How to keep players in love with the game


In this episode, Irish RFU training and education manager, Colin Moran explains how we should be developing coaches who focus on player development. He gives us the top five tips for new coaches and what more experienced coaches might need to unlearn.

In this podcast we discuss

  • The importance of the approach of a coach is more important than their credentials
  • Why the high-performance game needs grassroots and vice versa
  • What new coaches should focus on first
  • What experienced players need to think again about when they take up coaching
  • Why it’s essential to develop a strong network of coaches around each coach
  • The balance of games in coaching technical aspects of rugby

If you are coaching in Ireland and want more information what paths should be taking, there’s loads of support available through the coach departments in your region.

Munster, Leinster, Connacht, Ulster

Here’s a transcript of the full podcast.

Dan:                                            00:18                       Hello and welcome to the rugby coach with. My name is Dan Cottrell. I am very pleased to welcome Colin Moran, who is the Irish Rugby Football Union training and education manager. Welcome to the podcast Colin.

Colin:                                         00:34                       Thanks very much. Then. I’m delighted to be here and I appreciate the invitation.

Dan:                                            00:39                       That’s okay. You may not appreciate it after some of the question!

Colin’s been with the IRFU for 22 years and in his current role for eight years. A bit more about that in the moment. I’m going to try and challenge Colin on a couple of areas which I’m sure people will be interested to hear about in terms of coaches and their roles, and some of the challenges that the national governing bodies have in trying to develop coaches and coach education. So let’s start with you giving us a quick resume, and have how you’ve got to the position you’re in.

Colin:                                         01:26                       Well, prior to working with the IRFU I was a secondary school teacher. I had studied physical education in English in college and was fully set for a career I believed in teaching. It was something I was always interested in right from the start. And then the opportunity came up after about five years of teaching to apply for a rugby development officer position in Munster where I’m from originally. And so I went in no expectation or even really particularly looking for the role. I was quite happy teaching and having been successful in terms of the interview, I actually initially turned it down, because I said I was satisfied in my teaching role and hoping to settle down where I was teaching at the time. And long story short, the opportunity came back around again and this time I took it and I became a rugby development officer in Munster for a number of years.

Colin:                                         02:25                       I then moved to Leinster in a similar position to be close to my now wife. So I ended up moving because of her and was a rugby development officer in the Leinster branch and then was taken on board at national level to look after coach development and the implementation of the coach development program. That role has kind of evolved over the last number of years and now with the appointment of our new head of coach development, in Matthew Wilkie, we have cobbled together a team of provincial coach managers and myself who are basically responsible for the implementation of the IRFU coaching development program.

Dan:                                            03:07                       Now just remind me of Matthew Wilkie’s backgrounds because I’m going to ask you a supplementary question.

Colin:                                         03:16                       So he’s an Australian and he had a lot of experience both in terms of coaching and also coach development in the Australian system. He’d done quite a lot of work with Queensland and came in with a really fresh perspective and a new pair of eyes on what we’re doing. And it just kind of synchronized nicely with some of the conversations we were having with personnel in the IRFU and in across the branches about how we needed to evolve the coach development program to make it a bit more leaner, a bit more simple, a bit more focused on coach needs rather than on the governing body needs, which I think is often the case and Matt came in with no preconceptions and has actually really, really helped us to kind of drive that agenda.

Dan:                                            04:04                       It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your background is in terms of looking after a national governing bodies direction and say coach education. It’s just the suitability of your credentials

Colin:                                         04:19                       Yes. And I actually think even probably more important than the actual credentials is the philosophy and the approach. For me, the danger of somebody coming in from outside, so to speak, is that you can go down one of two ways.  You can go down the way of that: “I’m coming in and everything has to be changed because I’ve got a new idea and forget about what’s gone before”. Or you can kind of immerse yourself in what’s there and gradually with that knowledge start to pick apart some of the things that maybe could be done differently because you don’t have that kind of traditional connection to the program and you start asking smart questions and I think that’s what Matt has done very successfully. In fact, it’s held kind of shone a light for us on things that we could do better and probably should do better. So yeah, I think it’s more so than the credentials it’s that approach and that philosophy. But education is education and if you, if you abide by some key principles of that, then I think you can bring that critical eye to, to wherever you’re working.

