Off-Season Masterclass Report

The new rugby season is very much underway now, with the Rugby World Cup also in full swing and generating some great matches and already some very unexpected results.  My coaching focus has also now shifted onto my work at Reigate Grammar School in Surrey and Felsted School in Essex, two really ambitious establishments keen to improve their rugby, as well as at Ampthill RFC where we have begun our life in National 1 with three wins from three!

IMG_0220Just a few weeks ago however everyone was very much in the preseason phase, preparing for the coming winter of matches, and my mind was on the masterclass training camps I organised at Reigate and Ampthill, as well as my Summer rugby Academy at Hatfield, which will be completed for the year after this Sunday’s final session.

I began these classes specifically with the aim of keeping younger players fresh throughout the Summer with handling drills and skills they could practice, steering them away from contact sessions to allow their bodies to recover from the previous season’s efforts, yet keeping their hunger for the game in tact and fuelling their passion for rugby.

In the first week of September I then switched to an all-round rugby masterclass spread over two days at Ampthill RFC where the different age groups were split depending on the applicable rules, with specific exercises and drills to benefit the players whether in a tag, conditioned tackle or unrestricted environment.  The emphasis was placed on learning through fun and of course there was a definite focus on correct technique throughout.  I was overwhelmed at the response of the players on the pitch and also extremely grateful to parents who took the time to email with compliments and kind comments about the sessions in the days after the events.

IMG_0187On Wednesday at Ampthill I also held a specialist kicking clinic for players aged 11-17, which included a condensed version of some of the skills I have imparted to my Academy attendees over the Summer.  Simple instruction on exactly how to hold a ball when kicking and where to strike to get the desired result make a huge difference when practised until they become second nature in game time.  Also, the ability to kick just as well off both feet gives a player a big advantage and helps break down defences in attack as well as greatly enhancing a team’s exit strategy.

These are some examples of why these camps are so vital, and the feedback shows that as well as developing technique, we are also enthusing youngsters about playing the sport, and this makes my job so pleasurable.  Now into the season, there is just one more opportunity to join me for a masterclass this month, at my final academy session on September 27th.  Following this, keep an eye out for additional sessions during the October half term, or contact me to organise some individual coaching or sessions for a small group or team.  I look forward to having the opportunity to work with you in the near future and please do contact me with any enquiry you may have on: mail@PaulTurnerSport.co.uk.

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Disney Junior Rugby Festival 2015

9105It’s a busy time of year for Paul Turner Sport as we’ve been setting up the brand new Skills Academy, which began on 7th June, whilst the dust has really only just settled on another successful Disney Junior Rugby Festival.

Despite returning almost three months ago, the final paperwork and debrief meeting with Sport Experiences have only just been finalised and we can now begin to look ahead now to next year’s event, and start the process all over again.

This year was fantastic however, with 24 teams spread across the three age groups – Under 13, Under 14 and Under 15 – providing some cracking entertainment with some enthralling matches and great skills on the pitch. Off the pitch, there was the usual mix of laughter and fun as the youngsters, and their coaches, toured the Disney parks seeking thrills on the rides and the obligatory photo or two with the Disney characters!

9157For our part, the team of coaches we took over – George Chuter, Paul Burke, Alix Popham, Ma’ama Molitika, Morgan Stoddart, Gavin Thomas, Will James, Nic Sestaret, Tony Yapp, Jack Heald and Phil Williams – to accompany me, were all impressed with the attitude of the players who participated. Our Tuesday coaching masterclasses included three skills workshops looking at the core techniques of Breakdown Work, Creating Space and General Skills, as well a more specific positional session with drills relevant to each player.

9131All of the coaches I spoke with expressed how pleased they were with the way the Rugby Festival at Meaux was run and how much their players had learned from the coaching day we had put together. The value for money was another winner, many sounding surprised as they realised just what was included in the low cost! And of course, speaking with the boys who attended, they were all thrilled at having the opportunity to visit the Disney Parks and ride the attractions on a rugby tour; the smiles really said it all! All of this was of course topped off by the presentation event where the players were able to meet Welsh internationals Jamie Roberts and Luke Charteris and obtain autographs and pose for photos.

After all, the blend of rugby-based activity, skills progression, star player meetings and fun at Disney is what sets the event apart from other, more formulaic, rugby tours. This is why the rate of schools returning year on year is so high, and why more and more schools are coming along at Easter, a trend that looks set to continue in 2016.

Many teams, from both schools and clubs, will be touring at Easter 2016, and I would echo the thoughts of those who came in 2015 in urging you to consider a trip to Disney for a fun-packed 5 day visit that will improve your players skills and provide a sport experience you will never forget. For more information, please click here to download the brochure, or email us here!

