The Ospreys are set for a coaching reshuffle during the build-up to Friday's LV= Cup clash with Newport Gwent Dragons, with Jonathan Humphreys stepping up to take the reins as Head Coach for the week.
The new-look coaching team will also see Filo Tiatia being handed the responsibilities of Forwards Coach, with Skills Coach Gruff Rees taking the role of Backs Coach ahead of the game, with current Head Coach Sean Holley being temporarily elevated to Director of Coaching.
The job swap comes as part of the Ospreys forward thinking coach development programme, which is aimed at creating a long lasting legacy that will help to create a sustainable region on and off the pitch.
Humphreys has already begun his stint as Head Coach by leading a number of session planning meetings with his colleagues, but the real step-up comes this week in the build-up to the Welsh derby when he will take full responsibility for team, leading training sessions ahead of the match with the assistance of Tiatia and Rees, before he takes charge on the day of the game itself.
Speaking about the experience, Humphreys said:
“It’s a chance for me to head things up in a live environment with Filo and Gruff, and it’s going to be an opportunity for the three of us to go outside of our normal fields of responsibility, to step outside of the comfort zone. I’m looking forward to stepping up to the challenge and taking a wider view of things, moving away from the set-piece area to look at the bigger picture in terms of the Ospreys game.
“Organisationally, it’s going to be tough. It’s not a dead week, as we have a competitive Welsh derby at the end of it, and everything will have to be carried out as normal to ensure that preparations for the game don’t suffer in anyway, so the pressure is really on. I have to learn new things and really hit the ground running when it comes to the day-to-day responsibilities of what Sean usually has to do during the week but it’s going to be an exciting week, for me personally and for Filo and Gruff as well, who will also have to take a step into new territory.”
Humphreys says that the coaching development pathway is an important element of the ongoing work at the region to create a stronger rugby environment, and that by allowing senior coaches to gain these new experiences, the Ospreys are safeguarding the future. He added:
“Everybody who goes down the path of a coaching career will have aspirations of being a Head Coach eventually I’d imagine. It’s important to have that ambition. But, with that, comes a level of expertise and experience, which can be very difficult to come by. It’s certainly not something that you can just learn from a textbook, you have to get your hands dirty on the job, so to speak.
“I’m grateful to the Ospreys for giving me this opportunity. Horie backed myself and Sean last year at a time when a lot of people may have gone out there and opted for someone with more experience, as he believes that development from within is the way forward for the region. He’s been true to his word, and this is an example of how he is allowing us to continue developing on the job, encouraging all the coaches employed by the region to learn new skills. In the long term, by giving us these experiences, he is allowing us to become better coaches and that has to be good for the organisation. It’s what is happening throughout the Ospreys, there’s a coach development strategy that runs right the way down the age-grade teams, the Districts and the Clubs, and it can only be a benefit for everyone involved.
“It would be very easy for the top man to protect his secrets and say ‘this is my domain’, but long term that would be detrimental. Johnno isn’t like that at all, he is happy to share things, happy to talk through issues, and with Horie, he will be taking an overview of how this next week goes and then feeding back to us. It would be easy for the people at the top to feel threatened, but you can’t threaten someone like Johnno. He’s been there, done it, so to speak, he must have about 50 years of experience behind him by now!
“This is completely what this organisation is about. It’s a very open management structure, there’s no question of stepping on anybody’s toes or taking responsibility off them. I’m sure it won’t be the last time that we are able to try something like this, which will be an invaluable experience that will help to build a stronger coaching team all round.”
According to Andrew Hore, the activities this week are just the latest examples of the Ospreys commitment to development from within:
“We have made a long-term commitment to develop the best talent from within the region, and that counts for coaches as well as players. There are a number of initiatives already in place, such as ORCA, a discussion group for all Level 3 coaches and above in the region, the popular Coaching Seminars that take place across the region, and a new programme which has allowed our age-grade coaches to shadow the senior coaching team on and around matchday to get a real taste of like at the sharp end.
“It’s important that we don’t neglect the development needs of our more senior coaches, which is why we are implementing this initiative. There has been a lot spoken about the LV= Cup being a great tool for the development of our younger players who will be getting some valuable exposure to this level of rugby, but the same is true about our coaches. These guys have been working hard in our elite development pathway which is very different to any other club or region in Wales, and deserve the opportunity to step up for this week.”
“For Sean, who will be stepping into Scott Johnson’s shoes, Jonathan, Filo and Gruff, this will be a fantastic opportunity to really get their teeth into new roles, albeit temporarily, allowing them to see for themselves exactly what areas they need to work on before they are ready for that next step up. For us to create long-term sustainable success at the region, we have to work hard to ensure that everybody in the organisation is afforded the opportunity to develop fully, and this is just one step towards that.
“It is quite clear that if we can produce a better standard of coach then, in turn, we will produce a better standard of player.”