The Bramley Buffaloes team were lucky enough to be involved in a training session delivered by legendary Rugby League coach Shaun McRae at Stanningley this week.
Shaun McRae kindly offered his time to come down to the club and work alongside Head Coach Chris Gardner in delivering a defensive drill training session.
The former Challenge Cup, Northern Rail Cup and Super League winning coach was very impressed with the club and the facilities on offer at the Arthur Miller Stadium, saying “the indoor gym and rehab room are great, and there’s a terrific training ground and playing pitch. I feel very welcomed by everyone here and very comfortable in this setting. The training session today was tough, but the players were great and responded well to the tough training.”
When asked what prompted him to choose defensive drills as the session focus, he cited the time of the year for the reasoning. “We’re well into the season now, with four or five matches left. There’s no point having an experienced coach coming down to lead a conditioning session at this stage, if you drill players they will be far more responsive. The session today aimed to improve on-field technical ability and tactical awareness.”
McRae however acknowledged that training sessions can only do so much to prepare the players for the demands of a game. “Rugby league is a volatile game played at pace,” he said. “It’s very hard to drill players under these circumstances; it’s very hard to simulate a real game in practice conditions. Other sports are fine to break down into their components – basketball, netball, cricket, tennis, it’s even possible to break rugby union down into the plays. But rugby league is a difficult game, played by tough, brave people.”
As a coach at all levels for 20 years, Shaun has a very experienced idea on what it takes to be a good coach. On discussing Gardner as a coach, Shaun said “it is obvious that Chris gets a lot of respect from the players and gets his point across to them, which is key. It is also helpful that he has played at different levels for a long time so he knows the game.
“Coaching is a process. When you become a coach, you relearn the game in a different way from when you were a player. You suddenly have to understand the roles of all of the players, and have to become many things to the players – role model, counsellor, disciplinarian. You’re in the position where you have to gain the respect of the players, so that they want to play for you.
“Coaches have to be patient, the career is a steep learning curve with many tough patches as well as many good times. We all learn about winning from a young age, that winning is good, and it becomes innate to us that winning is what we strive for. But far too often coaches are judged solely on whether they win or lose – making them good or bad – and not on if improvement and progression is being made. The supporters will love you when you’re winning, but you soon become a different person when you’re losing! The reality is, mistakes are made and you win some and you lose some. But you have to be patient and persevere, to become a better person and be able to impart good information to others, to allow those others to develop too.”
McRae told us that he’s watched many games on our level. He stresses that people – spectators and coaches alike – need to remember that it’s not Super League, its not the NRL or the Championship. A different kind of motivation is expected and seen from the players in the Conference, and this needs to be noted when planning training sessions. “Players at this level,” he said “are expected to be respectful, alert and want to improve. However we don’t expect to see them planning professional level standard, and consideration needs to be taken of the fact that this isn’t an elite competition, so those expectations aren’t set too high.”
The training session went well, the players were very responsive and seemed to get a lot out of it, and I’m sure they will agree that it was a great pleasure and privilage to have someone with such high standing in rugby league as Mr McRae down at the club. We hope to be seeing Shaun back again at some point in the near future.