New development programme for age-grade

Ospreys age-grade coaches Phil John and Ioan Cunningham are the first to take part in a new initiative that has seen them shadowing the senior coaches at the region in the build up to, during, and after a big match.

The duo, who are Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the Under-18 side, enjoyed complete access to the senior set-up for the weekend of the recent Heineken Cup tie with Viadana, sitting in on selection meetings, player briefings and training sessions ahead of the game, shadowing the coaching team on the day of the match including being present at the pre-match briefing, half-time and the post-match meeting at the dressing room as well sitting with the coaching team during the tie itself to witness the extent of the ‘in-game’ analysis that is carried out. They then followed this up by sitting in on the post-match review meeting the day after the game, where the coaches carry out an in-depth inquest into what went right and wrong on the pitch, before having access to player debriefs.

The initiative is part of the new coaching development pathway instigated at the region and is overseen by Regional Performance Development Manager, Andrew Millward, and is integral to the whole ‘development from within’ ethos in place at the Ospreys. Speaking about the programme, Millward said:

“This is a new initiative that will see our age-grade coaches gain invaluable experience of life at the elite end of the game. The idea is that they work with the senior coaches in the build up to a particular game.

“They’ll come in the day before a game for match preparation day, to go through the mindset process and the final preparation. On game day they will shadow the coaches, and then in the days that follow, they will go through the full review process which will see them pull the performances to pieces, good and bad aspects. Afterwards it’s all about the ‘next step’, and how the analysis and review is used and feedback through the players.

“The debrief, the post-match review, is probably the most important part. A good coaching is always reviewing operations, looking to identify what works and what doesn’t, and making the changes to the processes that are needed. You need to understand what work and what didn’t, and why.

 “The whole process is about giving these coaches a real insight and understanding of the workload of the senior coaches, how they operate on a daily basis and to ensure the same flavour runs through to the age-grade set-up. What is important is that it can help to bring real consistency across the organisation when it comes to the match environment.

“I’m sure that a lot of people think there’s a magic formula that elite coaches follow, but that’s not really the case. It’s about knowing what the basics are and making sure they are done very well. It’s about attention to detail, and the coaches who will take part in this initiative will see this for themselves by watching our senior coaches operating at the sharp edge of the game.”

With Phil and Ioan being the first to take part in the initiative, Millward said that they will be followed throughout the rest of the season, and beyond, by other coaches from within the age-grade set-up:

“We’ve started by using the U18 coaches, and allowing them the opportunity to take a closer look at what the senior coaching team is doing. It will be rolled out over the coming months to include other coaches involved within the elite development arm of the organisation, who are coming through the system and working with our younger players.

“There is a bigger picture here, we aren’t just talking about one or two coaches coming in for a nice experience. We want to ensure the ongoing development of all coaches involved with the region and this is just one way in which we are facilitating this. By involving age-grade coaches in this way, we hope to ensure that key concepts in our game at elite level will trickle down through the levels when they work with their age-grade side, ensuring that when these young men arrive in the senior environment to play, it will be second nature to them.

“Everyone invited to take part in this will need to provide feedback to the senior coaches about the experience, and about the Ospreys ethos, which will also be a record of what they have learnt that they can take back to their coaching sessions on a Monday evening. With our strong belief in developing from within, the ideal situation in the long term will see these guys progressing through the ranks at the Ospreys over the coming seasons, with another generation of young coaches coming up behind them who will then get the chance to shadow the senior coaches of tomorrow and the whole situation will become self perpetuating. If we can achieve that, then we will be a big step down the road to creating long term, sustainable success for the region.”

Ioan Cunningham added:

“It was a fantastic experience, one that both Phil and myself consider ourselves privileged to have been given the opportunity to have. To be given access to the senior coaches in this way is a pretty unique experience, and despite the experience that we have in the game as players and coaches, it was eye opening to see the level of attention to detail that is involved at the elite end of the game.

“The set-up at the Ospreys now is geared towards development from within, be it players or coaches. By inviting coaches like Phil and myself into the senior environment to shadow the coaching team, it allows us to get a real insight into what is needed to operate at that level. As well as that, it ensures that we go back to our own roles with the Under-18’s with a clearer picture of what Scott Johnson, Sean Holley and Jonathan Humphreys are doing, along with the rest of their coaching team, and how we can ensure that we bring consistency to the organisation, in terms of how we operate at our level, which is feeding players through to the senior set-up.

“Development from within is all about providing opportunities for people in the organisation to improve their skills, and to in turn, use their ability to help improve others. The senior coaching team have clearly bought into that concept, and by involving us in this way they are showing that. We certainly feel that we have benefited hugely from the experience, and the players and coaches we work with at Under-18 level will also gain from what we have learnt, which is how it should be. This is an excellent initiative, that will bring long term benefits to the Ospreys.”