Coaching Updates – April 2024

Introducing Gainline Sport Coaching: Interview with Aaron Takel

We had a chance to chat with Aaron Takel about the new venture, Gainline Sport Coaching, he and Scott Manning have started. Links to their website and the SMUS summer camp they’re partnering with are included in the article. Also profile information for Aaron and Scott are appended below the interview.

BCRN: Hi Aaron, I see you and Scott are starting a new coaching venture, Gainline Sport Coaching, could you tell us a bit about it and what prompted its creation?

We share a similar philosophy and wanted to create something different to help local coaches, so we’ve created Gainline Sport Coaching to formalize some of our ideas. We want to repurpose or re-imagine coach learning a little bit, where coaches get to do some actual hands-on coaching. Only a fraction of the formal courses are practical coaching time, even less for conferences and workshops. We think it would be pretty cool to create some realistic environments where coaches work with players, do some coaching and get some feedback in both a training and game environment. Experiences that are informal but will stretch coaches to think about their coaching craft differently perhaps. And also have the opportunity to share ideas with other coaches and get some mentoring.

We aren’t going rogue, we would be happy to partner with governing bodies or clubs to help co-create and deliver programming if they like what we are doing. We have been in touch with staff members at BC Rugby and Rugby Canada and they recognize the added value we can offer.

BCRN: What are your thoughts on current rugby coaching pathways for Canadian coaches?

I’m not sure there is a pathway? There are websites that list a collection of linear formal courses, but as anyone in the education industry will tell you, learning is not linear. Some of those linear courses will not be offered again till 2025. Personally I don’t think the coaching ‘levels’ system is that helpful for our coaches. I’ve read a lot of academic research on coach education and it’s all pretty consistent. The competency-based approach used in most of our formal learning can be useful, but sometimes it can feel like it’s about ticking the boxes.

A document produced in Canada in 2022 suggested that as a nation, we need to “prioritize the development of coaches” referring to our coaching culture in Canada as “generally outdated”. The same report also stated that, “A broader, more sophisticated ongoing developmental program for rugby coaches at a grassroots level is seen by many as critical for long-term High-Performance program success”. If that’s true, then maybe we need some more people on the ground helping coaches with some of the tough stuff that they face week to week with their teams.

BCRN: How important are coaching upgrades to the development of rugby in Canada?

The answer to that one is pretty simple, it’s critical. The impact of poor coaching on players can be profound, it can be the difference between players falling in love with a sport or never wanting to do it again. Poor coaching will kill our game eventually. The mission is for coaches to be able to connect with the players, give them sessions they are excited about and help them get better.

A couple of different provincial organizations and clubs shared with me that they’ve looked into youth registration numbers over the past few years. According to them, on average we recruit 50% new players into club rugby each year. That’s because we have to replace the 50% of players that decide to stop playing and leave. In a nutshell, if you look at customer retention statistics, our industry is underperforming.

Another related study found that two out of the three top reasons why players leave a sport is because ‘practices were no longer fun’, and because ‘coaches need to understand the players better’. These are both massively impacted by how we coach. In my master’s degree I focussed on some research around creating a coach development framework, which will be incorporated in what we do with Gainline Sport Coaching.

BCRN: What courses do you have planned in the near future?

It’s not a course in the traditional sense, but we have an event planned. We have partnered with ONNI Group and St Michaels University School (SMUS) in Victoria to provide our very first advanced coach training alongside a summer camp for players from August 11th to 16th 2024.

We are bringing in the best coach in the development business – Russell (Rusty) Earnshaw. Rusty has led some of the best programs of this kind around the world, such as the one offered by Inside Running Rugby Academy in New Zealand and player camps at Sedburgh College in England. He’s been a coach mentor for NZ7’s, Hurricanes, Oyonnax Rugby, Google, Tyler-Grange, GB Hockey and the FA and Premier League.

The learning will include discussions, videos, games, on-field coaching, using the players from the SMUS Summer Rugby Camp as an ‘experiential classroom’. There will be time to review, ask questions, learn from other coaches, and reflect throughout the day. We want to focus on the broader coaching environment, paying close attention to coaching practice and coach behaviors.

If coaches are traveling from outside Victoria and need accommodation and food, they can join us to stay onsite at the school. Meals and rooms can be booked on-site at SMUS to cater for your needs. We’d love to have coaches from outside BC so airport pickups and drop offs are also available. If you are interested in attending, you can view more information by visiting the Gainline Sport Coaching website.

We think we have set a reasonable price, in Canada a two day level 2 course costs approx. $360 and the level 3 course will cost approx. $2250 plus your travel costs. We have set our price for 2024 at $500 for the whole week. We have already received an offer from an organization to sponsor two coaches. We hope that more clubs and schools might see the value and help their coaches learn more about their craft during the off season. Coaches can register interest through the site. Places are limited to a small group to make sure we can individualize your experience and learning.

If things go well, in the future we will look to offer a menu of bespoke learning opportunities for schools, clubs and individuals tailored to their needs in all sports.

Players can register for the SMUS player camp through their website here. There are options for both a day rate and residential rates to suit your needs.

Profiles (from Gainline Sport Coaching website)

Aaron Takel

Aaron is a co-founder of Gainline Sports Coaching. After attending Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales, he played for Pontypool and Newport in the Welsh Premier League. Formerly a technical director with Alberta and BC Rugby, and performance Analyst with Rugby Canada. Currently a Sport Science and PE teacher at Collingwood School, he has undergraduate degrees in Sports Management, Secondary Education and a Master’s degree in Sports Performance Coaching. Aaron is a World Rugby level 2 coach educator and evaluator. He is the defence coach at Meraloma’s Rugby Club in the BC Premier League.

Scott Manning

Scott is a co-founder of Gainline Sports Coaching. Over the past two decades Rugby has been woven into the life of Scott Manning, the Head Coach the University of Victoria men’s rugby team. While Scott has represented Canada on the U17 and U19 national teams, his real passion is in coaching and inspiring the next generation of young players and coaches. Scott currently teaches Teaching & Coaching Effectiveness at the University of Victoria in the Coaching Master’s program and holds a World Rugby Level 2 certification. His coaching philosophy champions joy, care, integrity, and growth, ensuring players discover their full potential within and beyond the game.

SMUS Camp for Youth 13-16

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