UK ( Newman University) Ex-international Rugby coach delivers North Midlands ‘Community of Practice’ event at Newman University
With just under two months to go before the 2023 Rugby World Cup, 44 rugby coaches from across the North Midlands were treated to a thought-provoking discussion from the current Northampton Saints and ex-international coach, Matt Ferguson. Furthermore, Matt shared the interactive workshop with Gary Townsend who has previously worked as National Player Development Manager for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and is the current Academy Manager for the Premiership Rugby Club Bristol Bears. Gary shared several stories relating to authenticity in rugby environments, player-coach relationships, and managing cultures.
Matt started his post at Northampton Saints in the summer of 2018 after a whirlwind three years in charge of the England Women’s forwards division. During his time with the RFU, the Red Roses topped the world rankings, reached the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final, and beat New Zealand on their own soil in Rotorua. Ferguson also spent the 2017/18 season working as a scrum consultant with London Irish, having already gained experience in the men’s game through previous stints at Cardiff Blues, Bristol Rugby, and London Welsh. During his workshop which was titled, ‘Point of Difference Coaching,’ Matt provided insight into his journey as a coach working with some of the world’s top players and explored how coaches can create memorable relationships with players and impactful sessions.
The event is part of an ongoing coach education collaboration whereby Dr. Alex Powell, Senior Lecturer and Programme Lead, a Level 3 Rugby Football Union (RFU) Coach, RFU Coach Educator, and Trainer, has partnered with the North Midlands RFU constituent body to form a ‘community of practice’, titled the ‘North Midlands Coaching Group’. The department of Newman Sport & Health has established itself as the hub for the ‘North Midlands Coaching Group,’ and community rugby coach education. The aim of the initiative is to engage and provide community members with education opportunities, development activities and networking. Newman University is a certified training venue for the official RFU England Rugby Coaching Awards (ERCA) and is leading the way for coaching professional development. This year Dr Alex Powell has led on and coordinated 2 ERCA’s, 4 North Midlands coaching workshops and hosted 1 Rugby SHARP conference (the conference was based on Newman Sport & Health staff research). It has been pleasing to receive positive participant feedback regarding the success of the research informed coach education workshops, and high-quality guest speakers.
Feedback from participants were positive. One attendee said: “I attended the coaching evening with Matt Ferguson last night at Newman University and I wanted to send you an email expressing my gratitude towards you for running the event. From someone who attends a significant number of hours attending CPD events across various sectors both outside and predominantly inside of several sports, I have to say that last night’s event was one of the most enjoyable events I have attended in quite some time that left me coming away reflecting on the evening”
“I felt there were some good golden nuggets to take away specially to recount a couple of comments from Matt regarding the conversation he had with his players where he spoke about asking them what is the one thing that you want to get better at or improve on when developing IDP’s for the players. This was particular poignant as it made me realise that it is a really useful line of questioning to help engage and build relationships with players, but I have probably been a bit too subscriptive in giving players what it is that I think they need rather than seeking to find out what it is that they want to improve on for themselves”.
RFU Council Member, Charlie Hemmings, commented on the importance of the Community of Practice and these events for developing coaches: “The North Midlands RFU is one of England’s major county areas that makes up one of the 28 geographical Constituent Bodies of the Rugby Football union and covers Greater Birmingham, Shropshire, and Worcestershire & Herefordshire. Newman Sport has hosted an exciting and innovative programme aimed at helping raise coaching profile, information, and knowledge across several levels, genders, and age groups!