The Lions head of strength and conditioning talks tours, tides and treats
Downtime with… Paul ‘Bobby’ Stridgeon
Since representing England at wrestling in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Paul ‘Bobby’ Stridgeon has become a well-known strength and conditioning coach.
The teams he has worked with include Wasps, Toulon, England and Wales, while he is now on his fourth tour with the British & Irish Lions.
Get to know the entertaining Lions 2021 head of strength and conditioning with this exclusive Q&A…
How did you get the nickname ‘Bobby’?
On my first day at Wasps, 23 August 2002, I ran on with the water and Phil Greening said, “We’ve got our own waterboy”, like Bobby Boucher in the Adam Sandler film.
What do you love most about the Lions?
Just being with the boys, the staff and players. It’s fantastic to meet people you’ve never met before as well as old faces. It’s four unions coming together with one goal, and this one is taking on the world champions in their backyard. It’s a fantastic challenge for us.
So much camaraderie develops quickly. You have to work hard to make people gel and my forte is getting people to talk to each other. I just love being on tour.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on a Lions tour?
In 2009, the boys did a recovery session in the pool. There was a lamppost, so I did the flagpole (held his body perpendicular off the post). But it wasn’t made of metal, it was fibreglass I think, and it snapped. I ended up on the floor and the lads had a great laugh.
What about the best practical joke?
On the 2013 tour, players had to roll the dice if they did something wrong to get a forfeit. Simon Zebo had to call his Munster coach and ask to be captain. The coach, Rob Penney, played it well.
Tell us about the history of the Bobby Cup…
It started at Wasps in 2002. I found a little plastic cup at the training ground and said to Alex King, ‘I’m giving you this as my Player of the Day’. He told me to give it to him during training and I told a few jokes while I did. Then every time we won, I’d do the Bobby Cup and it became a video presentation.
Matt Dawson got me into A Question of Sport once so I filmed something with Sue Barker, and on tour I’ve dressed up as a big lion and done a day in the life of a lion. We include clips of people doing something wrong in training, coaches falling over. It’s a bit of fun.
We’ve started to get celebrities to be part of the announcement. We ask them to film a clip saying, “The winner of the Bobby Cup is…” Two royals have done it for us, David Beckham did our last one with Wales, we’ve had Tom Jones, the Gavin & Stacey guys…
What’s your favourite thing about South Africa?
The steaks and the Shiraz. The steaks are amazing – you don’t get that anywhere else in the world.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
From rugby, James Haskell. He’s brilliant. You could be in there for a day and it would feel like 20 minutes.
Outside rugby, Michael Jordan. I watched The Last Dance and he was the alpha male in that group. When you’re in team sports and understand team dynamics, you see how he drove everyone.
Do you have a karaoke song?
Ice Ice Baby. The first single I ever bought.
Which player has posed the toughest challenge wrestling?
I’ve beaten them all, but who was the toughest? Samson Lee a couple of years ago. It took me a while to beat him. He’s got a low centre of gravity and a strong neck.
If you could be one of the Lions players or coaches, who would it be?
Warren Gatland, because he gets paid the most.
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
I asked Prav (Mathema, physio) this when we went to Jersey for a recce. How long is there between two high tides? He said 12 hours, but then they would be at the same time every day. It’s 12 hours, 24 minutes, 30 seconds.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
That guy from I’m A Celebrity and Coronation Street… Andy Whyment. He sounds like me!
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
When I went to Warrington (rugby league), Ian McGeechan said, “When you go to a new job, make sure you do things your way.”
Sometimes you can get a lot of people telling you what you should be doing but you’ve got to remember to do it your way. Then if you fail, at least you failed doing it your way and you won’t regret it. I’ve followed that advice wherever I’ve gone.
If your house was on fire, what would you save (people and pets are safe)?
Photo albums. These days you don’t keep photos but I’ve got lots from when we were kids, my mum used to do photo books… You can’t get them back.
Your guilty pleasure?
Fish and chips. I live in France and you can’t get it here but my missus has learnt how to make it.
Any surprising hidden talents?
I’m good at identifying different perfumes, male or female, just by smelling.
What three things would you put in Room 101?
I don’t like haters – people who are mean for the sake of it – so I’d put them in there. Salad bars/shops – I don’t like salad! And lager and bitter – I only drink red wine or vodka.
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This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s July 2021 edition.
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