Club talk

Where there’s a Will…

I thought John Wilkinson’s interview with Will Maisey, released onto the website yesterday, was really interesting and somewhat revealing, given it is the first time that we’ve heard a player make any comparisons between the present Coventry set up under Rowland Winter and that of a previous DoR, Phil Maynard.

What he says certainly adds weight to those who feel that the present coaching structure is somewhat more professional in its approach these days, focusing as it does on empowering the players to take more responsibility for their own development in addition to the involvement of that of the coaches.

At the Supporters’ Club meeting last week, Rowland Winter spoke very positively about Will Maisey, suggesting (and I’m paraphrasing as best as I can here) that he was probably the player who has most fulfilled his potential in these first few weeks, exceeding even the coaches’ expectations.

Great praise and a clear vote of confidence from the DoR.

And the admiration is clearly mutual.

In the article, Will speaks positively about the coaches and the fact that that he feels lucky since his return because:

the coaches have invested quite a lot of time in me, in and out of training, and I feel that they’re really helping me to become a better player

Maybe not so much luck as just good coaching, but I know what he means…

Will is competing for a place with Tony Fenner and would seem to be the understudy at the moment, given Fenner has been first choice fly half over the couple of few weeks at a time when we are being told there is to be more consistency in selection.

However, Will seems very happy with his lot this time round, focusing more on the fact that he feels he is becoming a better player as a result of the support he is receiving and the amount of game time he’s been given.

Helping players to better themselves and to feel valued is what you want from your coaches, as is investing plenty of time in them on and off the field, but that’s not something we’ve heard players allude to publicly that often in recent seasons. Maybe it went on, maybe it didn’t, but when you compare that with what he has to say about his last spell at Coventry:

When I was first here, I felt that my face didn’t really fit. I felt I had a few good games in my final season, but I was dropped without any real reason and then I found it hard to get my way back into the side. I felt I deserved a chance, but I was out of favour

it does seems as if there was a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line and Will and Coventry parted company at the end of that season. One player’s experience doesn’t prove anything one way or another, but it is an interesting insight especially when the previous DoR is still at the club.

Will says all the right things, talking about the professionalism and ambition now being instilled into the club. It’s what we’ve heard from every player interviewed. It’s almost a soundbite in many respects, but when he adds:

It’s a completely different place now…

you get the impression that professionalism and ambition might not have been quite so strong back then.

Interestingly, Will also highlights the differences in approach between the coaching team of Ampthill, his former club, and that of Coventry..

At Ampthill,

there is a bit of analysis, but the majority of that is led by the coaches,

whereas, according to Will, at Coventry much of the analysis is often player-led.

And the distinction is an important one.

As an ex-teacher, I know that pupils learn far better when they are taking responsibility for their own learning. Yes, there is a place for a more didactic, teacher-led approach, but put the learning in the hands, and heads, of the learners and they’ll do a lot better.

I know that this is also something that the current coaching team believe in, with groups of senior players required to watch recordings of the last games played by both Cov and the following weekend’s opposition. They are expected to report back to the players/coaches early in the week, ensuring that they, too, have had to think long and hard about the game ahead. The coaches do the same, obviously, thus also moderating the whole procedure, and in requiring the players to analyse both their own performance and that of the opposition, RW is building regular self-evaluation into the process, both at team and individual player levels.

And self-evaluation is at the very heart long term progression.

So when Will says:

we know ourselves that our away performances haven’t been good enough and that’s something we are working at to put right,

you know that it’s not something that being left to the coaches to sort out, it’s very much a team effort and that’s one reason why perhaps this management team will succeed where others have failed.

It’s all about corporate responsibility…everyone is involved and therefore is more inclined to feel a part of the process. It’s the difference between being told what to do and working out the answer amongst yourselves. It strengthens the bond between the players  and between the players and the coaches, especially when the coaches are also players – if that makes sense!

Early days, as Will says…early days.

It seems pretty clear that he is being very sincere when he talks about getting back into the Championship with Coventry being ‘the perfect scenario’; the team he’s played most of his rugby with and the city where he’s lived most of his life. You can understand how that would mean a great deal to him.

Like Tom Wheatcroft, a local lad made good.

And I can’t help but think that a team that possesses a few players local to the club and to the community are going to understand a little more about Cov’s past, it’s present and hopes for the future. And that is important.

Will definitely strikes me as a player who has grown in confidence since the last time he was with us. I remember him as being someone who liked to get the backs running, but whose kicking out of hand was a concern.

His return to the fold has been something of a revelation, to me anyway. With Cov playing the way they do, when Will has played at 10 he hasn’t had to kick a great deal. His place kicking has been really impressive, and with a strike rate of 72%, Will is one of the leading kickers in National 1.

Will acknowledges that ‘I know there is still a lot more to come from me’…and I’m sure there is with the support he clearly getting from the coaches.

Coventry are on a journey, one during which players will need to learn and develop along the way. It’s not a short term fix – it’s a question of getting all the pieces in place before the puzzle can be solved – and there are a lot of pieces.

In another really interesting article on the club website, RW makes the point that:

By halfway through the season we wanted to know more about our players individually, to have worked out which partnerships work and which don’t, and to understand the basics of our game

Whether you look at this as a two, three, or however many year project, we have to learn the lessons of the first year and not repeat the mistakes, so probably the only disappointing part so far is that there have been some performances – particularly away to the London clubs – where we clearly haven’t learnt those lessons yet.

And that’s a relief to hear.

This process of learning, of being better tomorrow than you are today, is one that takes time to be embedded. We are still only a small way into  the ‘project’ (even the word itself suggests something very carefully planned to achieved a particular target or aim), and if the coaches are to get the best out of the team, there is still much to be done.

But Will Maisey’s comments suggest that things are progressing, are taking shape, and that individually players are being encouraged to work on their game, as well as being given time it, for their own good and for that of the team.

No one said it would be easy, but where there’s a Will…

…there’s always a way…

 

will

 

 

 

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