As told by Director of Rugby Mark Bullock
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 12.11.17, location – Sunbury-on-Thames
Raptors Coaches David Williams, Kieran Browner and I spent the day with the London Irish Rugby Football Club and their Director of Rugby, Nick Kennedy, as they trained. It was 32 degrees, wet, windy and cold, as is typical of England at this time of year. The purpose of this trip is to continue our development and commitment to excellence by observing and interacting with the leading professional rugby organizations across the UK. We also want to gather as much information as we can from their academy directors, in the hopes to build a similar academy structure in Glendale. With this in mind, in the late afternoon, we met with the London Harlequins Academy staff to observe a training session for their U-15 to U-18 academy players. We discussed their organization and outreach in to the local rugby community. Their situation is quite different as academy boundaries, pay, and other regulations are controlled by the Rugby Football Union, their version of USA Rugby. But, despite the differences, we picked up a number of ideas that will benefit our academy development program, as well as our youth program, as we move forward.
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 12.12.17, location – Twickenham Stoop
Today it was back to the Quins for sessions with the senior coaches and players. We are always looking to build our rugby knowledge, and to find strategies that we can utilize back in Colorado as we plan for the upcoming MLR season. It’s our goal to keeping pushing our standards within the club and increasing accountability within the squad. Each rugby organization we visit has been very welcoming and open in sharing their information with us. They are also inquisitive of our Glendale set up and the new MLR professional league.
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 12.14.17 – location Farleigh House
The coaches and I traveled to Bath yesterday and today we took in the rich and interesting history of the Farleigh House. The current main house was built in a Gothic style, which, in relation to a lot of the cookie cutter, mass produced houses that are popping up in today’s society, gives it an a very regal feel. Over the years, the house has served as a place of residence, a school and college and, most recently, a place of work and training. Bath Rugby has established a dedicated, elite training facility here and the CEO of Bath Rugby, Tarquin McDonald, spent lunch with us to discuss their organization and their future plans. In addition, we held discussions regarding the potential exchange of Raptor academy and Bath players in order to train our players in an English Premiership professional environment, and providing their players with increased match opportunities in Glendale.
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 12.15.17 – location Farleigh House
We spent Friday observing the practice session and sat in on coach discussions, meetings and Bath team building activities. The coaching staff at Bath Rugby went out of their way to accommodate us and share their best practices with us. In addition, Todd Blackadder Bath Director of Rugby spent the evening with us. We discussed team culture and what it takes to be successful. It was an educational evening and he challenged our staff with his questions and created opportunities for learning. We are truly grateful of this time he spent with us and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 12.16.17 – location The Recreation Grounds
This week was focused on all aspects of rugby, not just training and recruiting, but we were also interested in hospitality at the stadium venues, ticket sales and sponsorship opportunities. As Glendale moves into professional rugby we want to be prepared to provide a positive and satisfying spectator experience for our fans, and there is no better example than the small, 15,000 seat stadiums in England. Today, we took in the Champions Cup match featuring Bath, the home team, against Toulon. The ground was sold out, the VIP rooms were full and there was a friendly atmosphere around the grounds. As the stadium is in the middle of downtown Bath, business is good once the match is over as everyone spills into the streets of Bath along the Avon River. If you think of the response to rugby in the UK, I would liken it to the response to football in the USA. Fans are passionate about their teams. We had a beer with two fellas who are 30-year season ticket holders to Bath Rugby. They were wearing their Bath Colors and talking up their team and everything rugby. Bath won this match 26-21, redeeming itself after a close loss to Toulon on the road the week prior. The victory was a phenomenal way to end the week of rugby in the UK and although it was time for myself and Kieran to head back to the States, coach Williams stayed an additional week to visit with the staffs from Saracens and Bristol along with meeting with National Strength and Conditioning coaches from England.