Having marshalled Llanelli Scarlets, Clermont Auvergne, London Wasps, Wales and the British and Irish Lions on the field during his time as a player, this season sees Stephen Jones take on his latest challenge, moving into a coaching role at the Club.
As a decision maker on the field, and with over 100 international caps behind him, you could not ask for more relevant experience to help ease the transition from player to coach. However, that changeover is never an easy one to navigate and Jones says that the challenges ahead of him are numerous.
“I think that if you play outside half you have a natural understanding or appreciation of what a team needs purely because of the nature of the position. Coaching is different in the sense that you need to understand the full sequences and patterns required. You are not just dealing with fifteen, or even twenty-three guys, you are dealing with a whole squad and it is about managing your time so that you can give the players as much feedback as you can and you structure training as efficiently as possible.”
“I suppose 10s tend to have a closer relationship with the coaches purely because they are one of the key decision makers out on the pitch and it is their responsibility to implement a game plan. I think that from my perspective it is about trying to evolve and analyse everything that I enjoyed and appreciated as a player. What I worked on and what helped me develop as a player and trying improve the players I now have in front of me by being honest and upfront with them.”
“Last year I had two weeks during the LV=Cup competition during which I was able to explore the coaching role a bit but my focus last season was solely on being a player really and the role has completely changed this year. I really enjoyed those two weeks. You obviously have a lot more spare time as a player, a lot more down time, but you are also a lot more tired as a player because that spare time is to recover from the hard work you are doing. If I am honest, I haven’t trained at all since the end of last year and I am not missing that aspect of things, especially seeing the boys working hard out there since they have come back in for preseason!”
Jones’ experience from his playing career is undoubted and during that time he says that he has been lucky enough to work with some of the best coaches in the game, from whom he can cherry-pick aspects that he feels will help to shape his coaching career.
“There is a lot that I have been able to take from the coaches I have worked with as a player. The personalities, the drills, the game plans, the philosophies, how they deal with people. I have been very fortunate to work with a number of very good coaches, many of whom have gone on to experience huge success. I think the key for me is trying to take aspects from all of them. All of the coaches I have worked under have had strong attributes, whether the emphasis was on skill, fitness, discipline, they all had different attributes and it is all about trying to take as many positives from those to influence my coaching style.”
Jones has at his disposal one of the most exciting group of backs in the Aviva Premiership who have shown their abilities on both the domestic and international stage in recent months. As exciting as the group he has to work with are, he says that his challenge is to get them to work collectively to produce something far more stirring.
“We have got a very ambitious and young squad and we want to do as well as we can. You have to be realistic, we were eighth last season but that is not where we want to be. We all want to be successful and being the best is all about winning, that is the environment we are in. As long as I can give the guys a platform and the environment which is enjoyable and challenging I will feel that I am doing my job.”
“It is a wonderful opportunity for myself to work with some wonderful individual players in the backline but the challenge for me is to try and get those guys playing well together and maximising what we have got. Playing efficiently, intelligently and creatively as a backline. If we can do that then the supporters will enjoy the brand of rugby we are playing and we will see the results on the field.”
“My goal at the moment is purely to settle into this new role here, work hard, get my head down, enjoy what I am doing and keep on improving and challenging myself. If we are playing well as a team then I will be a very happy man.”