Coach Dom: Alarm goes off at 5.50am
Player Dom: Your alarm goes off when?! What on earth do you need to be doing at that time in the morning – have you had kids?!
Coach Dom: No, no kids. The early bird catches the worm as they say… and gets to plan their day properly - lots to be thought about when preparing for a pre-season day as a coach old boy.
Player Dom: Wow, well I’ve got another couple of hours in bed, so good luck with that.
Coach Dom: I get into the club between 6.20am and 6.30am and start to plan the day. I’ll know what needs to be covered from the pre-season planning, but how I deliver these objectives needs clarification. It’s important that meetings and sessions are engaging and specific if they are to have the desired impact. Indeed, the coaches’ office in these early hours is a hive of planning. This usually takes a break at around 7.45am, which is when the players start arriving for breakfast. I then go out to the ‘shop floor’ to see how the lads are tracking and to catch up with anyone who I’ve clipped some footage for from the previous day.
Player Dom: Oh no, you don’t walk around dampening the spirits of players with footage of the mistakes they’d made the previous day do you?!
Coach Dom: Don’t you worry, the dreaded sight of a coach walking towards you with a computer is something I’m aware of young Dom! Firstly, I’d hate to starve you of the opportunity to see yourself doing something good – I know how much you like that.
When understanding needs to be checked I try not to use the computer unless it’s necessary – players know when things have gone wrong and are reflective. Often, it’s just about stimulating a conversation around the issue that’s been identified and the player will come up with answers. So long as there is sound understanding the computer remains firmly tucked under the arm pit.
Player Dom: Well done coach.
Coach Dom: Cheers. Around these conversations I’ll usually grab a coffee, that’s unless big George (Skivington) has looked after me earlier in the morning – he makes a wonderful espresso if, on the odd chance someone reads this, and you’re near George and a coffee machine. After my recent Achilles operation, which left me on crutches, the boss served my morning caffeine needs superbly.
If there is something I want to discuss with my defensive leaders this will happen at 8.20am. These guys are essential to our defensive performance, and they support me brilliantly in delivering the program. Leaders’ meetings usually revolve around some footage and/or a few questions sent out the night before, and last about 15 minutes. Bouncing ideas around in these sorts of settings is brilliant for idea generation/creativity and to get clarity on how ‘we’ are to address specific issues. The meetings are also an important tool for monitoring how the broader group is developing understanding and execution – the more eyes and ears we have on this the quicker we’ll develop.
Once the meeting finishes, I have few more catch ups and then the lads go off for ‘athletic development’. I then return to the coaches’ office, where we finalise the plan for the day, discussed the night before. I then finalise my own bits of the day – session, meeting, and skills content, as well as how I will deliver.
Player Dom: This is where the proper work starts: players putting it in and you coaches taking it easy!
Coach Dom: Thanks for that young Dom.
At 10.00am the coaches head over the gym to deliver skills. A great part of our program is the integration between the rugby department and the strength and conditioning team and this session really reflects that. The playing group is split into two, with each group flip flopping between weights and short skill blocks with different coaches. These sessions allow us to hone key technical skills and develop understanding in our shared mental model. The lads have been outstanding in their attitude in these sessions through pre-season and we have seen a lot of growth because of them.
Player Dom: Appreciate that coach.
Coach Dom: At about midday we head back to the stadium to get ready for the meetings and to have some lunch. We are blessed with a top-notch chef team and the grub served up is often of Michelin quality.
After lunch the coaches meet with Dan Tobin (head of performance) to ‘dot the I’s and cross the T’s’ of the afternoon session as well as clarify the physical needs of the session – we run a very periodised program with each day demanding a specific physical stimulus. GPS provides feedback in the evening on whether we hit our goals – Kingy (Alex King), by leading the sessions, has done a great job at making sure we are fulfilling these targets.
Post coaches’ meeting I review my meeting slides and video content, and the way I want to present, jotting down a few notes on a piece of paper to help guide – my desk has a mound of these pieces of paper; ramblings of a madman they’ve been described as. We then deliver at 13.00 and head down to the pitch afterwards to get ready for the session.
When we arrive at the pitch, coaches and conditioners set up with the equipment needed for each part of the session to allow for the practice to run smoothly.
Player Dom: This all sounds exhausting, not sure about coaching now. I do like it when I get on the pitch and see everything set up though, nice work there.
Coach Dom: I appreciate your comment, but I wish you and your chums would stop kicking my balls away when I have carefully put them by my cones.
Player Dom: I’ll keep that in mind, but the lure of kicking drop goals is very tempting. No guarantees I’m afraid.
Coach Dom: Fair enough I remember that exact feeling.
Once the session starts, I focus my attention on the key defensive objectives of the session and the language I want to use to promote. Again, I’ll have a piece of paper in my pocket with these key areas and language. If we try and get better at everything, we get better at nothing, so this sort of focus in the session design and the way we coach within it is paramount to us developing.
Once the session is done big George wraps it up and one of the players leads the ceremonial click, clap, tap to finish. Coaches then support players in their 1 on 1 skill development. We then go back to the club for abut 4pm for some food.
Player Dom: I guess this is where we head home? Good day’s work…
Coach Dom: Not at all, but you go and enjoy your afternoon nap, you’ve earned it.
Coaches then wait for the session to be coded before analysing. We usually clear off at around 5.30pm.
Once home I try and switch off from rugby and give my girlfriend some time as she would have been working from home all day on her own. But sometimes rugby calls! Luckily, she’s pretty understanding – what a lucky guy!