The Fans’ Forum: July 2017 – Part One
I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
Whitney Houtson – Greatest Love of All
Yesterday’s Fans’ Forum, attended by nearly 60 supporters, gave another interesting insight into the developments currently taking place at Coventry and served to reinforce what most of us have known for a while now – this is a club very much on the up and with genuine aspirations of Championship rugby in the not too distant future.
The evening was split into two sections, the first led by Matt Price and looking specifically at the importance the club is attaching to its community programmes, and the second by Rowland Winter looking more generally at rugby-related matters, including the squad, the support staff, the pre-season and so on.Jon Sharp and Peter Rossborough were both unable to attend and gave their apologies – something that RW was keen to stress.
Because of the amount of information that was made available and the fact that it’s already after midnight, I’m splitting the forum up into two posts. This morning’s relates principally to what Matt had to say and, hopefully, sometime later today I’ll write up what Rowland talked about during the second half of the evening.
Rowland’s will be the longer section I imagine and I don’t want to miss bits out in an effort to get it done all in one go…
Matt Price’s presentation brought home just how much work is involved in developing a four year programme that enables Cov to reach out to locals schools and clubs and offer a level of support that provides the city’s youngsters with both the opportunity to develop their own interests in the sport, (and, ideally, produce home grown youngsters good enough to play for Coventry) and the chance to develop their social skills, the wider key skills of working together, of leadership and of communication, to cope in adult life.
Of the two, rugby might well be the focus but, as an ex-teacher, the latter is the more important.
If the programme on offer is anywhere near as professional as the presentation Matt gave, as I’m sure it will be, then Coventry’s youngsters are in good hands.
Matt divided his talk into four sections, covering each of the four years of the development plan, starting with what was achieved last season and ending up with the goals for the 2019/20 season…
It took me back to my days of putting together development plans for a sixth form, planning ahead to ensure the vision became the reality and producing enough in the way of success criteria to ensure the appropriate funding…the difference was there were several of us involved at school level, Matt is doing this pretty much on his own.
We were planning for 250 youngster, Matt for 12000!
The detail was impressive and if Matt can lead his team on to achieve most of the targets he has set for the programme, then the future is a bright one for the both the club and the rugby playing youngsters of the city.
Rowland Winter was effusive in his praise of what Matt has achieved in his current role. He stressed that having worked in a similar area as Matt whilst at Northampton, the job he has already done, juggling around the 17 players he has at his disposal to work in local schools, whilst also ensuring that they have the time to concentrate on their own training and development, has been exceptional.
It’s no easy task to do this whilst at the same time ensuring they provide quality coaching.
Whilst many of those 17 players involved enjoy their community work, particularly getting into schools, that is not the case for everyone as some understandably want to focus on their own skills -which makes it just that little bit harder still for Matt.
So a brief(ish) summary of what Matt covered:
2016/17 (last season)
- 25 school involved;
- 17 coaches in total, all responsible to Matt and involved in up to a maximum of 20 hours a week, with a minimum of 8-10 – with this written into their contracts;
- all the coaches have different areas of responsibility – for instance two players might have responsibility for upskilling the coaches, another two for working with secondary schools, another two with primary and so on ( 5 areas in total), all reporting back to Matt.
- players working with primary schools might look to develop the coaching skills of the teachers to allow them to work with their own pupils, or actively take groups themselves to give teachers time away from the pupils to use for their own staff development. This could be after school, during school time or, often in the case of special schools, during the lunch hour to avoid problems with after school transport etc;
- a handful of schools involve up to 15-20 hours of outreach work a week, again involving the training of the school’s own PE staff or covering for them.
- block booking of this sort is easier in many respects as it gives the players a structured timetable around which they can manage their own training
- over the course of the year almost 10000 youngsters in Coventry were coached, 3500 directly and 65000 though watching sessions etc – the intention is to narrow the gap between the two groups so that more children receive individual coaching in subsequent years….
Running through all the above is notion of quality assurance – with everything that is happening in schools being checked closely to ensure that standards remain high.
Through discussions with the coaches and schools, together with a trained teacher whom Matt is working with and who goes into schools to observe the work being done by the coaches, the club is able to guarantee that the product on offer meets the expectations of all concerned.
