Gavin Cattle has reflected on a season that for him and fellow Coach Alan Paver has ended with them taking up the reins as coaches in charge of the Cornish Pirates.
At seasons end the pair travelled to New Zealand to spend time with former High Performance Manager Chris Stirling and the Hurricanes rugby team, for an intensive period honing their coaching skills, and on return it was straight back into pre-season training with our current squad.
Commenting on the amazing opportunity for a trip to New Zealand to continue his personal development as a coach, Gavin said:
“Such trips don’t come up very often and we were grateful for the chance given us through the generosity of Richard and Sue Cockram.
“Through our link with Chris Stirling we were able to access and liaise with experts in their field at the Hurricanes, which was an awesome experience for Alan and myself.
Yes, we knew it wasn’t ideal being away from our families - we are lucky to both have understanding partners - however in terms of professional development it was a great opportunity. Everyone was open, honest and accessible, thus enabling us to maximise our time there.”
Pre-season, so far has been going well. The players have already been in training for six weeks with physical, mental and rugby skills being developed in a tough programme.
Gavin said: “pre-season is broken down into three phases, with the first phase a period more aligned to strength and conditioning. Supervised by Frank Sanderson and Ben Gregor, it is a time, well spent during the month of June, to get the graft in and the boys conditioned!”
Gavin went on to say “Phase 2 is when rugby knowledge is the principle focus. This involves such as doctrines in attack and defence, counter-attack, and kick transition.
There is a lot of content for the boys to learn and take on board, but what Alan and I are endeavouring to do as coaches, is to try and simplify things and give players clarity around each unit.
Phase 2 is the tricky one, because that’s when players are tested getting a rugby focus with skills, but still needing to match strength and conditioning targets. We are however lucky with the level of monitoring undertaken, and Frank is able to provide us with important feedback.”
Gavin added: “Rugby-wise the players will inevitably make mistakes, but they should be made to feel comfortable in that it is okay to make mistakes, because it will help each individual and collectively as a group to push towards improvement.
If they put in the work and energy at the start, and then push to develop the skills level further, then they will progress and we are very pleased thus far.
“As for Phase 3, that will be in August when there will be added concentration on set-piece play and shape, and being more specific to who we will be selecting to play. This is a time where the pre-season friendlies are important.”
Mentioning the pre-season games, the Cornish Pirates at present have just the two fixtures lined up. Both are away, against Aberavon Wizards and Northampton Saints.
Gavin feels that with a small squad this year, two games should actually suit the team well:
“From a playing perspective it is felt we have two good fixtures - the opportunity for our players to go to Northampton in particular is huge - and the tests will give us a true measure of where we are at, both as coaches and a team.
The frustration of supporters that there is at present no home game is fully understood, as we would prefer to have at least one game at home.
However, for the bigger picture the matches that we have lined up should hopefully prove beneficial, the important factors being the level of rugby, and the test the boys will get before the Championship fixtures start.
Of course we aren’t going to be the finished article at the beginning, but the two games will give us that yardstick of where we are.”
Both coaches are aware that the squad size will be a big factor for the season ahead:
“With the squad being smaller, and there is no hiding from that, we have to adapt.
Although there are positives, as coaches we can be more specific with each player, to concentrate on details in coaching individually, and to thus, theoretically, get the best out of them when they are on the pitch.
“Also, of course, the mental side has an important part to play, involving how we communicate on the field under stress, so we are looking at people in our squad who can cope with the inevitable psychological pressure that kicks in during the season.”
As confirmed this week, the Cornish Pirates start their Championship campaign on the first Saturday in September with a tough opener away to Bedford Blues. Recent contests between the teams have, for various reasons, been high-scoring affairs. This one, even if both teams play positive rugby, will be a tighter game.
Asked how the Cornish Pirates will approach and, which teams will feature in the 2016-17 season, he replied: “It will be important that we approach these games without fear, as we will against Doncaster Knights who have retained a big number of their squad and should again have a good season.
Bedford too have a good pool of players comprising exciting talent, whilst Jersey Reds, with former ‘All Black’ Regan King now on board, will look to make the top four.
“As for the Pirates, we shall be looking to set goals and targets to move forward, with our focus on performance and creating more consistency.”
September will be with us in a blink. A new season is just around the corner.