “pool room.” From 2003- 2008, the Swans successfully reached the finals, which is no mean feat. In 2005, Roos led his gallant Swans to their first grand final win in 72 years and along with it, was named coach of the year. On top of that, he maintained a great win-loss record and is highly respected by both players and peers. And that’s just his coaching career!

Roos’ 16-year playing career, which began in the early ’80s until the late ’90s, is even more impressive. He played over 350 games, which in itself is rare and inspiring. But it’s the accolades along the way which set him apart from other veterans. Playing for only two teams, the Fitzroy Lions and the Sydney Swans, his loyalty and determination have never been questioned, always giving everything in the pursuit of success for his team. To highlight this point, Roos took out the “Best and Fairest” award on five occasions and captained the Fitzroy Lions for six years; he was named on the “All-Australian Team” an amazing seven times and polled in the top three twice for the Brownlow medal. Fittingly inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2005, the committee’s criteria examined ability, integrity, sportsmanship and character- all of which Roos would likely have scored exceptionally in.

When I asked Roos what achievement he was most proud of from his playing days, he surprisingly said captaining the Victorian State of Origin side would be something he holds very high.

But it’s not only in the footy arena where Roos succeeds. Happily married to American wife Tami and father to two boys, Dylan and Tyler, Roos has always been the family man, never sending them to “warm the bench” in pursuit of his career. Testament to his family-focused belief was his Father of the Year award in 2008, an honour that Roos most cherishes.

After reading Paul and Tami’s book, Sport is Life, Life is Sport-An insight into Achievement and Balance in Sport, Work and Life, I was interested in the motivation behind their decision to put pen to paper. “I wanted to tell the story of the Swans’ success and give a little more insight into the club,” Roos states. Not filled with statistics or a list of Roos’ awards and decorations, it’s a book written in collaboration with wife Tami. And as she proudly points out, “From the get-go, Paul really made the decision to coach, as a family decision, not as his own personal decision. [The family was] included from the word ‘go’. Writing a book together seemed like a natural process.”

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I would strongly agree, as an avid sportsman myself, that many life lessons- situations that build your character and shape you as a person-can be borne on the sports arena, a point the couple aim to prove. Roos emphasises this aspect of his book saying that, “Part of sport is preparing yourself for life. I think sport is underrated in its over-arching affect on one’s life.” I asked Roos what life skills he thinks can be learnt from sport. He responded with, “Team work, leadership, training, hard-work, practice and developing skills.” All of which are important for success in life.

On the other side of the coin are those young kids with enormous potential who end up indulging their spare time in the company of PlayStations, computer games and hand-held consoles. In Roos’ opinion, it’s a practice that is “sending them on the road to destruction.” It’s obvious listening to Paul and Tami that their passion for sport and healthy lifestyles, both physical and mental, is important in leading a life that matters.

Roos speaks of game situations where luck plays a role and no matter how much training or strategising you do, there are things that are simply out of your control. Accepting that “is one of the most difficult things in life,” Roos says. “As in sport and life, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is one of the most important processes.”

It’s also about utilising the strengths of those around you. Tami, speaking of what attracted her to Roos, says he was so laid-back, nothing got under his skin. “He came to understand a long time ago that certain things are out of his control, so he doesn’t waste his energy worrying about them.”

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The insights into Roos’ values and beliefs brought a whole new respect and admiration into who he really is. These days, anyone who is highlydriven, successful in their career, hardworking and popular would probably find that family has no choice but to come a close second at best. Roos, on the other hand, has made a deliberate, conscious decision to put his family first. It’s something he will never compromise. Upon opening their book, the importance Paul and Tami place on family is obvious, dedicating the book to their two boys, writing, “For Dylan and Tyler. You are a constant source of joy, inspiration and love.”

Speaking of when he was first offered the role of head coach at the Sydney Swans, a highly demanding, stressful and all-consuming job, he sat his family down and they made the decision together. It was not his decision to make, but the whole family’s, each having their say, voicing concerns and fears. As a family they promised if the job became too much and jeopardised their quality of life as a family, then Roos would reconsider his coaching role, no questions asked. Upon taking the job, Roos courageously made it clear that his family was number one, a philosophy that extends throughout the club, creating a warm and friendly culture. “We have a policy of embracing the families of the players… I believe that if you’re happy in your family life, then you’re going to be more productive on the paddock and as a team member.” An example of this culture is seeing players’ kids in the locker room after a game or a debutant’s family being flown interstate to see their son’s first game. When talking about priorities, Roos puts family first, then job, “then comes in no particular order, my friends, my quality of life, giving back to the community, travelling and keeping fit.”

Like many others, stress is a major stumbling block in today’s society, imposing constraints on families. In combating this, Roos’ solution is to spend more time with his family-not less-gaining strength from their support and love, putting work problems into perspective. “To be successful at work, sometimes you have to get away from work,” Roos writes.

What does “family first” look like though? Roos gives examples such as buying a less expensive car or house and then putting that extra money into travelling with your family, an aspect of family life worth making sacrifices for; and taking the less paying job that doesn’t keep you at work for 60 hours a week, instead allowing you to spend more time with your kids. During the boys’ primary-schooling days, Paul and Tami intentionally set aside one morning a week where they would all go out to breakfast to their favourite caf