Dan:                                            05:23                       Now. If you are an aspiring coach in Ireland and then you look ahead of you and you look at the job opportunities, is there a danger that you think, well, I can only get to a certain level? Because if I go beyond that, then I’m not only up against aspiring Irish coaches, I’m up against coaches from all around the world and maybe because I’m not from Australia or New Zealand, then my opportunities are going to fall away. Is that a fair comment to make?

Colin:                                         05:53                       I think it certainly is a perception there. I’m not sure if it’s entirely factual.  I like the old cliche that, you know, a prophet is never welcomed in their own home and, and certainly we see Irish coaches doing quite well abroad having left to find those opportunities. I think when it comes to the high performance professional game, you have to give it to the decision makers who really are putting their money on the line to get the right person that they’re making those decisions based on what they feel is the best person to fill that role. I think our job in terms of coach development and indigenous coach development is to ensure that there are more people who are able to be part of that pool and to ensure that we provide enough and appropriate development so that those individuals are part of the group for consideration.

Colin:                                         06:49                       I think coach development maybe has failed when people haven’t been developed to a level where they would be considered. That said we don’t have to look too far to find people who are appointed to elite or professional positions who then turn out to be a terrible, terrible appointments and that’s not particularly necessarily in rugby. It’s across all sport. So there is, there is a huge challenge for those people who are making those decisions to balance the competency of that culture and the fit with the team. It isn’t a simple: insert A into B and you get to C. It’s much more complicated than that. So I think our job is to make sure that we have the best cultures that we can produce. And then hopefully then they will fit in with that requirement for whatever that team a appointment might be.

Dan:                                            07:43                       Does this actually show that there is inevitably a disconnect between the high performance game and the grassroots game because when you get to a certain level, whatever you’re going to do as a national governing body in the roles you’re at, you’re never going to be able to produce. Well, not producing. That’s the wrong way of thinking about it. Not going to be in a position to create those coaches who are going to be able to do the high performance. They are in a sense going to create themselves. You’re going to create an environment where they can possibly step up. Actually a coach development shouldn’t see high performance as the end goal anyway. It should be seeing it as a way of creating a great a large pool of capable coaches who can look after the game and keep the game in a good place and if it happens to produce some great coaches, fantastic. If it happens to produce a potential world cup winning team, fantastic. But actually what’s more important is that every Saturday and Sunday, lots of rugby is being played in the right, in the right manner and people are enjoying, to use some cultural approbation, enjoying the craic. And then at the end of it, that’s the job done. It’s not about Ireland winning the Six Nations. It’s about more players from all backgrounds enjoying the game.

Colin:                                         09:22                       Yeah. There’s, there’s a lot to consider in relation to that because I think, first of all, the non-high performance that we call the development or domestic game, it relies on the performance of, of the elite and the professional teams and the international teams to generate the revenue which allows that kind of development to go on. So I mean there should be a very symbiotic relationship between what was considered to be the domestic game and what’s considered to be the professional high performance team because actually they need the domestic throughput of players and coaches and the players and coaches. And the domestic level requires the revenue that those international teams generate from success and sponsorship. So that’s the kind of, that’s the reality in my mind of how we work together.

Dan:                                            10:19                       Can I just jump – that makes a lot of sense. Yet the disconnect continues to work because a developmental program could be kicked into touch for the very reason that the team has two or three poor years and that may be all down to the unfortunate fact that three of the best players are injured. You can’t do anything about that. And they lose more than they win for a variety of reasons. And then suddenly a whole developmental department finds themselves 20, 30, 40 staff short for the next three or four years, not based on fantastic performance in the grassroots and development that purely because of some poor coaching or poor run of results. So, I sense there’s a danger there a though I understand the realities of the cash.

Colin:                                         11:22                       I think there is a danger there. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is to be blunt about it. What I would say is I think evolution applies not just to human beings but also to programs and to any kind of implementation. What works well, continues to work well and things that don’t necessarily work well or at least are seen not to be worthy of continuing in an investment, they are the ones that fall away. I don’t think that it is that the domestic game and that kind of development that happens in clubs and schools and for the vast majority of the participants of the game, that is the reality of the game, it’s not watching the international team or something part of the international team at least that those programs are not going to be completely swept away for the reason that, that I, that I mentioned certain programs might, might fall depending on budgets.