All new bookings quoting code “PTS16″ will receive FREE tour T-Shirts for their entire party!


A Poor Quality Six Nations in World Cup Year

The Six Nations may be the jewel in the crown of the Northern Hemisphere rugby season with all of the history and rivalry it entails, but some of the matches played so far this season have been dour, with skills and spatial awareness at times sparse or even completely absent.

Last weekend’s European derby in Rome was a real fast-forward-frenzy, perfectly formed for the Sky+ era with only about 5 minutes of play worth enduring at normal speed.  Forget the thrills; this was all about the spills as players from both teams juggled the ball like inexperienced clowns, time and again allowing it to fall to the deck.  What a depressingly poor quality match, and a terrible advert for the tournament as a whole.  Indeed, all of the French matches have been pretty dire thus far, and a far cry from the resplendent offloads and mazy running lines of days gone by.

Even when angles are cut and half-breaks made, try scoring opportunities are squandered and opportunities go to waste.  England has the most creative backline in the Championship and created several gilt edged chances against Scotland but failed to complete the job time and again.  In Cardiff, Wales defended heroically on their own line but the Irish must have been wearing Gold Cup blinkers as they pummeled away around the fringes and spurned countless men over on the wide outside.  As good as the result was for Wales, and as enjoyable as the tight games may have been for the fans, realistically one has to say that the lack of composure and clinical finishing does not bode well for the forthcoming World Cup.

Contrast the game in the North to the rugby in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Super 15 season is not long underway and the games are electric, the offloads come thick and fast and there is a much bigger emphasis on attack.  That isn’t to say that defensive duties are neglected, in fact far from it.  There are some bone crunching hits, well won turnovers and solid counter-rucks, but teams aren’t wasting time grappling on the floor to slow opposition possession, or simply trying to win a long-winded territory battle with the boot.  Instead, they concentrate on handling skills and working hard to break down defences with deft running lines, neat offloads and intelligent support play.  Fitness levels in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa must be immense; players are working so hard with and without the ball for 80 minutes, providing an enthralling spectacle week in, week out.  Come the World Cup in October, when the cream has risen to the top and players have been in International training camps for a few weeks, these teams could prove unplayable for the Northern Hemisphere outfits that seem to be playing at a far slower pace.

That isn’t to say there have been no rays of light in this year’s Six Nations, as the emergence of some new players onto international the scene have been a revelation.  The Italian lock Biagi, France’s Scott Spedding and La Rochelle Number 8 Goujon as well as a trio of centres from England, Ireland and Scotland – Jonathan Joseph, Robbie Henshaw and Mark Bennett have all proved their worth, with the Bath centre in particular taking his creative club form straight onto the Six Nations stage.  But what I’ve felt has really been missing is the intent from teams to go for the jugular and kill off the opposition with heavy scores.  Perhaps this is something a bonus point structure could address?  After all, the 6 Nations is now the only annual rugby tournament still not using points-scoring incentives of any kind.  Maybe now is the right time to break with tradition and introduce bonus points to improve the spectacle and encourage teams to play with a more attacking mind-set?  This year’s table might well look the same if bonus points were accounted for, but that simply reinforces the belief that no-one is really playing with enough ambition or desire to score more tries than they absolutely require to win.  Who knows just how the results could have been impacted had the extra point incentives been in play?

Overall, this year’s Six Nations has been rather disappointing and lacking a certain “je ne sais quoi”, as maybe teams have a bigger prize in mind and one eye on the World Cup in the autumn.  For all the excitement and importance placed on the final table at the end of this Saturday’s games, perhaps though we should be wary about proclamations and predictions of who will do what when the tournament kicks off in September.  Last Saturday, Wales did do well to beat a tough Irish team, and England did show they could make a break or two, but each and every team in this year’s Six Nations will have to reduce their error count significantly if they have great aspirations later on this year.  Come to think of it, perhaps the French have developed a cunning plan to get all of their mistakes cleared out of the way before the tournament gets underway in September…..

Why I’m Supporting #StayStrongForOws

First posted on this fund raising blog on 8th February 2015.

I admired Owen Williams’ talent as a player as I watched him develop through the ranks.  He has an old head on young shoulders and his brutish physical stature belied the deft touches and finesse of his game.  He was an all-rounder, and, so I’m told, a very grounded and level headed person to be around.  He had already pulled on the red shirt of Wales and looked immediately comfortable, like he belonged.  Many more caps were surely to follow.

What happened to Owen in Singapore was truly awful.  It was no-one’s fault, a freak accident, but one with devastating consequences for Owen himself of course, and for his family.  His rugby career was ended in one split second but his battles are still only at their beginning.  Every day he inches along the road to recovery, with the support of a close-knit family, his community club at Aberdare and of course his region, Cardiff Blues.  Owen’s situation resonates with every player who has ever played the game, and with every partner, parent or sibling who has watched.  The sport is one we deeply love, but one in which there are risks that we accept as we cross the whitewash.  Rugby brings people together, and those bonds are being demonstrated across the World as the rugby community joins together to support Owen in his recovery.

