Professional rugby players have been taking their first steps into coaching in the Midlands this month.
Wales prop Chris Horsman, his Worcester team-mate Tim Collier, leading National League try-scorer Nick Baxter and young professionals from Moseley were among 18 assessed for the RFU’s Level Two qualification.
They took part in a two-day course for professional players at the Warwickshire College in Henley-in-Arden, where former England international Barrie Corless led the sessions that mixed classroom theory and training ground practice.
“These players have a huge amount of technical knowledge, so the course is about getting across information about how to deliver it and to teach others,” said Ian Bletcher, the RFU’s Coach Development Officer for the West Midlands.
“They all realise how lucky they are to be playing the game professionally but they also realise how quickly it can end, they want to explore moving into coaching and they want to put something back into the game.”
Graham Rowntree, Danny Grewcock, Andy Goode, Geordan Murphy and Daryl Gibson are among the players who have taken part since the Midlands course was first run in 1997.
Rowntree – now an England National Academy Coach – and his former Leicester team-mate Gibson have since gone on to take the RFU Level 3 qualification and are on the union’s Level Four course this summer.
This month’s students at Henley-in-Arden were able to use Warwickshire College’s first class facilities for classroom analysis and presentations before working on the training pitch.
But as well as rugby tasks they also tested their coaching abilities with other disciplines, including teaching putting and juggling skills to classmates.
Learning more about coaching can also have spin-offs to those playing the game, as Wales and Worcester prop Horsman explained.
“Obviously it’s a progression in terms of my career. I love the game, want to stay involved and it’s important to take opportunities like this,” he said.
“When I found out I could do this Level Two course I jumped at the chance. You can have a great knowledge of the game but it’s not the same as knowing how to coach and get that knowledge across.
“These days there’s a strong emphasis on player being involved in analysis and you have to be multiskilled. Knowing how to coach improves your skill level and understanding of the game.
“I’d definitely like to stay in the game after my playing career and I’d be really interested in a forwards coach role. I’m also keen on working with young players on the technical aspects of front row play and there’s an awful lot to get across in that area.”