Colin:                                         12:16                       And thankfully I’m not in a position where I have to decide where the money goes in these things. I just have to be responsible for using the budgets that we have and to make sure that they’re kind of focused on where we get the best return. So it is a very challenging balancing act I’m sure for the people who were involved in the financial side of things to decide what can we afford to keep and what can we afford to lose and, even in terms of when there is a lot of money around or there’s a lot of resources in a very successful year, those same decisions have to be made. I think what is a real problem is that when money is available or when budgets are available, that they are spent for the sake of being spent and then we end up with programs that maybe don’t give a lot of return but are seen to be doing something. And I think across the board, every sporting organization has to be very critical and focused on what exactly is this program achieving rather than just saying, look at what we have and, and there must be some measurable impact from that.

Dan:                                            13:27                       What is measuring the impact? What is the return that you, if you have to say if we had one pound or one dollar left to spend, what would be that pound or dollar, or money spent on.

Colin:                                         13:43                       Yeah, well obviously from my perspective that it will be spent on coach development. It would be our objective to ensure that every team has a coach was attended an appropriate coaching course.

Dan:                                            13:55                       I’m going to stop you there. And so just there is a danger there, and I know that you’re going to explain it, just attending is ticking a box and you have to tick boxes for various different things. However, we both know that there’s far more to it than that. So, if that last pound is going to be spent on development, what does that coach development look like? What’s the first thing that coach needs to do or learn to make them a better coach?

Colin:                                         14:27                       I think it’s dependent on the level of the game that that coach has actually been deployed in. We would have a different perspective for each level of the game about what is the primary focus of the coach at that level. And we cater the coaching program specifically for the player. The cliché that I have is that the coach development programs should actually be a player development program in that it focuses on the capacities and the needs of the player at that level of the game rather than necessarily the ambition of the coach to be able to move to a certain level and to need to know more about this and, and whatever. So I think if I had to spend money, obviously I’m going to focus it on coach development, that will be my passion and my interest, but also not just that because I see that that’s where we can get the greatest return if we get it right at the initial coaching stages.

Colin:                                         15:19                       We keep those players in love with the game and we keep the parents involved and we keep the relatives involved and we keep the clubs going. So getting that right is really, really important. Once we have that pool of interested, committed, passionate players and coaches, indeed, then everything else on top of that is, is additional. It’s the sprinkles on top, rather than it being the actual foundation of the whole, of the whole game. So that’s why I would argue very strongly in terms of the focus of investment across programs that good coaches make good players and those good players made the game better for everybody.

Dan:                                            16:05                       Okay. Then, so if you had a batting order of things that a coach new to rugby needs to learn, what would be your top five?

Colin:                                         16:21                       I think primarily they should, because volunteers keep the game alive in all sports they should be confident that they can make a contribution. I think sometimes people are nervous about putting up their hand to help in a club because they feel, well, I don’t have a huge amount of experience or the what could I bring to this? And I would really encourage people who have an inkling to do that, to approach their club and to be confident and giving it a go. So the first thing I would say, and that’s not something that you have to learn, that’s just a step that you have to make. Primarily for new coaches, I think, again, depending on the level, they’ve must make the activities and the training enjoyable for players. It seems so simple, but if we lose sight of the fact, then we lose the players. If they don’t enjoy coming to the training sessions at the club or school, it’s just not going to keep them in the game.

Colin:                                         17:10                       So it’s a brutal truth that a part of our job I think is to be part entertainer as coaches and to make sure that the enjoyment and fun level actually has to be maintained. And I dare say across all levels of the game, even in professional players who were getting paid, they want to be in a challenging, fun atmosphere. It’s just the nature of that fun might be different than say for an eight or a nine year old.

Dan:                                                                                Now that’s quite a lot of pressure on that coach. To try and draw some sort of analogy: There are some people who don’t mind standing up at a wedding because that the best man

Dan:                                            17:50                       speech is supposed to be the entertainment, you don’t have to tell everyone that you love them and you tend to go the other way. Now, there are plenty of others who think that the best man speech is probably one of the worst experiences of their life and despite the fact that the audience is probably ready for a good best man speech, it is very difficult. Now often coaches you are new to rugby haven’t really thought about coaching rugby. They’ve happened to be the dad on the sidelines who’s played a bit of rugby before or the one who hasn’t stepped away for fast enough when someone asks for volunteers, how do you deal with that coach? I mean, some will obviously step up and love it and get it straight away, but I sense from what you said that that confidence is very important. What sort of tips would you give to that more nervous?