If it isn’t, then it will fail and schools will look elsewhere…and realistically, I guess they don’t have to look too far.
Quality control is therefore essential to the success of the programme.
- the number of youngsters involved will rise to between 12000-13000;
- more rugby for those suffering disabilities will be provided in schools though satellite clubs, the focus being not just on the rugby itself but also the social and wider key skills – ie social engagement;
- the club will offer more interactive support, including the online booking of activities for youngsters;
- The running of camps last season took something of a hit as a result of Wasps ability to offer better promotions, with their very hands on and interactive presentations. As a result there will be fewer (if any?) camps being run this season but the coaches would be offering more masterclasses to be held in schools and looking at specific skill sets, with Fridays still be using to work with youngsters at the BPA;
- the aim would be to train up many of the silver and bronze groups of Development players, still in their first or second year of ‘adult’ rugby, (as well as those in the gold group?) – offering them the appropriate coaching qualifications etc. Should Cov be promoted this season, these players will then be the ones going into schools next season (2018/19), allowing the full squad players the added time they will need in the Championship to work on developing their own skills sets (I think I’ve got that bit right…?);
- there will be no minis or juniors this season, instead the team will look to work with a 2-5 years old ‘Tots’ group. The idea would be to get these younger children familiar with the brand and the badge, encourage them into the ground and to watch games and perhaps to work with them on Sundays even. These are the youngsters who would then become the minis in subsequent years…;
- there will also be some work done with local coaches from local clubs to develop their own coaching skills – there will be masterclasses run by our own coaches looking at specialist areas (lineout, scrum attack, defence etc) together with the opportunity to study for qualifications. I’m guessing this would then ensure closer links between the junior clubs and Cov and perhaps alert the club to talented youngsters who could then be offered further specialist coaching as appropriate;
Cov give each school involved in the community projects two free season tickets which can be used to reward ‘stars of the week’ or similar as well as being happy to provide tickets should schools ask.
(Interestingly, Matt referred to the club being promoted this season several times, an indication perhaps of the players take on the season head…?)…
- 14000 hours and 12-130000 youngsters involved (with an even split between those individually coached and those watching coaching sessions);
- Having trained up the development/academy players last season, in Year 3 of the programme these are the players who will then go into schools to deliver the coaching (with Cov potentially in the Championship and the main squad involved in their own full-time training and professional development), with (again) observation of their delivery built into the programme to ensure quality assurance;
- the setting up of a 16-18 Academy. With Henley College choosing to go in a different direction now, it will be incumbent on Coventry to provide an alternative that’s the best we can, one that is an attractive alternative to those youngsters who might otherwise opt to go to Wasps;
- working with local junior clubs, coaches will identify perhaps two talented youngsters from each club to work with, using the coaches to provide specialist support once a week /two weeks – perhaps at clubs like Barkers or Old Coventrians;
- the challenge this year would be to get some of those youngsters from the Academy into the Coventry squad – it’s not a sign of failure if it doesn’t happen as they will have all benefitted from the time spent with Coventry and the club will have provided them with the skills and understanding to play their rugby elsewhere, whatever the level;
- development pathways will be set up across Warwickshire;
- 1 or 2 youngsters will be handpicked from the local clubs Cov has been in partnership with to provide additional coaching sessions that should offer a natural link into the 16-18 Academy;
- an extra layer of responsibility will be added to provide further accountability between Matt and the coaches working within the schools/clubs;
- an U7s and minis/juniors section will be created.
That was the gist of what Matt had to say, although with so much content I might have got the odd wire crossed here and there – if anyone who attended the forum reads this and notices a faux pas or two, please let me know and I’ll correct it asap.
It’s clear the Community programme being offered by Coventry is a massive undertaking, far bigger than I had realised, and one that Matt has spent a great amount of time putting together, in addition to his own commitments to the playing side of the club. It’s ambitious, but attainable and one that should hopefully result in significant benefits to the club in the years to come…
I hope I’ve managed to do justice to what Matt had to say.
Greatest Love Of All
It’s late and it is an easy one to fall back on – it always stood me in good stead when I was short of an assembly – and besides, what Matt had to say was all about youngsters being the future, so it kind of fits.