Tim keeping up team spirits

Online courses, quiz nights and three-minute tutorials, the Ospreys are all busy staying safe and keeping active both physically and mentally at home with the help of the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA).

From day one of lockdown Tim Jones, the WRPA Personal Development Manager (PDM) at the Ospreys, began gathering a growing library of resources for players and staff at the region to turn to during these difficult times.

“I am one of four WRPA PDM’s. There is one of us at each of the four Welsh rugby regions. At the WRPA, one of our functions is to support professional rugby players in their ‘off field’ lives and help them to develop as people. it is widely accepted that as better people they will make better players.

“We also provide support to the them to ensure that they are continually developing their skills in other areas outside of rugby, helping to prepare them for the next chapters in their lives.

Another key area of Tim’s role is to support the wellbeing of the squad, helping to ensure that players can successfully navigate their way through the demanding and sometimes challenging life of a professional rugby player.

“At this current unprecedented time, it has been important to be available and to offer as much support and guidance to players as possible. We have been doing our best to keep them occupied, flagging up a range of development opportunities and encouraging them to maintain regular contact with everyone. In addition to Osprey based messaging groups, all our professional players in Wales have access to the WRPA App, where they can find important updates, a range of resources, activities and lots of other useful information.

Speaking about some of the courses, members of the squad have taken part in, Tim commented:

“We have a great relationship with Neath and Port Talbot college (NPTC) and despite the current difficulties we have managed to keep existing courses running and we have been able to keep 15 players on track to complete their Level 3 Personal Trainers Qualification. The tutor Geraint Kathryn has been so helpful, he has provided us with all the online learning resources so the boys can study remotely and supporting that with regular ‘Zoom’ based lessons and email contact.

“Similarly, a group of six players have been able to continue to progress onto their level 5 Diploma in Financial Trading, which is being facilitated by ZISHI the financial trading arm of OSTC a Swansea based financial business and Ospreys partner. Hannah Pickard the facilitator has worked hard to provide the players with all the online support that they need to maintain their studies.

“We’ve also been able to tap into other online courses, including the range of courses offered by the Open University, with some of the younger players taking an interest in the financial management courses where they can enhance their knowledge on money matters, including savings, pensions and income tax.”

Away from the books and studying, the squad have created several initiatives to keep themselves busy and connected, with each other.

“Within the squad we have introduced a three-minute tutorial task, where a player will do a lesson on a subject of their choice and then nominate another to do one. We’ve had some really interesting sessions, including how to make the perfect cheese, tomato and onion omelette, how to be the pack leader and train your dog, and how to make a perfect cup of coffee. No guesses as to who did the latter.”

“Ospreys physio, Mathew Bowen has become our resident quizmaster and is keeping up spirits with a quiz every week. The top player contestant is undoubtedly Gareth ‘Google’ Evans so far, he is definitely the best out of us all and would be the one we’d stick in the mastermind chair!

“We’ve also opened a new ‘Zoom’ café bar called ‘The Sin Bin – Drop in for 10!!' We open for an hour on a Friday evening and encourage players or staff to drop in with a beer or coffee for ten minutes or so, for a relaxed chat and catch-up with their teammates at the end of the week.

“I think that it is important to make use of the range of social media platforms that are available that allow players to keep connected. Whether it be on Facetime, WhatsApp, Zoom or the PS4, just hearing and seeing a familiar face for a chat is really welcoming and goes some way to replicating the close working relationships that we have at the Ospreys and to maintain good spirits during these difficult times until we see a return to a level of normality.”