Coaches Week Spotlight: Adrian Brown
September 22nd, 2022
(Whitby, ON) - National Coaches Week is an annual campaign lead by the Coaching Association of Canada. Coaches Week is an opportunity to recognize coaches for the integral role they play by taking the time to recognize and thank them for all their efforts. Join in on the week by recognizing your favourite coach on social media using the hashtag #ThanksCoach. Tag Rugby Ontario in the post so we can recognize them as well!
In celebration of National Coaches Week, Rugby Ontario is profiling volunteer coaches from across the Ontario rugby community. Next up in our Coaches Spotlight Series is Adrian Brown! Adrian is one of the coaches of the Women's program at Brock University. He also coaches the NRU 7s Program and Ontario Blues High Performance Program. Adrian also is part of coaching staffs at Centre Dufferin District High School, Fergus Rugby Club, Guelph Rugby Club. Read below to learn more about Adrian's coaching journey!
How did you first get involved with rugby?
I was first introduced to rugby back in grade 9. After trying it in gym class, our coach Pat Sweeney encouraged me to try out for the team. Ever since then rugby has become a large part of my life, through both playing and coaching.
What is your favourite rugby memory?
There are so many wonderful memories that this game game has provided, both from playing and coaching. At this point I would have to say that my favourite memory was coaching the varsity high school girls team at Centre Dufferin during the 2022 season. The commitment level from the girls was exceptional and in the first year in almost 10 years running a program at the school we had a massive turnout. In March and April almost all of them had never touched a rugby ball, couldn’t pass, and barely knew the rules. By June we had won an OFSAA bronze and become an exceptional team. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the emotion and joy of those girls through that tournament. Regardless of the adversity they overcame, they were inspirational in their play and camaraderie. It was an incredibly special moment coming out of two exceptionally difficult years, and a moment they can all share.
What do you love most about the sport?
The community is incredible. It incorporates the true values of rugby with regard to sportsmanship and respect. These values remain long after the game is over. Whether coaching, watching or just chatting rugby, this community is generally so positive and encouraging. Once you find rugby as common ground there are always stories shared probably a couple laughs. It is welcoming long after you step off the pitch and instills lifelong values in those that have been lucky enough to experience the game.
What made you want to become a coach?
Once I realized that my playing days would end, I wanted to stay connected to the game and help give back so much of the positive it provided for me. As a teacher it was also a natural transition to bring it into the school and provide the opportunity that was provided for me. It is a growing game and one of the few that really supports equality in both the women’s and men’s game. I wanted to allow others to experience that culture and do my best to provide a positive experience.
What role have mentors and mentees played in your coach development? Anyone you want to give a shoutout to?
Initially I was off in the deep-end coaching, rehashing what I had been coached to do and how to play for years before. However, I was lucky enough to connect with some incredible coaches in recent years that have helped shape my coaching philosophy and really develop as a coach. Darrell Devine was a great encouragement early when I was working at various schools and started out at the club level, he also encouraged Ian Fitzgerald and Mark Smerdon to take me on as a young coach. Working with these exceptional coaches has really allowed me to mature as a coach and improve my ability to be effective and grow in this role.
What challenges come with being a coach?
One of the biggest challenges is balance. Balancing life with coaching, work and personal pursuits can be overwhelming, especially if you struggle to say no when asked to take on different roles. I really enjoy being on the field and seeing young athletes succeed, sometimes making it difficult to prioritize myself or potentially take on too much. This can definitely cause unnecessary exhaustion and stress, in my life and others at times.
What is your favourite part about coaching?
Seeing that “ah-ha” moment. When an athlete just gets it, whether it is a new skill, achieving a goal in a game, or really finding that self-confidence to try something they’ve been practicing. You can see the smile on their face or confidence grow when they achieve that goal or moment and it makes the time at practice and any driving absolutely worth it. I think it is especially satisfying when they develop their own love of rugby, that incurable feeling that will hopefully stay with them. Seeing their confidence grow through the roof and continue on with rugby is absolutely the best part of coaching.
How have you changed as a coach over your career?
My philosophy has definitely changed over time, especially in the last few years. Really encouraging athletes to try new skills, regardless of the outcome, to problem solve through gameplay in practice so that they can make their decisions in the actual game. Being aware of how contagious emotions can be and still working to remain level during the game is a big focus. This allows the athletes to be their own leaders and develop their own strengths, initially through failure, but they will find success with practice.
What have you learned during the pandemic that can help you grow as a coach?
It has reinforced how important rugby (and sports in general) is to providing opportunity and distraction. The values that rugby instills happen at practice and are reinforced in games, missing that development opportunity was a huge blow to so many athletes. I think realizing how much demand there was and how important that involvement was for so many was startling for me. I knew rugby was growing before, but to see so many new athletes willing to try the game was amazing and forced me to adjust my coaching style to ensure that as many as possible will stick with the game and continue the passion on into their future.
What would you say to someone who is considering getting into coaching?
I encourage them to start young, try it before you are done playing. It will help make them a more well-rounded player, forcing them to problem solve and think through an entire team rather than single position. I would also encourage them to start young in the groups they coach. This will force them to sharpen their ability to coach the fundamentals and really work on their coaching strategies for athletes that may not understand at first or don’t come with polished skills. It’s a humbling experience, but incredibly rewarding when the athletes start to find success.
What are your goals as you move forward in your coaching career?
I would like to continue to develop my understanding of the game. Rugby is constantly evolving and to avoid being on the back foot, I really want to work to improve my tactical understanding of the game and hopefully continue to progress to coach at higher levels. Most of all, I want to provide the opportunity that was provided to me so many years ago. I want as many young athletes to enjoy this game as possible, whether it's at the high school, club, provincial, or national level.
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