Colin:                                         18:46                       Well, again, I would push for engagement with the individuals’ union’s coach development program. Some of it doesn’t have to be formal. I mean there’s quite a lot of information online now and a lot of the unions have a guidance and suggestions and helpful tips or maybe even drills that people can reproduce. A lot of the of the lack of confidence seems to me comes from coaches who come to the game without necessarily a playing background and they feel then will not know anything about the game, but actually coaching for me is not just about content because it has to be more about the approach and I think if you’re a positive and engaged individual who genuinely wants to see young players enjoy the game, even if it’s your own children’s involvement, that goes a long way to actually developing that confidence and actually being successful.

Colin:                                         19:41                       Again, depending on the level, as you move up, you need to have some technical content and expertise to be able to develop because the game demands that level of expertise. But for new coaches coming in, typically they’re going to come into the underage sections. So, certainly in Ireland, we find lots of mums and dads and volunteers involved in our mini rugby program, which goes from six years of age to 12 years of age, so those people might be coming in with good intentions, but they start to feel nervous about how can I work with these with these players when I don’t do anything well. There’s many, many crossovers and other sports, so maybe they like they’ve got experience in in soccer or basketball or something else that they can say, well, here’s a game or here’s an activity or whatever that I can do with these players and that kind of gets their foot in the door so to speak.

Colin:                                         20:33                       However, the best support for these coaches I believe is a mentor, a trusted individual within the club or a friend who’s got that little bit more experience, who, outside of a formal coach development program provides them the support, the impetus, the helping hand to be able to say, well, try this, try this, or here’s a drill, you take this one over now for the last five minutes or here’s a, here’s something that I’ve seen the other guy is doing over in the other pitch. That sharing support I think provides dividends for the players obviously, but also makes a coach, you know, get into the character and the training session and say, that was fun and I’d like to come back next weekend. So that form of support I think is key as well.

Dan:                                            21:17                       I love the idea as a mentor and is something that I’ve talked with Dr Andy Abraham’s about as well. He said one of the things that he found particularly useful when he was starting out coaching is to talk to the coach of the year ahead and say, oh, well what happened there? What did you find worked? What didn’t work? And I think that makes a lot of difference. Now that’s important within the club. How with the limited resources you have, can you sort of create that sort of environment where mentors are more available to these coaches? Because it’s obviously a very good, very powerful.

Colin:                                         21:56                       I actually think it’s key and to be honest, we talk a lot here in the IRFU about the after-sale service. We get great feedback thanks to some great tutors and some good content on a coaching courses. We get hugely positive feedback from coaches who engaged formerly in that course. The challenge for us then I think is to be able to support that coach in the weeks and months thereafter. Some of that I think can be done online and that’s become more and more of an opportunity for coaches to, to feel that they can just get that little bit more information or a little bit of help. But I’ve absolutely no doubt that the most powerful way is to have somebody on their shoulder in the weeks and months after the initial coaching course.

Colin:                                         22:46                       And even in the absence of a formal coaching course for them to be able to have somebody that can ask them a question or give them a bit of advice. How a union can create that environment: I think there’s probably two ways for me. There’s the formal or professional approach, which means that you have development officers who are tasked with supporting those coaches within maybe a geographical region or to use a terrible phrase in business, which I don’t like really using it. It’s seems more appropriate that they have their client list. So they have a list of clients who are rugby coaches across all levels and they tried to provide, whether it be through a phone call or whether it be to face to face or visiting the club, some ongoing impetus to that coaches and some momentum so that the coach feels was the course was fantastic…

Colin:                                         23:41                       …but that was six months ago and haven’t had anything since. They need to feel that they’ve got some someone to pick up the phone to. That’s in terms of the professional staff. Also, we’ve done some very interesting work around developing a community of practice. So, by initially setting up a platform whereby coaches could join a WhatsApp group or even just have a face to face meetings every couple of months with coaches at a similar level within a particular geographical region. Often that has to be set up by the professional staff member initially. But once they pull those things together, those coaches can then, if they have a mind to, they can then share ideas and question each other and get together. And sometimes all it takes is that one person to pull those people together, introduced some, have a few handshakes and next minute, you’ve got people who were five miles apart in two different clubs, but maybe it never actually got to know each other and now they can share their similar experiences. I think that’s really possible at that kind of developmental age. And particularly when coaches realize that they need help from one another or that they need help themselves. And also perhaps the focus is not so much on that cutting edge competition and they see themselves as being part of rugby development rather than being my team against your team, which tends to happen as you obviously as you move up the levels.

