Making a Difference at the Chiefs and beyond

General News
Making a Difference at the Chiefs and beyond

While driving to work one day, a statistic came on the radio stating that 72 per cent of New Zealanders are not happy in the work they are doing.

“This really saddened me. We spend way too much time at work not to enjoy it and my mission is to change that statistic,” said Chiefs Personal Development Manager (PDM) and former Waikato PDM Judy Clement.

In order to pursue her crusade to help people make positive change in their lives, Judy has announced she is retiring from rugby to start her own career and wellbeing consultancy company. This will allow her to continue to grow, develop and help people in a wider capacity.

A player who has really appreciated Judy’s contribution to the Chiefs is their co-captain Sam Cane. “Judy has a real passion for helping young people grow and succeed. I believe we were very fortunate to have her involved in the Chiefs environment for so long. She is a very caring and genuine lady who was also a bit of a mother figure in the Chiefs,“ said the All Black.

Some of the highlights during Judy’s eight years as a Personal Development Manager include getting NASA astronaut, test pilot and Air Force fighter pilot Colonel Eric Boe to share his experience of three missions to the moon with the Chiefs players and staff. “It was a real privilege to have him here,” she said.

“Dr Lance O’Sullivan was also great with his life story and innovative approach to making changes in health. Toastmasters was always a standout and I thoroughly enjoyed watching and hearing the speeches the players were able to make by the end of it. Our cooking classes were always fun, especially the two years we had Nadia Lim involved. Watching the players learning, getting out of their comfort zones and having fun are my best memories.

“I have also loved working with passionate, capable and caring staff with the likes of Wayne Smith, David Galbraith and great team managers.”

Equally there are plenty of people who have relished working with Judy and who have valued her influence in the rugby environment. One of those is All Blacks assistant coach and former Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith.

A massive advocate of the Personal Development Programme, Smith said, “I’ve been coaching rugby at the highest level for 20 plus years. In my time, Judy Clement has been the outstanding Player Development Manager in New Zealand rugby.

“Judy has a heart of gold, huge empathy and a personality that allows her to engage with even the most difficult people. I am an absolute believer in what she does. We won two Super Rugby titles at the Chiefs in 2012/2013. Judy’s ability to create work/life balance with the players had a huge influence on our success. Players and staff who have a sense of purpose, balance and high personal meaning are much more likely to win on and off the field. Judy is a winner.”

After eight years in the role, Judy has plenty of wisdom to share. Her advice to players has always been to be true to yourself and what you are doing, care for others, know what drives you, be proud of what you have achieved and use that to your advantage moving forward.

One of those players who has taken that wisdom on board and worked closely with Judy is former Chiefs and All Blacks midfielder Richard Kahui.

Kahui, who now plays in Japan, said, “Judy is one of the truly special people I have come across. It’s Judy’s dedication and desire to see people grow that makes her great at her job, but it is the genuine love, care and energy she gives out every day that makes her an amazing woman who will be sorely missed.”

Those sentiments were also backed up by Chiefs hooker and All Black, Nathan Harris. “Judy is just one of those people that will go that extra mile to help you. I don’t know if words could sum her up. She goes above and beyond not only in her role but as a great friend,” he said.

Judy knows she will miss the young men she has worked with. “It has been a real privilege to follow the players’ journeys and watch them grow to be the best they can be. It is nice to see them come back from overseas, catch up with their own families and then to know that I have been able to make a difference.

“In this role you don’t get that feedback, but sometimes years later you do and it is a real honour to be able to have made a difference.”

Highly motivated to ensure her career change reflected the things that were important to her, Judy said she had to discover who she truly was and what her influences were so she could align herself with them. For her, these included her past, her community, feeding the body and mind while nurturing and caring for those around her, and it is something she encourages players to do.

“If you look right back to your childhood and those early learnings, good or bad, they help to shape your future, no matter what age or stage you’re at,” she said.

