By Peter Borlase, Head Coach
As soon as I was named head coach of the Glendale Raptors, I was very excited to start implementing big changes – changes not necessarily to the team, but to the culture.
To do this, we needed to start at the basics and reexamine everything. I started reaching out to various foreign clubs and coaches, and collaborating with our new attack coach Steven Brett, who’s been over in select clubs in France and learning various techniques and best practices. From our practice plans to the players’ nutritional needs, the recruitment of players to the end of year banquet – we are looking at every aspect of what makes our club and our season tick and reworking it so that we have the best and most professional rugby program possible.
We want to create an environment where the players’ voices are heard. We also want them to have complete clarity, knowing full well what is expected from them on and off the pitch.These seem like basic principles, right? But, building these concepts into the team culture starts months before the team actually gets in for training. It starts with the staff mentality and reconstruction of the basics. Our focus all summer has been on creating an inviting and collaborative atmosphere, where feedback is not only accepted, but encouraged. So, ideally, by the time we actually gather our players here in Glendale for pre-season training we have built a place where players and staff can express themselves both on and off the field and, most importantly, where the members of this Glendale Raptors team feel empowered.
Coming from New Zealand, it’s no secret that we live by the mantra of ‘better people make better rugby players’, and with that comes an emphasis on individual character and personal leadership, with the idea that the result is a program that is more player driven. Our goal this year, as it should be every year, is to bring home a championship. But even more than that, our goal is to be proud of how this team has come together, its work-ethic, its drive, its integrity and, in turn, the product that is put out on the field, not just for ourselves, but for our fans and our community.
During the off-season, our coaching staff has spent a lot of time examining if our team has everything in place to succeed. We want to make it as easy as possible for the players to focus on what they have come to do – play rugby. One of the first and most fundamental things we did in this regard was to hire Peter Pasque as a full-time team manager for this upcoming season. Peter came on board in late July and has already been instrumental in organizing our team, working to make things more professional in terms of recruiting and looking for employment opportunities for players during the off-season and, in some instances, their significant others during the MLR season. He also has been working on various needs concerning nutrition, travel, housing, etc.
Peter comes from a project management background and has also recently spent some time working alongside the University of Colorado Boulder football program, which he credits to giving him a ton of insight into how to manage high-level athletes in a professional environment.
With Peter on board, along with Mark Bullock, Luke Gross, Nico Rithner, Travis Haugen, Steven Brett and myself all consulting each other on a daily basis, our staff has been enthusiastically working on building the level of professionalism in this environment and how our players, whether current or newly recruited, fit into our team structure. When we are choosing which players to bring into Glendale, we aren’t just looking at their playing cv, but we also examine the person. Furthermore, we aren’t just looking at what they bring to our program for 2020, but what they add to the future of our program, as well. We have to make sure they fit well into our team’s dynamic and add to the environment. This can be tricky, and interestingly enough we have seen some guys talk themselves both into and out of a contract with this in mind.
I can confirm, however, we have quite a few players returning from last year’s squad, but, as is the nature of professional sports, we’ve also had quite a bit of turnover, so we have really had to go out and search for players in our areas of need. Taking into consideration the parameters our league’s salary cap, we tend to look for players who offer versatility – have the ability to move around and slot in elsewhere when needed. It’s definitely a complicated puzzle, but one that I think our staff has thoroughly enjoyed putting together. We still have a few pieces to work out, but all-in-all we have about three-quarters of our team finalized. Look for the announcement of our squad of Raptors as well as our finalized 2020 season schedule very soon. On behalf of the Raptors staff, thanks for your continued support and here’s to a great upcoming MLR season!