Dan:                                            25:11                       Which is a danger that causes more problems than it should actually create solutions because competition provides the excitement, but also some of the problems because coaches are literally at each other’s throats and they don’t want to share, which is a great pity because sometimes club’s fail because they didn’t have enough numbers because a club has taken other players and it becomes them trying to vicariously live their coaching lives and sporting lives through the children, which is always a great pity. So I’m going back to this a batting order and I think I’ve got number one is make it enjoyable and..

Colin:                                         26:01                       …and the confidence, the confidence aspect as well. I guess it’s just something to build into that. Engaging with the development program of the Union I think is a key step. And I’m become more and more convinced than over the last probably 10 years that the approach to coaching, the more that we focus on using games rather than specific technical drills, I’m sure that is the most important thing for coaches at the initial stages to learn. If they see the value and they’re shown the value in terms of developing both the activity, the enjoyment and the understanding of the game and players who are relatively new to it by using games and constraint-based games which basically is setting kind of challenges to the players that those players will find it much more enjoyable as would the coach. That would be my key thing and if I had to, if I had to just have one module on every coaching course and I had to get rid of everything else, the one thing that I would keep would be that games-based approach.

Dan:                                            27:11                       That leads me nicely into the next question. You will get current coaches who have been in rugby for awhile and perhaps they might’ve played to a good level. They come onto courses, so give me a couple of things that you might have to get a current coach to unlearn.

Colin:                                         27:35                       Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. First of all, I think we can’t blame coaches for this. Again, I would have had the respect for people who volunteer to give something back to the game to use that phrase. The challenge I would push back against those coaches is not to use the same approach or in fact even the same activities that you had experienced as a player. A guy who finished their playing career at whatever level it is, come with the physical experience of the training that they’ve done themselves. And I think it’s too easy for them to slip into trying to apply that approach to younger players. So one of the things I would try to get them to forget about is how they were coached, if it is not appropriate to the level of player that are dealing with. So that’s, that’s key for me.

Colin:                                         28:28                       Unfortunately then a lot of the players retire from playing themselves would have been products of that drill, drill, drill, drill based approach, which I think is really quite rapidly losing importance. Based on the fact that the game we’re talking about here in terms of rugby is about understanding and making sense of the kind of chaotic environment of the game. So I think I would encourage them to forget about this idea that you can give players a tackling drill and a passing drill and a rucking drill and a sidestep drill and that somehow those players will put those things together into coherent rugby playing experience. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think the research points to the fact that players in this type of open game learn better by playing the games and that the drills and that kind of focused or reduced approach to technical precision is kept in the back pocket of the coach for when needed.

Colin:                                         29:37                       But we shouldn’t lead with those things because, if a child goes back to their mum or dad after the training session and the parents says, how was your rugby this evening? And they say, well, it was great. I was standing in a line with 10 guys and we each took it in turns to run up and hit a bag, that doesn’t seem to me to be selling the real game of rugby. That would be my advice to those players. I just want to be clear on this stand as well because it’s, I’m always careful when I get into this kind of conversation about drills that people might legitimately throw the accusation that, well, you’re saying you don’t care about technical stuff. I’m absolutely not saying the technical rugby’s not important and players must be able to tackle and must be able to pass and all of those bits and pieces.

Colin:                                         30:27                       What I’m saying is that if their experience of the game is solely or primarily focused on those pieces, putting those pieces together into a meaningful game is much more difficult. So I think that it’s not to say that we shouldn’t be focusing on key factors and we shouldn’t be focusing on how players tackled safely, of course we should, but we have to put it in the context of the game sooner rather than later so that it has meaning for the player within that context because many players will learn how to pass maybe running up and down in a channel and the coach is giving them the key factors of passing and so on. And then when they see them in a game, it’s so wildly removed from their experience of how they learned how to pass that the technique falls apart and goes completely goes out the window. So that’s the balancing act. And I would primarily focus on it, you know, with safety being at the forefront of this. The quicker that a coach can get the players in some form of training that looks like rugby and looks like the real game, the context in which they’re supposed to apply all of this. Then the more I’m better prepared that player is for that game.

Dan:                                            31:41                       That makes sense. I expect to lots of coaches who are listening in realise that balance which is the most one of the most difficult things. I suppose the way that courses you’re running now probably are trying to help find that balance and find that level and when to intervene and when not to intervene. And, of course, the intervention and feedback is a whole different question we could talk about at a later date. But I want to ask you this question, because I’ve worked quite closely with the Welsh Ruby Union and with plenty of guys those roles in England. And now talking to you from the Irish perspective, I know how closely the coaching bodies do work together in the Home nations and you share a lot of resources and I know that you’re good friends and share coaching conferences together, yet each one has their own set of rules for mini and junior rugby or under-aged. How can this be and why do you think you can’t agree on a common set of progressive rules for these plans?