Gareth works for me in my Sport Business.  He had been providing me with consultative support for about four months when he mentioned the challenges he was hoping to undertake in 2015 and asked for my help.  Whilst I admire his determination and ambition, I couldn’t help but think he might have bitten off more than he could chew!  How many marathons had he done previously?  None, yet here was he telling me he would be running in Paris!  And more importantly, how many triathlons had he competed in?  Again, none!  But he planned to jump in at the deep end and sign up for Ironman Wales in Tenby!

I offered to support Gareth and we discussed raising money for a worthwhile cause.  Having been involved in rugby all my life and particularly spending many hours mentoring and nurturing younger players, just like Owen, I was passionate that his was the cause we should be donating to.  Gareth agreed wholeheartedly and approached Cardiff Blues for their blessing, which we duly received last week.  We have set an ambitious, but achievable target of £5,000 for the year, although of course we hope to raise more for Owen if we possibly can!

Gareth will also be joining the Cardiff Blues cycle ride to Paris in June if we can raise enough money (£2,000) in time, and of course his training will continue for the next seven and a half months.  Both of us will in the meantime be working tirelessly to promote his endeavours and spread the message, which will hopefully enable us to exceed our targets.

All I can say is this: if you can afford to give, even just a little, please help.  You can donate here.  If you know of anyone, or any company who can help publicise this fundraising effort, or make a donation, please contact us, or pass our details on.

Thank you all for your anticipated support.

PT

The Friday Farce

Well, what a let down Friday was for a Welsh rugby fan!  The awful decision to hold the game on a Friday night was just the start of it.  And we already know it won’t be for the final time, with a Friday night fixture already announced for the next two championships, presumably at the behest of the broadcasters with the usual scant regard for what the paying supporters actually would prefer.

And what on earth was the “light show” before the match all about?  Added to the now obligatory fireworks and the comfortable salary afforded to the CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union, anyone would think Welsh rugby has more money than it knows what to do with but of course that simply isn’t the case!  Grassroots clubs must be livid when they see their own money literally being burned in front of their eyes, a lavish spectacle lasting a couple of minutes preferred to the investment in club rugby and nurturing young talent and the future generation of Welsh players.  And they would rightly be annoyed when they consider what the CEO takes home for organising discos such as this one.

What is wrong with the band and choral hymns of old?  If that isn’t enough of a spectacle, well what about asking youngsters to perform some traditional Welsh dances?  Or getting the Under 20’s or Ladies teams to play a curtain raiser on a newly laid part-artificial turf that should easily now stand up to two games in one day?  What we were left with was more pop concert than sport and meant a complete lack of respect for the anthems as large electrical units were wheeled from the pitch during their singing so as not to delay the kick off.  One can only imagine what was spent on this spectacle all together.

As for the game itself, the result was certainly not what was expected from a solid and settled Welsh side, at home.  For all the horseplay about the roof, England left with no reason to accede to Welsh requests to close it ever again.  After a good start, Welsh fragilities began to show.  A complete lack of creativity behind the scrum was exposed as Wales failed to unlock the English defence.  In fact, it is difficult to remember Wales’ last clean line break and score full stop.  England on the other hand settled down and destabilised the opposition with fast footed players.  Ford, Joseph, Watson and Brown regularly stepped and jinked past first tackles and attacked weak shoulders.

Again Wales seemed to have no plan “B”.  The most creative player in their squad, Liam Williams, was left kicking his heels on the bench having looked hungry for the 8 minutes in which he replaced George North.  He, and Justin Tipuric, had the ability to at least change the style of the home team’s play but were not required on the day, even as Wales sought a way back in the second half.

Recent matches have demonstrated the big differences in the development structure of the two countries.  England are bringing their Under 20’s stars through the ranks, playing them in their “A” side and affording them a step up from Premiership rugby.  When they perform well, like Henry Slade, they are then added to the senior squad.  England seem to value their own young and creative talent whereas in Wales we are currently confining them to bit part roles.  Creative players in Wales are presently far less popular than larger physical specimens.  What has happened to Welsh flair and creativity?  Since the retirement of Shane Williams the team has lacked an X Factor player and is in desperate need of at least two in the backline.

Indeed what a farce last Friday turned out to be for a Welshman!  The WRU though, was as proficient as always in creating a spectacle using smoke and shadows, as it did on the night.  Hopefully though it was the grassroots clubs who truly saw the light and will begin to force for the changes in regime that are desperately needed in order to save our national sport.