Dr Robin McConnell has established an international reputation in the fields of sport, coaching, sports development, leadership and, particularly leadership development and sport leadership. After a background in education, including principalships and being an Adviser to Schools he was appointed as an Inspector of Schools. This included responsibility for the oversight of school leadership in some 300 schools. He joined the staff of the University of Waikato in 1990, where he introduced the first paper on sport leadership.
In 1994 Robin McConnell was appointed as the first Senior Lecturer in Sport Management and Coaching at New Zealand's Massey University Albany campus, teaching sport coaching and leadership at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
His doctorate on elite team leadership was the first doctorate to obtain first-hand research data on an international team’s leadership and the first doctoral study of elite rugby leadership, coaching and captaincy. The doctorate was based upon four years with the All Blacks and Robin McConnell is still the only outsider or researcher to be so included by an elite international team.
The doctorate findings have been used overseas and led to the publication of Robin McConnell’s books Inside the All Blacks and The Successful Coach. The former ran into three editions and the latter was sold out. Following the doctoral study, Dr McConnell was frequently asked to act as a consultant or presenter on leadership and team development with a range of business, sport and public service bodies.
In 2000 he accepted the position as New Zealand’s first Professor of Sport at UNITEC, Auckland, and as Head of the School of Sport Studies. From that position he was asked to take up the High Performance Manager role of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, which he left in late 2002 to support his wife who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
In his senior NZRFU rugby management role he had responsibility for coach development, coaching resources, research and development, high performance referees, the adidas Institute of Rugby and professional coaches. The Manager of High Performance Referees and the Manager of National Player Development were responsible to Dr McConnell. He had already established credibility with All Black and provincial coaches prior to his appointment and worked closely with them in the High Performance role, including sitting on selection panels.
Following his wife’s recovery from her serious illness, Robin McConnell moved to the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. His reputation, which had already led to a number of international presentations, resulted in his being asked to work closely on team leadership with leading Gaelic Football coaches (the major team sport in Ireland) and with the Irish Rugby Football Union. He also was a media guest and invitee on a major media panel. Following his wife contracting leukemia in Europe, he returned with her to New Zealand. After treatment in 2004-5 Puna McConnell was in remission but became terminally ill in 2006 and died late in 2007.
From 2009 to 2011 Dr McConnell was on the staff of the National Institute of Sports Studies, in the Faculty of Health, University of Canberra. His major responsibilities were in the development of post graduate qualifications in leadership, sport and media, event management and working with community and sport organisations.
He is presently a writer in a range of genre and a consultant on team leadership.
- Taua of Kareponia: Leader from the North.
- Inside the All Blacks.
- Laurie Mains (co authored)
- Iceman: The Michael Jones story
- Nothing is as Physical as a Poem
- The Successful Coach
Dr McConnell has contributed to many publications, conferences and workshops, also authoring entries on leadership and sport leadership for encyclopaedias.