An Insight into Pro Rugby in NZ

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Since this website began, during the fall season, I have coached a very good Harvard side to a Round of 16 birth and have also began working for a professional rugby organization, Waikato Rugby Union & Chiefs Franchise, as a Rugby Development Officer. I would like to take this opportunity to write about my experiences and also to give you an insight on how the Waikato Rugby Union is structured.

Waikato is a province that's located just below Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. The province has a very rich history of success, winning numerous Ranfurly Shield challenges, beating many international touring teams and also being semi finalists of New Zealand's National Provincial Competition. Actually, Waikato is the current holders of the Air New Zealand Cup which is the trophy that symbolizes National supremacy.

Within the parochial province there are 33 senior clubs, 23 high schools and 13 age grade representative teams. There are 20 fulltime staff members that contribute to the development of Waikato Rugby. There is a CEO, Rugby Development Manager, Club Liaison Officer, Referee Education Officer, Community Rugby Coordinator, Business Manager, Marketing Manager, Community Rugby Manager, Commercial Manager, Ticketing Manager, Marketing Assistants, Receptionists and also 3 Development Officers.

The Waikato team that competes in the Air New Zealand Cup competition has fulltime Coaches and Assistants, Managers, Video analysts, 5 fitness trainers.

In New Zealand terms it is a very big sporting organization and is growing rapidly as the goal to stay at the top is a high priority across the various departments.

The Rugby Development Officers department is a very exciting and challenging experience. It's our goal to be the best development programme in the country. Our jobs are to increase the standard of coaching and playing ability within the clubs and high schools. At the moment we have four different coaching courses we run, one for high performance coaches, one for coaches who are trying to become level 1 & 2 coaches, one for junior boys coaches (Small Black Rugby) and one to educate coaches on safety techniques in an effort to decrease brain and spinal injuries. These courses are very practical and we give the coaches the opportunity to coach in front of other coaches and then have feedback sessions afterwards. We also run power point presentations, video analysis sessions and plenty of group tasks which groups will have case studies to discuss.

In between the coaching courses are out in the clubs and schools taking training sessions. We identify playing talent and if the players are good enough we will put them on specific individualized training programmes which their progress will be monitored. We don't leave any stone unturned and we are committed to getting the best talent into our systems. We have an Academy for exceptional talent, who are put on contracts, outside of high school age and they basically train like Super 14 players. If players perform at high school level and have a good attitude there is an opportunity for that player to stake a claim for an Academy spot. There are currently 30 players in Waikato's Academy.

We educate players on nutrition, mental skills, strength & conditioning and obviously core rugby skills. We believe we run the best show in town as far as nurturing talent goes. We don't have a big emphasis on poaching players from other provinces and we do everything we can to nurture our own local talent. Many Waikato Development Officers have gone on to work for the New Zealand Rugby Union which symbolizes our dedication.

We are lucky in New Zealand that it is our national game so we deal with the very best of raw natural talent. It is exciting to go to some rural towns where facilities and resources are at a bare minimum and watch some of these kids play. Many great All Blacks have come from these towns and I don't know it yet but I'm sure I am witnessing some right now.

If any coach or player would like advice on rugby please feel free to contact me at . Our coaching staff is very motivated to come to America and help with the development of the game in your country.

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