Ben John has been assisting Swansea University’s preparations for this week’s big Welsh Varsity clash against Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium while sidelined from Ospreys action through injury.
The 23-year old, who is qualified to Level Two standard, has been working with the University’s coaching team over the last two months as they build up to the annual showpiece fixture, looking to make it four wins from the last five.
It’s the latest experience for the aspiring coach who has previously led the U16 team at his club of origin, Loughor, and was defence coach for the title winning Ospreys West U16s team this season.
He is providing practical experience of top level rugby to both the players and coaching team at the University, and he says it’s an experience he’s enjoying despite having to set his alarm clock extra early for some long days.
“I’ve been coaching for the last couple years, just trying to get some experience and to give me something to do away from work” he explained.
“Speaking to the guys I knew they didn’t have a backs coach so I just asked about getting involved and they were happy for to me help ahead of Varsity.
“It’s early mornings twice a week, a seven o’clock start down on Sketty Lane, before coming into training for the day. It makes it a long day, particularly when I was with the U16s in the evening as well. It’s not much of a sacrifice to make though as I’m in a pretty fortunate position as a rugby player so I’m happy to be able to help where I can.
“Varsity is a big game so it’s a great experience to be a part of it, to be involved in some way.”
John revealed that the trials and tribulations coaching with the University team ahead of such a big game has been something of an eye opener for him, giving him a fresh view of how rugby works.
“It’s not just about coaching them on the training field” he continued.
“You have to deal with the emotions, and with players who haven’t been picked or whatever. That side of thing is different to what I’m used to as a coach. With the U16s they want to be there regardless and there’s a different enthusiasm. In this role you have to learn to handle people’s disappointment.
“It gives you a different insight and make you look at things that happen day-to-day in the Ospreys environment differently, how you interact with the coaches. You understand things better maybe.”
The University’s Head Coach, Richard Lancaster, welcomed John’s assistance, and paid tribute to the Ospreys’ commitment to their cause. He said:
“Ben has been a considerable asset to us through the second half of the season leading into the game. Credit is due to Ben as taking on a commitment like this on top of a full time rugby career is no mean feat. The enthusiasm and expertise that he contributes have made a massive impact on the group.
“The Ospreys have always been big supporters of the Welsh Varsity and this year we have the like of Nicky Thomas, Ashley Evans, Rory Thornton and Matthew Jenkins all available for selection. The coaching group at the Ospreys have also been supportive with Steve Tandy, Gruff Rees and Alun Wyn Jones all having delivered some sessions in previous years.”
The game won’t be John’s first taste of the Varsity as he was a face in the crowd at last year’s clash, which was won by Swansea 21-13. It left a big impression on him, and he is anticipating an evening to remember next Wednesday.
“I’m really looking forward to the game” he said.
“I was there last year as a spectator but this will be different. It’s a huge game, there’ll be 20,000 or more people watching. It’s loud, there’s a big atmosphere, and for some of the players this will be the biggest rugby experience they’ll have so it means everything to them.
“I’ve played plenty of rugby matches in my time, but this is the biggest game I’ve been involved in as a coach. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Tickets for Welsh Varsity 2014 are now on sale priced at £12.50 for students and £15 for non-students.
Swansea Students: Buy tickets online or from the Fulton Outfitter Store.
Non-students: Tickets on sale at ticketlineuk.com, via the Ticketline Hotline 029 2023 0130 or from TickelineUK Ltd, 47 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1TL