Former Swansea and Wales fullback Kevin Morgan has been handed the opportunity to carve out a post-playing career as a Conditioning Coach after joining the Ospreys elite player development set-up.
Morgan, who has this season been combining playing and the role of Conditioning Coach for Neath in the Premiership will continue with those roles, while spending time assisting Ospreys Academy Conditioning Coach Keith Hollifield, working with the leading teenage players in the region as they look to establish themselves at the Ospreys.
32-year-old Morgan enjoyed a successful playing career, the highlight of which saw him score three tries during the Welsh Grand Slam success in 2005. Capped 48 times, he spent five years as an All-White, and also played for Pontypridd and Celtic Warriors.
The bulk of his time with the Ospreys will see him working closely with the ‘C’ group of players at the region, the 16-19 year olds who spend two hours at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport each weekday morning prior to attending college for the day. A key part of his role though will see him spending twice weekly sessions with an elite group of under-16 players who are being prepared for potential entry to the ‘C’ group for next season.
Speaking about his role with the Ospreys, Morgan said that he is enjoying the experience and helping prepare the next generation of Ospreys. He commented:
“I’m extremely grateful to the Ospreys for giving me this opportunity to get some valuable experience of the conditioning side of things at the region, hopefully this will allow me to develop and grow as a coach. I’ve been involved for a little while now and I’m really enjoying being able to assist Keith Hollifield and helping to prepare these young players for a future in rugby by passing over some of the knowledge I have. I’ve been a professional rugby player for 12 or 13 years so I understand the ups and downs of rugby, and I can understand when players will come to me saying that they are struggling in certain areas, because that will happen, trust me. As well as managing their conditioning work, it’s about managing the person.
“Most of my time is spent with the boys in the Academy, I’m with them most of the week for their fitness sessions and weights sessions, helping out. What I’m really enjoying is the work that I’m doing with the group of under-16’s. We train twice a week, on Monday and Thursday and there’s a group of sixteen boys that I’m teaching how to weight-lift properly. I’m taking them through all the Olympic lifts, how to perform them properly, in preparation for when some of them will step up into the Ospreys Academy next year.
“Basically, we’re investing some time with them now, so that when they come into the set-up next year they’ll be a step ahead and we won’t have to spend three or four months teaching them how to do a snatch, or a squat, or power cleans, things like that, the basics. Their conditioning will be that much better when they step up because of the work we’ve done. Also, they will have things like technique, and the knowledge, already ingrained in them, and when Keith starts working with them he can just concentrate on improving the strength and power in the lifts.”
Having had a career-long interest in conditioning thanks to the efforts of a former school rugby coach, Morgan says that it is over the last few years that he has made a commitment to a long term future as a conditioning coach, thanks in part to the influence of Andrew Hore, now Elite Performance Director at the Ospreys:
“As a teenager, I got involved with a school rugby teacher, Brian Lease, who actually took the time to teach us about how important conditioning would in the modern day game. He taught us the reasons for training, it wasn’t just training for trainings sake, it was specific about how different types of training would improve you in certain ways. At a young age, he got me interested in the physical side, and how he thought it would become ever more important, which it did. Like I said, all the way through my rugby career I always had an interest and wanted to know why we were doing things in training, how was it going to improve us and what would the benefits to me be?
“It’s a move I’ve been thinking about for probably the last five years or so to be honest. Funnily enough, the first thoughts I had about it were after working with Andrew Hore when he was part of the WRU set-up. I had a few conversations with him and he got me thinking about the future and what my plans were. I’d always had a real interest in the conditioning side of things, and with that in mind, I took my Masters in Physiology at University of Glamorgan, which I passed at the beginning of last year. Basically, I needed to get some knowledge of the physiological side of training, and the Masters gave me that.
“I then spent time thinking about how could I move on from there and get some practical experience. After finishing with the Dragons, I still wanted to carry on playing for a bit longer. I had a bad season last year when I snapped my Achilles and I didn’t want to end that way, so the opportunity to play for Neath and pick up some experience by combining playing with the conditioning role was a welcome one. I’ve been really enjoying my time at Neath, working with a squad of players and taking responsibility for putting together their strength and conditioning programme for the season.
“Through speaking to Andrew Hore, it became clear that there was an opening with the Ospreys, which I jumped at. To be honest, I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to start off on the conditioning coach ladder, and with the Neath role ongoing, it will give me a great grounding.”
According to Hore himself, Morgan’s involvement within the age-grade set-up at the Ospreys is further evidence of the commitment that the region has in developing the best Welsh talent, on and off the field. He said:
“We make no secret of the fact that we are one hundred per cent committed to identifying and developing the best Welsh talent, be that players, coaches or administrators. I’ve known Kevin for a number for years now, back to my days working with the Wales squad when he was a player, and his interest in and knowledge of conditioning matters was obvious even then. I felt that he definitely had a future going down that avenue, and I’m delighted to see that as he now makes the transition from player to coach, this is the route that he has taken.
“At the Ospreys, our belief is that by developing better coaches we will, in turn, develop better players. Kevin has an awful lot to offer the set-up, and he has a bright future as a conditioning coach ahead of him. We have placed a great deal of importance on getting a first class strength and conditioning team in place at the region, headed up by one of the world’s leading sports conditioning experts in Mark Bennett. By adding Kevin to the team, we are both strengthening the existing set-up, and continuing to put our faith in up and coming Welsh talent, which can only be a good thing for the long term future of both the Ospreys and Welsh rugby in general.”