Colin:                                         33:04                       I think it’s interesting for coaches who are listening to this, to who maybe think that Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, France, there are at each other’s throats all the time that we don’t share information. I think it’s worthwhile repeating what you said, that actually when it comes to areas of education and development, we all face very similar challenges and the opportunity that we have to work together either as part of a home unions group which I’m part of what my colleagues in Wales, Scotland and England, at world rugby conferences and so on, that I cannot emphasize enough how important and actually how willing people are to share either ideas or resources or even posed questions to one another. So although we know when it comes to Six nations and when it comes to World Cup, I know I’ll be cheering for, but when it comes to picking somebody’s brain, I’m going to go to those guys who have got similar experiences.

Colin:                                         34:02                       The idea of having a kind of one set of rules is an interesting one. It makes me think about how the game evolves within the ecosystem of the country or the society in which it’s in. Although we have pretty much similar rules across the board in the home unions, those rules and regulations and the game itself have evolved within the context of the society. It may be down to something traditional that’s the way that it’s been done before, it may be down to a reflection of the profile of the game at different levels and what a union has decided is important to focus on. For example, we should grow the female game or we should focus on under tens. Or the stages of development, so at what stage is youth rugby is at in a different country will probably influence how the regulations of that competition and maybe even the rules of the game as they apply to that particular level of the game evolve.

Colin:                                         35:12                       So I don’t think it’s really that strange that different countries, even though they’re playing, nominally the same game, we’d have different regulations because those regulations really are a reflection of how the game has developed and continues to develop in each of those sections. I would hope that sometimes it shouldn’t just hinge perhaps on the decision of one person who’s, because of the particular position that they’re in and says, I think that there should be lifting in the line out at under eights. If it’s down to that one individual will, then we can very quickly get ourselves into things that are not objective. And I think every union and certainly the guys that I’ve worked with in the other unions, they’re focuses on the safety and enjoyment of the players and that the competition be relevant to where those players are coming from at any particular stage or the regulations and so on.

Colin:                                         36:11                       So I think we need to have something that is justifiable for your own context of the game. The difficulty, and hopefully it wouldn’t occur too often, but I have heard that it has happened where even within one country you might have a region that has a different regulation or a different approach to player involvement or even to how the game is run. So, uncontested versus contested or lifting the lineup versus not lifting in the lineup. That’s problematic. Only when those two teams meet together and when the coaches refuse to budge on whether they’re going to allow that to happen. I would hope that common sense will prevail. And actually the game takes place. And what we agree is we agree the safest minimum standard rather than having people who are not prepared to players who are not prepared for certain level or aspects of the game to be forced to participate in that. And I’m not saying that happens, but I’m saying that, when those teams come together, we would hope that the coaches would be able to have a mature conversation and say, look, we only play it like this. And, and we would come up with an agreed standard for that particular game.

Dan:                                            37:25                       To be fair, most of the rules are fairly similar and only in small areas it seems to be that there is much difference. Is that your experience of it.

Colin:                                         37:38                       Yeah, it’s very small. I remember we had some debates some years ago about introducing lifting in the lineup for under 15. I looked across the other unions, had contacted the guys and there was some variation but it wasn’t necessarily that guys were lifting the lineup at under 10. So there was kind of some fairly clear delineation relation to various stages of the game be at mini rugby to youth rugby to adult rugby where there I think where there is greater change or, maybe a disconnect is not so much in the laws of the game but more in the regulations of the competition. And so, people say, well under fourteens we play with a lack of competition. Other guys say, well we play elite competition and our eligibility is when it comes to date of birth. So that’s where I guess it gets a little bit messy and there probably across the board, could be some tightening up of what those regulations are so that we have a unifying code certainly within a country about what the eligibility rules are for participation. I think we’ve achieved that pretty well certainly in Ireland. I’d hope to say we have achieved that across the board

Dan:                                            38:56                       I think there’s lots of difficulty, certainly I know in England and Wales, marrying it up with the schools and private schools and various competitions. I think it is very difficult because of all the traditions that have gone before and the different standards of coaching. So some schools maybe having their pupils with them out on the pitch three, four, five times a week. And that’s completely different to a club side who may have one session a week with them. So you’re trying to put in a set of regulations which apply well to one group to another. And quite rightly that this doesn’t suit them, and these teams aren’t happy how their players progress. And it’s very difficult and it’s not an easy one to square the circle on that.

