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By Lee Smith, IRB Regional Development Manager Oceania.
Over the years many coaches have attended courses, some have achieved accreditation and even fewer are still coaching rugby now. So often family involvement creates an interest and that interest wanes as the family moves away.
Equally teachers involve themselves in coaching as part of their job. With some obvious exceptions they coach pre teenagers and teenagers with the age of the players ensuring their relative status when they are coaching teams.
In the professional era the tendency has been to identify playing talent at a young age and this talent is cultivated in a hot house as they progress their way to the professional ranks. Coaching this group is also a little unreal. They are young and they are talented and they haven’t got complicated as many teenagers do because of the focus they have on rugby as a career.
But the same is untrue of coaching as those with aspirations eventually have to deal with men from those making up the numbers to prima donna’s, to the physically talented but tactically naive, from the elite athlete to the solid, long term club player who has ground out a number of club seasons just because they like it.
Often teachers have been called men amongst boys and boys amongst men, something I have been accused of myself. So what is the career path for the coach that will ensure longevity in the position? What can be done to save the ex-international coaching far too prematurely from his fate of a series of short terms at one club or another thus becoming itinerant with the resulting disruption of wife and family?
I believe the solution lies in the pathway not just from one qualification to the next but from one team to the next, after all qualifications are of little value framed on the wall. Just like a plumber, nurseryman, lawyer or teacher it is the use you put the qualifications to that is the important thing not just having it.
So the pathway is a pathway along a number of teams finally arriving at an adult team. Best of all this is a club adult team with its huge variation of attitudes, abilities and aspirations. This is a team in which coaching has to compensate for strengths and weaknesses and these can change each game. In addition the season is a grind practicing at least twice a week and unifying the unit dealing with rugby, family, personal and work issues. It is only this environment that offers the rough and tumble of the core of our game that prepares coaches for a career. This can happen too soon. An unpaid job should be the start and coaches have to be careful they don’t get there too soon out of personal ambition and letting their playing status getting them carried away. A long career is one that makes haste slowly and solidly.
I have applied this scenario to coaching however it applies equally well to captaincy. Few learn to lead by leading the best. They don’t need much leadership. But a team of disparate types in all the aspects that make up a rugby player. Captaincy is equally needed to grind out a season with talent you make the most of at the time, one the day. And it could all change next week.