Harlequins: Management Of Professional Rugby

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August 28, 2015

Harlequins: Management Of Professional Rugby

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Doug Coil

The Harlequins have had time to do their preparations in advance of the match against the USA Rugby Eagles on Sunday. Their squad for the match will be announced after training early this afternoon.

The match against the USA is their first pre-season match and they are missing 9 players who were involved in matches impacting on Rugby World Cup selection. With this in mind, two Academy players are part of this tour. This match provides the perfect opportunity for players to be assessed, based on their performance, for the Aviva Premiership season.

The Harlequins are proud to have contributed to growing rugby, as they are in their 149th year. Not only do they have a professional team, but they are also one of 14 Academies in England.

The Harlequins have been excellent this week in working with the local Philadelphia Rugby community in helping to grow rugby. They have conducted Youth Rugby skills sessions, held an open practice to watch how they train, provided a glimpse into the management of a professional team and today will conduct a coach education session at 6:15pm at Adams Park, University of Pennsylvania.

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Professional Rugby Management

Last night the Harlequins provided insight into how a professional rugby club is managed. Conor O’Shea (Director of Rugby), Collin Osborne (Skills Coach), and Ed Spokes (Head of Performance Analysis) were involved in the presentation. Graciously, Collin agreed for me to paraphrase his presentation.

To develop a great team requires that all members have a shared vision. The Harlequins value pride, respect, excellence and commitment. Players “don’t just play for the Harlequins, we are the Harlequins.” These values are fostered through coaching in developing personal development plans for players, so they might achieve their full potential.

Other requirements in developing a great team, requires support services that are needed in transporting the team to matches and booking hotel accommodations. A shared mindset is essential. All members learn to readily respond to words that trigger certain responses. And finally, a team must have some great athletes that can change the course of a game.

The development of a team has its challenges. It is comprised of individuals that have different needs and preferences. It is also important to keep everyone engaged, while requiring selflessness. This happens when each player feels valued.

Process driven results help to emphasize the team values. A typical week might include a number of Monday meetings for coaches, strategy, player led to process goals, and videos review. These latter meetings may be team oriented, lead by various coaches, as well as, by players. A training session with the Skills Coach also occurs.

Catapult GPS technology is used with players. This measures all facets of athlete physical performance.

On Tuesdays there is more skills training, individual unit training of forwards and backs, whole team training,  and a player led team meeting.

Thursdays there is a team run and on Fridays a team analysis conducted by the Performance Analysis Coach. During the preparation for a match, the last 6 weeks of videos might be examined of their opponent to look for certain tendencies.

Part of the solution to developing a great team is striving for improvement. This requires that players individual strengths be identified and utilized. It not only helps players to understand their role on the team, but helps to turn strengths into super strengths, while also improving weaker areas.

To accomplish this also requires players to develop a personal development plan that examines specific goals and action plans in areas, such as, technical, tactical, fitness, lifestyle, and playing. These plans may be periodically discussed with coaches and modified as needed.

Appropriate feedback is also needed. While it is important to deliver this feedback as soon as possible, how much feedback, the timing, and the type of feedback are critical. Some players need to look at statistics, others need one on one attention, some prefer video analysis, while other need to address issues on the field.

In summary, building a great team is process driven, athlete centered, team focused and performance driven.

Once again, I want to thank Collin for allowing me to share this presentation and to both Conor and Ed for their contributions in the presentations and Q & A afterward.

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant