Vancouver, BC – January 14, 2019: Last weekend saw this year’s BC Rugby Conference take place at St. George’s School in Vancouver. Under glorious blue skies and bright sunshine, over 100 coaches and referees from across the Province and beyond gathered for two days of ideas, knowledge sharing and networking.
The driving aim of the BC Rugby Conference is to help coaches and referees build their knowledge base and skill set for building the game of rugby at all levels, from minis to National Programs. Attendees were able to take part in a rich schedule of sessions including classroom discussions, on-field demonstrations and Q&A sessions with experts from a variety of fields. A common theme across the weekend was challenging preconceptions and illustrating how to generate greater levels of participation and learning through games.
Russell Earnshaw, RFU Coach and co-founder of The Magic Academy, was one of the primary presenters for the coaches. His first visit as a coach to Canadian soil, he was impressed with the engagement of the attendees and the volunteer players from St. George’s School and the BC Rugby Elite Youth Sevens Girls’ Program. Advocating an open, honest and adaptable approach to coaching, Earnshaw clearly inspired a few lightbulb moments in the imaginations of onlookers. Demonstrating the benefits of “games within games” and encouraging critical thinking from players during sessions, Earnshaw presented an exciting new lens through which rugby coaching could be viewed. Conference organiser, Tony LaCarte, was full of praise, stating “His ability to make people feel comfortable created the best learning environment for coaches and players. This is where the magic lies.” LaCarte went on say “Rusty (Russell) is able to show people what is possible in coaching. Coaches walked away from the weekend with a lot to think about. Moreover, he also gave ideas on how coaches can stay connected with each other and continue the learning following the conference. It’s really important that our coaches don’t just see this as a single weekend, but the part of a continual cycle of improvement.”
Complimenting Earnshaw’s deliveries were sessions with Rugby Canada Defence Coach Henry Paul and Canada Men’s Sevens Head Coach Damian McGrath. Both brought fascinating insights from the elite end of rugby, both through the players they interact with and their own experiences on the world stage. Both Paul and McGrath had audiences rapt, illustrating simple concepts that delivered tangible results as well as discussing the nuances of international competition. Attendees had plenty of praise for the conference as a whole, one coach happily asserting that “this was the best coaching conference I have been to in the last 10 years.”
Meanwhile, the Referees were involved in an equally engaging series of sessions. From mental skills and coping with pressure, ably delivered by UBC lecturer and former Canadian Women’s Team player Carolyn McEwan, to the ergonomics and theory behind high velocity running with John Abreu, former High-Performance Manager at BC Rugby. Both brought life to their sessions and showed the breadth of factors that rugby referees need to take in to account beyond the laws of the sport. These sessions were complemented by outdoor mini-games and scenarios, looking at creating space and reading the game as it evolves around them. Other presenters in the jam-packed schedule included BC Rugby Officials Development Officer Chris Assmus, Clint Lemkus, Bruce Kuklinski and David Smorchevsky.
BC Rugby would like to thank all of the session leaders for their valuable input as well as the dozens of coaches and match officials who travelled from across the province to attend. Special thanks must also be extended to St. George’s School and their staff for providing such excellent facilities across the weekend. Keep an eye on the Referee and Coach sections of the BC Rugby website for future opportunities, and don’t hesitate to reach out to BC Rugby Staff if you have any questions.
A gallery of some of the BC Rugby Conference Highlights can be found here.