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Awards For Coaching Excellence

Clubs, CBs and schools can nominate exceptional coaches for the RFU Coaching Awards which recognise coaches’ achievements and their contribution to rugby union.

The annual awards recognise coaching achievements and the valuable contribution that coaching makes to the sport of rugby. There are five awards reflecting the different areas where coaching and coaching development make a significant impact upon rugby union.

The Ian Thompson Young People's Coach of the Year Award

This Award recognises the outstanding contribution of a qualified coach in developing young people’s skills, understanding, enjoyment and lifestyle through rugby. The award is named after Ian Thompson, a former Coach Development Officer, who did so much for coaching and coach development particularly for young people.

The winner of the 2011 award is Anastacia Long who has worked tirelessly to create a school-club link between Old Rutlishians and Graveney School. The school now has a team at every age-group and has 45 girls playing weekly. This has led to the creation of Ruts Junior Player Development programme which goes into primary schools in the local borough to offer coaching for players and development for staff at those schools to go on coaching courses so they can lead rugby sessions themselves.

Anastacia is constantly looking to improve her knowledge through CPD courses and observing and questioning other coaches. She is currently working towards her Level 2 coaching qualification. The high quality of her work has seen her take up a coaching role within the U13 Surrey Development squad and she often helps out at Harlequins Inner London SOR sessions. She goes above and beyond her role as a coach to organise days out for the players, fundraises for tours and kit and helps children of all ages and ability to enjoy the game.

Adult Coach of the Year

This Award recognises the outstanding contribution of a coach in encouraging more adults to stay in and/or succeed in the sport through high-quality coaching within a club and team environment.

The winner of the 2011 award is Paul Harding from Weymouth RFC. Paul has made a huge impact on Weymouth RFC as Head Coach of the senior club for the last three seasons. When he took over, the club was running just two senior teams plus an occasional Vets team. The 1st XV were languishing mid-table of Dorset & Wilts Division 1 (S), but his influence has brought real solid success and last year they were second in the league and Plate finalists.

Chris Davis, Weymouth’s Volunteer’s Coordinator, said: “Paul’s approach to coaching has transformed the players in attitude, skills and fitness. Such is the quality of Paul’s coaching that we regularly have between 30 to 40 players attending evening training despite having to train under temporary lights due to public road works. These numbers have enabled us this season to start a 3rd XV, which so far has fulfilled all its fixtures and we continue to run Vets matches.”

Club Coaching Coordinator of the Year

This award recognises the Club Coaching Coordinator who makes a significant contribution to the development of coaches within their rugby club which helps recruit, retain and develops players.

The winner of the 2011 award is Davinia Sugden from the Essex Rugby Coach Development Team. Ged White, coaching chair for Essex, nominated Davinia and says her “drive and enthusiasm carries everyone she comes in to contact with along with her”.

He added: “As the ‘cluster’ lead Club Coaching Co-ordinator (CCC) for the Seaside and Estuary cluster in Essex she has a lot of ground to cover but even in this day and age of electronic communication Davinia will go to meet the CCCs in her cluster. Davinia’s success is unparalleled. Not only has she increased the number of active CCCs in the County generally she has 98% club coverage of active CCCs in her cluster.”

Davinia, who lives in Hockley, said: “My success would not have been achieved without the support of my colleagues from the RFU, Essex and especially those involved in the Essex Coaching Development Team.”

Coach Educator of the Year

This Award recognises the Trainer/Coach Educator who has made a significant contribution to the development of individual coaches in England through the delivery of high quality education/development programmes through foundation, qualification and CPD courses or coach mentoring.

The winner of the 2011 award is Paul Westgate from Uppingham School. Paul has worked in the Midlands East region as a Coach Educator and Trainer for the past two years having previously worked in the same role in the London South region. He is described as an outstanding member of the coach education workforce in the region and as both a course leader and a coach educator he has contributed a great deal to the training and on-going development of coaches. 

Paul has a great depth of knowledge about the game and how to coach it and he is able to transfer this knowledge in a supportive and empathetic manner.  In addition to his work on RFU courses he has assisted on RFU teachers’ days and divisional coaching conferences with great success.  He acts as a mentor to coaches working through their Level 3 award and as coach advisor at the Leicestershire School of Rugby. His mentoring of the coaches ensures that the coaching received by the players on this programme is of the highest possible quality. Paul has recently been involved in the pilot of a new Coaching Children Rugby Union course in the Midlands East region bringing his expertise to the project.

Previous winner: Dick Matthews from Cambridge

Lifetime Achievement Award for Coaching Excellence

This Award recognises an exceptional candidate’s achievements through a lifetime dedicated to coaching rugby union.

This year, due to the quality of the candidates and nominations, two people received the award: Lynn Evans from Oxford and David ‘Benji’ Thomas from Cornwall

As well as coaching Oxford University, Lynn Evans has been involved with the Oxfordshire county side, Chinnor RFC and Littlemore RFC - the latter a club which he actually founded. He was also a former Rugby Development Officer for the RFU and he has coached in Canada, USA, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Malaysia. He is currently a coaching advisor and mentor to the RFU and also looks after Oxford University’s Under 21s side.

John Peel, Chair of the Oxfordshire CB coaching sub-committee, described Lynn as an “inspirational coach and teacher” and added: “His knowledge and enthusiasm, love for the game and commitment to the development of children through sport has been staggering. He has inspired countless young people to play the sport all over the world.”

David ‘Benji’ Thomas has spent over 40 years teaching and coaching players of all ages and levels for sides including Falmouth, St Ives, Cornwall Colts and Cornwall. His achievements include coaching Cornwall to three Twickenham County finals, and the South and South West Division. He has also been responsible for training coaches and has held roles such as Chairman of the Cornwall RFU Coaching Association (CRFU), RFU Coaching Tutor and Cornwall Coaching Coordinator covering all junior rugby in the county as well as identifying and organising all of the Schools of Rugby in Cornwall.

David Martin, CRFU’s President, said: “Benji was an outstanding player but was always destined to be an even better coach. He has devoted 50 years of his life to coaching and the well-being of those interested in rugby union. His enthusiasm is beyond bounds and is infectious. Without his input rugby in Cornwall would begin to wither and die! What greater legacy could one man leave?”

Previous winner: Elfyn Pugh from Staffordshire


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