As the Ospreys prepare for back to back LV= Cup fixtures against Newport Gwent Dragons and Harlequins that will provide a chance to shine for a number of up and coming young players, the competition will once again see the next generation of coaching talent from the region also given an opportunity to gain invaluable experience at the cutting edge of first class professional rugby.
Dan Griffiths, who oversees the Ospreys age-grade programme at Llandarcy in his current day-to-day role of Elite Youth Performance Manager, is stepping up from his coaching duties as Backs Coach at Bridgend Ravens in the Premiership to overshadow his senior counterpart at the region, Gruff Rees.
The former Ravens fly-half has been handed the opportunity as part of the region’s forward thinking coach development programme, following in the footsteps of Rees himself and current Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy, both of whom have benefited from stepping up to undertake LV= Cup duties earlier in their coaching careers.
The aim of the coach development pathway is to help to create a sustainable region on and off the pitch, by affording coaches on the pathway the opportunity to expand their knowledge through ‘on the job’ training alongside their more experienced counterparts.
After spending this week assisting Rees and Tandy prepare for Saturday’s Welsh derby at Rodney Parade and next week’s game against Harlequins at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field, Griffiths described the experience as ‘a fantastic opportunity’.
Talking about his day-to- day role during this two-week period, he said:
“I’m mainly assisting Gruff with the backs. There’s a lot of observation, going through the detail on the opposition, doing the analysis and feeding back to the coaches, cutting clips and preparing for the briefings.
“On the field, I’m just assisting with some of the technical delivery, the drills, and like this morning, Gruff focused on the back three players and I worked with the midfield players and half-backs. I’m a helping hand, but the benefit to me is being in the senior environment, learning off the senior coaches.
“It’s ideal for me. I can learn at my own pace, but at the same time make a genuine contribution. It’s something that as a young coach is a fantastic opportunity.”
Griffiths acknowledged that Rees and Tandy are the perfect examples of the Ospreys coach development pathway in operation, as he paid tribute to the structures in place at the region.
“It’s still early days in my coaching career”he said.
“But, I’m fortunate enough to be on what is proven to be an excellent development pathway for young coaches in the Ospreys structure.
“I’m hoping to do the same as the likes of Gruff and Steve before me really, use it as a learning experience, take things back to the Premiership with me to integrate into my own players at Bridgend, and to identify things that will help me in my day-to-day job within the age-grade structure here. It’s about education and looking to develop my own coaching skills.
“I see this as genuine proof that the system here is working really well. If you are doing well somewhere in Ospreylia, as a player or a coach, then there will be opportunities to develop within regional rugby.
“As a player or a coach, if you are dedicated at what you do, if you work hard, there is an opportunity at the end of it. There is a reward if you show the right aptitude. It’s a new pathway for me, and any opportunity I can get involved in I’ll gratefully accept.
“You learn something everyday in this environment, there’s a great group of ambitious, quality coaches who are happy to integrate you into the team and help you develop. I don’t think I could be in a better environment really, with that mindset, and the Ospreys coach development pathway in place.
“Coming on board a few years ago as a player at Bridgend and working with the C group, I’ve been given some great opportunities, and know I’m able to learn from the senior coaches working with the first team. I’m really enjoying being in this environment.”
As he highlighted Griffiths’ suitability to take the next step on the pathway, Chiefs Operations Officer, Andrew Hore, took the opportunity to re-emphasise the region’s commitment to coach development:
“I can’t emphasise enough how important to our future development from within is. Developing home grown talent on and off the field is crucial to the long-term, sustainable success of the Ospreys, and that is why the board have increased their investment into the development pathway by 400 per cent.
“As we say at the Ospreys, better coaches equal better players, and if we can use opportunities and initiatives like this to improve those coaches operating just below senior level, then the benefits are clear. Steve and Gruff are just two fantastic examples of young coaches developed on our pathway who have stepped up previously in this competition and used it as a springboard to really kick-on.
“Dan has shown in his work within our age-grade structure and with Bridgend that he has the potential to follow in their footsteps, and we hope that he finds these two weeks beneficial to his personal development, experiencing the pressures that come at the top end of the professional game.”
With a large number of the young players involved during this fortnight already well known to Griffiths, either through the Premiership or age-grade rugby, he says that he hopes his presence during this period will help the ongoing development of those coming into the team
“From a development perspective, you’ve got B and C group players that I’ve worked with over the last couple of years, and Premiership players coming in as well, and there’s a good flow to things”said Griffiths.
“I’ve obviously known the boys who’ve come through on the pathway for a few years and we’ve got a good player/coach relationship so obviously it makes the transition easier all round, that there is somebody on the coaching team who the boys already know.
“Likewise, with the relationship we have between Bridgend and the region it helps to have boys coming through who know how the Ospreys want to play and what is expected from them when they step up. We carry the same philosophies in what we do.
“It fits in perfectly really. In my role I’ve got an overview of all areas on the player pathway, from boys coming through the age-grade and college rugby, from a Premiership perspective as well with boys who may never have been recognised in the system before, it ties it all together into senior rugby.
“Everyone I work with all has the same aim of getting into that Ospreys shirt, no matter where they are from. They are all striving to achieve the same thing, and that’s to make the Ospreys as strong as possible, whether that’s on the field or administratively.”
“Our commitment isn’t just to developing coaches at the top end of the game though.
“We have a coach development pathway that is well established, and initiatives such as allowing age-grade and district coaching teams to shadow our senior coaching team through the whole match process, preparation, game day and review are really helping to grow coaches at the levels just below senior rugby.
“In addition, our award winning Coach Development team continues to set the standards when it comes to increasing both the number and the quality of coaches operating within the community game.”