RPA Launches Second Diversity & Inclusion Event - The Journey to Coaching

On Monday 25th January, The Rugby Players Association (RPA) held their second in a series of webinars focusing on Diversity and Inclusion in rugby, an issue that is currently a focus point of work being carried out by the organisation. This includes projects created in conjunction with Premiership Rugby and the RFU, reflecting the game-wide nature of the subject.

James Bailey, the RPA’s Diversity and Inclusion advisor and himself an elite coach, was joined by an exceptional panel of leading coaches in the men’s and women’s game to discuss the topic of coaching. James led the panel discussion, where fellow coaches Rachael Burford, Paul Hull, Tamara Taylor and Jordan Turner-Hall discussed their own personal journeys, what inspired them to coach, and the hurdles they have faced and overcome on the way.

The group emphasised the importance of opportunity and role models within coaching, the value in helping and understanding people, the barriers within coaching, as well as the huge cultural and performance benefit of diversity of staff and diversity of thought in order to think outside the box and maximise potential for the success of the game.

The key takeaway from the discussion was that this needs to be a long-term cultural shift rather than a quick fix.

Following the discussion, James Bailey, RPA Diversity and Inclusion Advisor said: "It was a great discussion on an important area of our game. Rachel, Tamara, Jordan and Paul provided significant insight; all are in agreement that the diversity of coaches must increase and it will take a holistic and unified approach for this to happen.”

The panel wrapped up the webinar by talking through the newly created RPA/RFU/Premier Rugby coaching pathways for underrepresented groups, for those who wish to take their interest forward.
Premiership Rugby have been working with John Lawn, Head of Game Development at the RFU, to implement a pathway to support opportunities for male and female players from ethnically diverse communities into future coaching and refereeing roles. The pathway is made up of a 4-stage process from January 2021 to July 2021 for players leading into structured qualifications programme from July 2021:

  • Stage 1 - online sharing, listening and learning opportunities with former players who have made the transition.
  • Stage 2 - online modules to explain the coach and match official development pathway.
  • Stage 3 - shadowing opportunities to give more insight into coaching and refereeing roles and what is required on a daily/weekly basis.
  • Stage 4 - have a go! - support with mentoring, connections to clubs where they would be well supported by experienced coaches and referees.

Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby’s Community and CSR Director and a member of the organisation’s Diversity & Inclusion Group said: “Increasing diversity and inclusion in the game is one of Premiership Rugby’s key priorities in 2021 so we are delighted to see this initiative coming to life.
At grassroots level Project Rugby – which we run with the RFU and Gallagher - is making a huge difference introducing thousands of young people from diverse ethnic communities to rugby, and now we must do all we can to make the same impact in the elite game.
We are committed to making English professional club rugby a more diverse and inclusive environment, it is vital that there are no barriers to entry to the pipelines for employment in coaching. We need more BAME coaches entering the system to create greater opportunities throughout the professional game.
This new initiative has been developed in partnership with our colleagues across rugby and provides opportunities to gain qualifications, along with mentoring from current professional coaches. We hope this scheme will create clear pathways and substantially improve future employment prospects for BAME coaches.”

RFU Head of Game Development John Lawn said: “The RFU is committed to improving the diversity of all areas of the game and continuing to create an inclusive environment for all, so we are really pleased to be supporting the RPA and PRL with this programme. It’s a focused piece of work that builds on the professional players’ coaching award courses and coach development support the RFU has been providing to current and former players, including several England women’s internationals, for over a decade. We look forward to seeing many more players take up the opportunity to develop themselves and supporting them on their coaching journey.”

RPA Diversity and Inclusion webinars will be taking place on a monthly basis with each event focusing on a different topic. For more information on the above or if you have any questions on this topic please contact:

Mark Lambert - mlambert@therpa.co.uk