Colin:                                         39:51                       Yeah, I think it’s very difficult to have a unifying code across the board when the player’s experience of the game is so different as it would be in our, what we call, traditional rugby schools here in Ireland and the club game. Those rugby playing schools have a huge amount of tradition and a massive amount of success in terms of the production of players for high performance and onto our international team. But they’re operating in a different environment in which they may have access to super facilities and to great coaches and to the players who they may be able to get to train three, four, five times a week. The club guy is obviously operating in a completely different environment. So, I think it’s right and proper that each of those strands have got regulations and indeed, an approach that focuses on and serves their particular needs.

Colin:                                         40:50                       I think that’s really important. And then from the national governing body point of view, it’s just a matter of making sure that the boxes are ticked when it comes to the safety and the welfare of the player. And then after everything after that, we’re into splitting hairs. I think that if an organization is responsible for governing the sport within the country and it should have the authority I think to regulate in general terms about what is appropriate and what’s acceptable and whether that be the enforcement of regulations around child protection or Garda vetting as we call it here, which is the police background checks and so on. For coaches, there are certain non-negotiables I would say regardless of the sector in which the sport is operating, but within each sector then you’re going to have differences of approach as you said.

Dan:                                            41:45                       And that’s important because those differences create opportunities. They are creative in themselves and it gives people a chance to breathe. And there’s a lot of talk these days about the fact that children don’t go out and play games for themselves. They have to wait until the parent allows them to do it. That has some non-negotiable important ideas about safety yet isn’t a pity that kids might just go down to the park and play a game and if it happens to be look like rugby, then it looks like rugby and if it looks like it football, okay, and of course, in Ireland, you’ve got some amazing, extremely dangerous sports which have been born out of that sort of experimentation. And I was sensing there’s a danger the national governing body can actually strangle or take away some of that key oxygen which creates new opportunities, creates chances for the coaches to think, think differently. And obviously your international government body and you are keen to let people have their chance. Do you think there’s a danger that there are so many rules and regulations that nobody progresses or they find it difficult to progress because of it?

Colin:                                         43:09                       I think when it comes to coach development, you want to remove as many barriers as possible to people having access to those programs and access to that education. For me it’s, it’s a balance between making it robust and obviously there are certain statutory regulations that you can say, well, we’re not going to do that if it’s the law of the land that people working with children, are vetted appropriately. That’s the law of the land. That’s what we have to apply. What we probably should consider better is apart from the stuff that we have to do is why are we asking coaches to do a, b, c, d, e, f, g as part of their access or as part of their accreditation. Education should be enjoyable and challenging and engaging, but it shouldn’t be off putting.

Colin:                                         44:00                       And that’s something that certainly, again, in Ireland we’re looking at in terms of what we asked coaches to be able to do or what must they do in order to become. I’m officially accredited or even what is the requirement for them to have access to that information. I think we’ve become much more democratic and open in relation to access information because the brutal fact, and I’ve said this to somebody recently and being involved in coach development as I am, a really challenging question for me, is why should a coach attend a coaching course in this day and age where someone can sit down with a cup of coffee and look up tackling drills or scrummaging drills from all over the world and have the video there and even have somebody talking to them. Why should a coach attend the coaching course and when we start to think about it like that, I mean the internet and that accessible information has really changed everything and if we don’t recognize that the challenges that poses, I think we’re going to be stuck way, way back in history.

Colin:                                         45:05                       The answer to the question in my mind is providing those coaching courses. When coaches get together, the educators or the tutors that work with them have the opportunity to leverage the understanding that’s in the room and to provide those face to face challenges, mentoring opportunities, the “q and a” aspect that you don’t get from just watching a video online. So for me, again, it’s about more than the content because I think in every field of education, the content is there, it’s accessible at your fingertips. What is more important for me from coach development point of view is providing those what-if scenarios: How would you cope with this? How would you cope with that? Here’s a scenario like you to try to work your way through. So it’s actually helping and promoting that problem solving approach, trying it, failing, trying again failing and then having a little bit of success. That’s the opportunity we have in those face-to-face coaching counters that you don’t get from a screen. So we, I think we need to be much more realistic about what we are providing, the opportunities we’re providing to coaches who say I’d like to come to that course or workshop.

