Jamie Taylor, the director of rugby at Denstone College, who look after eight Leicester Tigers academy players and one Worcester Warriors academy prospect, believes that young players should be continually challenged if they are to take the step up to the next level.
“If you do everything for them, you’re doing young academy players a disservice,” Taylor tells Rugby World. “Let’s say a player comes into a programme at the age of 13, have a really smooth path with absolutely no disappointments on their way to an academy. Then they come to a situation where they are trying to earn a first team contract (at a pro side). If they don’t get one they won’t be equipped to deal with that.
“As for skills, it depends on an individual basis but we are not a school who wants to win every fixture. If you are unbeaten, that’s not tough enough and the players don’t learn anything.”
Taylor also explains a programme he has utilized at Denstone which looks at Psychological Characteristics for Developing Excellence (PCDEs) – a principle which he insists can be seen in literature but that is not particularly well known. To explain, he gives an example of talking players through a specific seminar on goal-setting – looking at outcome goals or process goals. Then it is about instilling in players that they must identify themselves when they have achieved a goal. Then they will review these goals periodically, possibly when we are coaching them one-on-one.
Mental toughness is perhaps one outcome, but for Taylor the emphasis is on teaching players to take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes. Of course, it is also about careful management and schoolmasters, as well as individual players, being completely aware of how programmes with an academy, school side, and other groups should marry together.
“It’s about working well with academies – so we share video analysis with Leicester of their players, so we are aligned in our thinking,” Taylor says.
“Any schoolmaster who has academy players in their team and wants their players to progress, they have to have dialogue with these academies. The big danger is over-training on the pitch and under-training with strength and conditioning. It’s about managing progress. And absolutely, I would advise young players (who may not have a school coach so close to an academy) to seek out as much information themselves, so they know exactly how much training to do.”
Jamie Taylor will be speaking at the Rugby Innovation Summit. To find out more, visit rugbyinnovationsummit.com