Tom Page, coach in the Soth West, details the ups, downs and lessons learned in his first term as a RugbyWorks Coach. 

A new job always comes with an exciting yet daunting start. You’ve learnt the role, matched the specifications, signed the contract, but haven’t been presented with the opportunity to prove yourself yet. 

I remember approaching the first week of live delivery thinking to myself mainly positive thoughts, but, also considering the lengths at which I could be tested. These moments call for a time of reflection and remembering why you put yourself forward for the job in the first place, for me, it was simple. I remembered being let down a lot as a kid by teachers and rugby coaches who weren’t passionate about what they were doing, a feeling which I never wanted another young person to have. This led to one outcome, and one outcome only, that I needed to not consider the ‘what if’s’ and just back myself, giving the job 100% and taking each challenge one step at a time. 

‘A coach’s biggest strength isn’t having a session memorised and written down, but rather having the ability to adapt to all circumstances’

Getting started.

The first week of the job was filled with positives with the introductions to the young people having gone well, connections with the staff in each school were successfully made and the feeling of satisfaction from a great week of coaching was left at the end. However, with success there are always more lessons to be learned. 

During the lead up to the first week, hours had been spent in coffee shops planning out activities and timings, whilst drawing oddly shaped diagrams of how these sessions were going to look. However, by the end of the first week not one session plan had been accurate in terms of what had been achieved and the timings they were achieved in. 

For a new coach this left a feeling of confusion, it had always been a belief that planning was key and as the saying goes, ‘if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail’, leaving me with one question, ‘why has this not worked?’. 

Upon seeking the advice from a fellow RugbyWorks coach who had a years’ experience in the company already, I was given the advice that a coach’s biggest strength isn’t having a session memorised and written down, but rather, having the ability to adapt to all circumstances. A conversation which soon assisted in dissolving any final provoking ideas about failure in starting the job. It was also made clear to me that help was only an email/phone call away and that the network of people with the knowledge and experience who were willing to offer advice was vast, leaving me in a lucky position and at a great advantage. 

The First Speed Bump.

As the weeks went on, the young people’s engagement continued to sit at an all-time high, with the majority loving everything we had to throw at them and always giving great feedback, this meant of course it was time for a problem to occur, or as we liked to call it our first speed bump. 

The first speed bump came at one of the more successful schools. We arrived with excitement and views of another perfect session but were met with a group of young people different to the ones we had coached previously. With no interest in rugby, us, or confidence in their own abilities to try something new we were taken aback. This was, of course, something we had planned for, but perhaps were not expecting so soon. 

After pushing through a session which had little up’s but many downs, the time to reflect upon our sessions had approached us. This reflection started with many questions being asked, was it that we were bad coaches? Had we not done our jobs correctly? Or was it simply that we needed to revise our strategy and attempt it with the same positivity again.

It was of course not that we had done anything wrong and not that we were bad coaches, but, more that we needed to understand the young people in this cohort and adapt to their needs rather than assuming they were the same as other groups we were coaching. Again, another learning curve, as the understanding that not all our groups would be the same became clearer and the lesson that we had to be smarter in the way we delivered was learned. 

Seeking help in familiar places.

Around week 4, I started to feel the most confident I had felt whilst working as a new coach. I was up to date on my admin with clear visions of what needed doing every time I left a session, our coaching in schools had taken a large step and become more game specific and I finally had no doubts about what was expected of me. This feeling of positivity was soon to come to a standstill, when a teacher inside one of our cohorts pulled me and my partner aside for a chat regarding a few of our young people. The chat started with the teacher telling us about certain situations that our young people had been living in and the circumstances they were about to deal with, a conversation which led my mind to flood with questions regarding, what would happen if the young person asked me for advice? Would the advice I give be accurate? Am I the best person to speak to about this? Question after question, worry after worry, it was time to speak to one of my colleagues again. 

The best thing I’ve discovered about RugbyWorks is the support that is always waiting for you. Upon returning home from the session where this had happened, I made a few calls and spoke to a few different coaches just to ask how to approach this situation. I was told, “You can never predict what somebody in a situation like that will want to hear, nor look in a book for answers, the best thing to do is just to be there for that young person and assure them everything will be alright”, advice that would prove to be truthful yet again. 

‘The best thing I’ve discovered about RugbyWorks is the support that is always waiting for you.’

Rest for the kids, reflection for the coaches.

As the term came to an end, it was time to give the young people a chance to regain their energy during half term, allowing us as coaches to sit down and reflect on the last few weeks. On review I would say it was a term full of up’s and downs with many learning curves, however, I don’t believe in ever having a ‘down’ day as a coach, as I believe you can’t grow unless you make mistakes, something which makes being a part of RugbyWorks so special. They accept every coach is human and that every session won’t be perfect, but they importantly promote a close network atmosphere which allows you to learn from your bad days with the constant support, advice, encouragement or even just a friendly face. 


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