However, it is not only players who have been impressed by Judy’s efforts in rugby since 2009, but her colleagues as well. Her impact has spread further than the Chiefs region. Someone who has worked with Judy for her entire time in rugby is Hurricanes Personal Development Manager Steve Symonds. “Judy has been an innovator and driver of the programme not just in Chiefs territory but nationally. She’s driven the career planning and exploration for players and started and continues to evolve the regional approach to personal development. She’s as supportive to the PDMs as she is to the players who have benefited from being in her environment. Her drive, support and leadership has been a motivation to me and many other PDMs,” he said.

Judy’s pathway to the role as the PDM in Chiefs country started with her teaching physical education and home economics in South Auckland. She taught at Papakura Intermediate and Rosehill College before heading to the United Kingdom with her partner (now husband) where her interest in career paths was discovered.

While overseas she fell into a role at the Inns of Court School of Law in central London. The dean called her into her office one day, which made her think she was in trouble. However, she wasn’t, instead she offered Judy a position as the schools careers advisor/counsellor. Judy accepted the job and absolutely loved it. The Inns of Court put her through formal counselling training at the University of London. This was a catalyst for her growing love of careers, guidance and wellbeing of people.

“I feel very fortunate that I fell into that track at the age of 27 and have followed that journey the whole way through. I’ve loved every minute of it. “

Judy got married in the United Kingdom and returned home to New Zealand after five years. She was offered a role at Unitec as the employment advisor, a position she held for five years.

With a love of the country, having grown up in Ngatamahine near Piopio, she wanted to move out of town to raise her kids, which led to a shift for her family to Tuakau in rural South Auckland/North Waikato.

While in Tuakau, her son and daughter were born and Judy spent 12 years doing contract work for Career Services Rapuara, Work and Income, including working with ex-prisoners. She ran parenting classes for students at risk for Plunket and was the careers advisor at Tuakau College and the Apostolic Training Centre in Pukekohe.  She was heavily involved in the community and took up roles on the Plunket committee and became President of Harrisville School PTA. She enjoyed the variety.

In 2009 she applied for the PDM role for the Chiefs and Waikato and got it. She maintained the dual roles until the union and the franchise split the position in 2016.

“As time has progressed the changes in the programme have become evident. It has become far more professional, far more valued and accepted with some players actively driving their own personal development, which is the ideal outcome.

“I have always wanted players to not be treated as a piece of meat. I want them to leave feeling that rugby, including the Personal Development Programme, has added a lot of value to their lives.”

Player personal achievements have been special to Judy and she takes great joy out of seeing the players grow, with many becoming husbands and fathers, and coming back to share their journeys. She said Stephen Donald was a highlight as he started his degree and then 10 years later finally finished it, which is a huge accomplishment while being fully engaged as a professional athlete.

“I feel extremely proud of Beaver’s achievement. I felt I made a difference. For me it was never about the rugby, it has always been about the person. I have shown I care about the person and have encouraged them to develop as people in any way they can in their own right.

“Now that I am setting up my own business I am grateful for the support I am getting from the relationships I have built up through my time in rugby.

“I want to sincerely thank Chiefs Rugby, Waikato RU, NZRPA and NZR for the opportunity and support and for embracing me in their environments. I would like to thank the players. They have been an absolute highlight.”

Judy also wanted to acknowledge the Personal Development Managers that she has worked with: “We have an incredible, passionate group of PDMs in New Zealand and I will miss them dearly. I think they are under-valued and under-utilised but hopefully that is turning.”

Chiefs and All Blacks player Damian McKenzie, who started at the Waikato Academy with Judy as his PDM, summed her up well: “Judy is a wonderful woman who is always looking to help others before herself. She will be sorely missed.”

Judy’s successor will be Lloyd Elisara. The father of four hails from a background in the youth education sector and has a Bachelor of Arts in law and education and a diploma in teaching. He is currently completing a post-graduate diploma in counselling.


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