Dan:                                            46:18                       It’s always said that it is a people business coaching and obviously I’m in the business of helping people, coaches through the Internet and I still recognize, I think we all recognize that, that the inference, the contact you have with other people, they can just tell you something that you didn’t understand by understanding your reasons behind that, your motivations for asking it and also you don’t always know what you’re looking for when you started that. You may ask one question and really you’re asking a completely different question, but because you just don’t know how to pull it together because you’re still trying to make sense of your thoughts in the first place and self-reflection is very important. Yet again, self-reflection is extremely difficult. Now Colin, I know that you are very busy because I’ve managed to squeeze you before in your fly off filming. So just quickly tell me what you’re doing that.

Colin:                                         47:34                       Yes. So there’s been a few changes in the last couple of days, and I know I’ve pulled you. So one of the projects I’m involved in currently is we are filming in conjunction with our medical department, some videos on the graduated return to play protocol post-concussion for coaches. Working with the medical guys, what we’ve come up with is a kind of a card system or like a fold out card for coaches to be able to look at and identifies the return to play protocols on a step-by-step basis. But more so it also is a resource that enables them to see what kind of activities are appropriate. So, for example, where it says our initial wording of those return to play protocols to coaches might be something like, a tackle a 50 percent pace or 50 percent intensity.

Colin:                                         48:32                       Now, what does 50 percent mean? What does it look like? So we’re actually trying to put together some short videos with some of our sevens players, to be able to show a coach this is the kind of activity that we’re talking about to provide them with a little bit more support as opposed to words which may be a little bit vague or open to interpretation. So that’s happening actually tomorrow. It was supposed to be happening today and then it was tomorrow and I know it’s changed around a couple of times because it was based on the availability of the players who are obviously very busy in their own training. So that’s a very interesting a project and also for me it’s an important connection between different departments within, within the IRFU to show that coaching and medical working together or maybe something on strength and conditioning and refereeing. All of these education sectors I think really are across the board,  starting to become more coherent in terms of our messaging because I think that makes sense for the volunteers and the people out in the clubs and schools who get this information from the national governing body. They should feel that it has a coherent message rather than receiving 20 different emails from various departments about, for example, concussion or whatever the kind of the topic is. So that’s an interesting project.

Dan:                                            49:58                       A lot of people will be very interested to see the outcomes in that because that is an important area.  My son this year, got concussed twice and went through all the protocols so it was very interesting to see firsthand how it worked and what they were saying. It was done very well and managed very well by the coaches. They’re will very sensible, which was fantastic to hear. Yet I know plenty of stories where it’s not gone well and there’s been uncertainty and the parents of younger players are obviously concerned about this. So it, it helps do that. But in the end it’s, I think, as you said, pretty much near the start, it’s not necessarily coach but player development, which is very important and the coaches are not just a small part of it, they are a major part of it, but the focus is changing and I think that’s as important. It’s been great to catch up with you because I know you’re very busy so thank you very much for your insights and I hope I didn’t give you anything to nasty to answer.

Colin:                                         51:15                       Not at all and I’m very grateful for your time and I appreciate you accommodating me today as well in the time that was available. So, um, look, thank you very much and wish you all the best and look forward to talking to you again sometime.

Dan:                                            51:28                       Okay. And if a coach, certainly in Ireland, wants to find out more information or to get in touch, what’s, where’s the best place for them to go and say don’t know

Colin:                                         51:41                       The best place for any coach who is into either involved in the game currently or is looking to get involved as a coach would be to contact their local provincial branch in Munster, Leinster, Ulster or Connaught, and to ask to speak to the coach development manager and they’d be able to point them in the right direction then about upcoming courses and so on.

Dan:                                            52:00                       Yeah. And I know how keen across all the governing bodies that coaches or potential coaches do get in touch and then there’ll be pointed in the right direction. So thanks for that. So anyway, thank you everyone else. Thank you for everyone for listening in and I hope you enjoyed Colin had to say. And so the idea is there which backs up some of the ideas we’ve heard from other coaches and it takes us into new areas as well. And how important it is to make coaches better, more able, more energised to get the most out of their training, not just for the players but for themselves as well, and create the opportunities for youngsters to be involved in rugby now and in the future. So I hope you enjoyed the podcast. If you want to find out more, pop over to to catch up on any other podcasts you’ve missed. And thanks again Colin and thank you all for listening and we’ll catch up with you soon.



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