Huge Hunger For Upskilling Among Rugby Coaches Around Connacht

12 November 2020

Huge Hunger For Upskilling Among Rugby Coaches Around Connacht
By John O’Sullivan 


There has been significant interest among coaches in Connacht in upskilling and broadening their coaching abilities after big numbers availed of Connacht Rugby's free online coaching seminars.


Between 50 and 80 coaches -- from underage to adult Rugby and from all corners of the province -- log on weekly to access the informational videos and tutorials.


Coaching development manager Eamonn Molloy says he is delighted with the appetite for further education among coaches of all levels within Connacht Rugby’s catchment area.


With the ongoing pandemic ending all face to face coaching sessions and seminars, Molloy now fronts weekly video webinars whose uptake ranges from 50 to 80 participants.


Molloy, who formerly represented the Westerners as a player after a distinguished club career with Buccaneers, admits that there are drawbacks to not being able to conduct sessions with coaches in person, but -- in terms of reach -- the numbers enrolling have grown over the course of COVID-19.


“The spread would be right across the province”, Molloy, who joined Connacht in 2006 as a third level development officer and summer camp manager, said when asked if there was coaching representation in all five of the province's counties.


“COVID has pushed us into this format of presenting to everyone. So, while we’re not getting that face to face interaction we could reach the same number of coaches in one night than we previously used to be able to reach in a month.


“We’ve been very lucky to have had members of the pro team presenting with us. Andy Friend, Ambrose Conboy, Jimmy(Duffy) and Nigel(Carolan) and Pete(Wilkins). Then, we had a couple of guys from Super Rugby, Tony and Corey Brown.” 


Days without long commutes due to many people working from home has seen the interest in upskilling spike, added Molloy, who says that coaches now have more time to hone their skills than before.


“There’s a massive appetite for learning and that’s probably borne out of people having a little bit more time on their hands when they’re working from home”, the TG4 Rugby analyst said. 


“They’re willing to engage in these aspects(upskilling webinars) and, as well as that, people are hungry for knowledge and ideas at the moment. Because they’re training without matches, they probably have to bring more variety and be more inventive in their training as well.”


In years gone by, Connacht would employ club-specific development officers to cover certain areas within the province. But now, while retaining responsibilities for their assigned regions, development officers -- mirroring the senior team with their backs and forward specific coaches -- will coach areas of the sport that best match their interests and skillsets. 


For example, JP Walsh now specializes in youth Rugby in Mayo where the Westport native used to have responsibility for mini, youth, and adult Rugby development in the county. The changes, Molloy says, is to give development officers a specific focus and an area of specialty.


“JP would have been covering the Mayo clubs, for mini, youth and adults, but now he’s going to be specializing in youth Rugby. So, there’ll be a go-to person for youth Rugby. It helps him develop as a specialist in it but it also means there will be an advocate for other changes that may be required in youth Rugby and not just in coaching.


“We aligned the officers with areas they are most passionate about and where they wanted to create the most change. We have Conor Galvin at mini and JP -- with Fraser(Gow) assisting him at youth -- and then Gavin Foley at adult. 


“It gives a club a real specialist go-to person in that specific area and it goes broader than coaching. The coaching education needs to tie in with the competition models,” Molloy said. 


Meanwhile, Conor Galvin, a coaching development officer with a focus on mini’s Rugby, says that the Rugby for Children(RFC) video resource has had a great response in the three weeks since it has launched. 


The Rugby for Children videos are animations -- narrated by Galvin or JP Walsh and Gavin Foley -- of drills that coaches across the province can use in the training of children’s(mini) Rugby.


“We’ve had over 5’000 views already”, Galvin said of the interest in the RFC video platform. 


“It’s a minute and a half or two-minute animation with me -- or one of the lads -- doing a voiceover. 


“They’re simple animations that give coaches ideas and pockets of information. When restrictions are lifted we hope to have live drills with actual players, but for now, they’re animations. 


“We have them up three weeks now and we’re adding to them all the time. There have been about five thousand views. I have been going around the clubs and there’s good uptakes. Coaches have been calling me and asking me about it and you’re starting to see a lot of coaches do them. 


“You don’t want them to feel like they’re stuck to it, it’s a framework for them to coach within,” Galvin explains.


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