An interview with Daniel Puchalski, a former rugby player, who has won the Polish Championship twice (Ist Senior League), finished third place in the league, and won the Polish Cup (1990s) and the Polish Veterans Championship (he won the championship, and was the runner up 20 years later). He studied at the University of Gdańsk, the University of Business and Administration in Gdynia and the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. Currently, he works as the Head of the Land Investment Department in JLL Poland.
WO: An old British saying goes: “Football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans and rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen”. To this very day people in the Anglo-Saxon countries think that rugby is a sport for the upper class, the social elite or private school students. Why did you choose rugby?
DP: When I was a child I wanted to find my own path, not only in reference to who I wanted to become in my adult life, but also when it comes to sport. I have always felt that sport is an interesting and useful activity that challenges us and gives us self-fulfillment. My path was winding. I started as a football player in Lechia Gdańsk, but after only six months I realized that it wasn’t for me. Even though it was a team sport, every step of the way I felt strong individualism in the coach and among the players. Later on I took up basketball and volleyball. My primary school years were all about athletics, something that prepared me physically for karate and rugby.
Rugby was like love at first sight. After the first practice I already knew that I no longer cared about any other sport. There were a few reasons for that. A rugby team is a group of people who support each other both on the field and in life. Sometimes your best friend can play hard against you during a practice session, but after that he will shake your hand and explain what went wrong if you messed up a play. Respect applies not only within the team. Every rugby player is taught from the very beginning to respect the referees, the coaches, the fans and also their opponents. Respect and friendship are two elementary matters in rugby.
WO: It’s a family sport. The stands in the arena are not divided into home and away sections. After the match they all meet during the third half. It sounds mysterious. What is it exactly?
DP: In rugby, it’s something sacred. The third half is a picnic after a game where the two teams meet, sometimes with their families and fans. They comment on fierce plays, drinking beer and laughing together because they all know each other. We part ways in peace to give it everything again in the next game.
WO: Playing rugby develops a lot of positive skills. What have you learned on the field that affects your everyday live?
DP: Rugby gave me an opportunity to develop such skills as multitasking, quick reflexes and physical and mental stamina. Of course, this sport was not the only factor in building my character. The education that I got from my parents and other life events that changed my attitude were also important.
WO: What made the connection for you?
DP: In my case it was rugby and Buddhism.
WO: These skills are very important not only in one’s private life, but also in professional contexts. Respect, friendship and quick reflexes surely support being a leader. Do they help you today in your position as an executive and as a member of the team?
DP: Many years of treating with respect my teammates as well as the opponents help me to have a healthy attitude to business today, namely to treat business partners as human beings, to respect their actions and time. Tolerance, respect for other people and persistence are values that transfer to a professional career. The traits of character that I have developed through hard work on the field, when adapted to one’s professional life, make people want to work with you. It’s not only about providing quality services; it’s also about being honest in your job. In a rugby team, insincerity and false fellowship are recognized right away. And if a player fails to develop the character traits expected of a rugby player, he has to leave our community.
Some aspects of rugby may be similar to a negotiation in one’s professional life. A distinctive trait of this sport is that you can pass the ball with your hand only backwards; it can only be moved ahead if kicked. During negotiations we sometimes have to “trick” our opponent, showing him that we are giving up something (passing the ball backwards), but the strategy (the move) intentionally anticipates engaging the opponent in a game in which he may lose. Such a game can lead to our victory, eventually. Of course there is a fine line between healthy and honest manipulation and cheating, and there is no place for it in professional life as well as in rugby. Unless someone thinks differently, but that’s probably a topic for another conversation…
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