Stand up and Fight: A Case Study of a Professional Rugby Club Negotiating a COVID-19 Crisis, a Talent Development Perspective
Coherence in Talent Development Systems
2. Materials and Methods
2.2. An Insider Perspective
2.3. Principles Underpinning the Munster Pathway
- Vertical and horizontal coherence, and shared mental models ;
Munster, a Complex Landscape
2.4. Data Sources
2.4.1. Field Notes
2.4.2. Informal Interviews
2.5. Data Analysis
2.6. Trustworthiness and Integrity
- Firstly, reflecting the importance of in-depth and prolonged engagement and to ensure the credibility of the findings, data were collected over 32 weeks by the first author, who held a thorough and rich understanding of the context;
- Triangulation of data was employed using a range of data sources, including observations, interviews, focus groups, and reflections, in order to increase the rigour of the data;
- Throughout the study, from conception through to write-up, critical friends were employed to address the trustworthiness and credibility of the findings;
- Rich and in-depth accounts of each theme are offered using contextualised data to offer the reader an opportunity to consider the transferability of the findings to other contexts.
3. Results and Discussion
- Groundwork to establish alignment and coherence on the pathway;
- Preparation for the Munster-Wasps game;
- Impact post challenge.
3.1. Groundwork to Establish Alignment and Coherence on the Pathway
“We train the exact same as the seniors. If we hadn’t been training week in week out with the seniors we wouldn’t have been aligned, we wouldn’t have known all the roles and every single call, all as one group the whole time, it was seamless really”.
“We started the practice of having regular pathway meetings with the senior coaches (every 6 weeks) so that they were familiar with the players coming through but also so we have a shared understanding of what we were looking for in players”.
“The sessions we did in the summer (with the NTS players) was very similar to what they experienced during the two weeks. They had trained that type of format and they were familiar with the academy coaching staff. Coaching up and down the pathway stood to us in the prep”.
“Academy coaches and the NTS and Talent coaches worked closely together for the 6 months leading into game, so when all the players and staff came together to prepare for the Wasps game we were on the same page”.
“Our coaching environment (academy) is very open and honest and based on challenge and support, we have each other’s backs but we challenge each other to be operating at the highest standards”.
“As a newly formed academy team (Multi-disciplinary Team, MDT) we had a focus on raising the standards right across the board in the whole Pathway. This began with establishing a clear purpose and an agreed set of values and this was brought to life through our behaviours. We aligned to a key message of the whole Munster organisation ‘we rise by lifting each other’”.
“We communicated with each AIL Head coach twice per week regarding Academy players and we offered the coaching support to all the clubs. This was vital when we needed club players to prepare for the Wasps game, we had incredible support with releasing players to train etc.”.
3.2. Preparation for the Wasps Versus Munster Game
“The coaches gave the senior players a licence to help take the sessions as well, there was an emphasis that they would lead from the front. It gave us confidence that they trusted us and the coaches trusted us. There was real sense of trust around and that brought a closeness”.
“If you empower players it creates a different type of trust and bond in the group, coaching each other, not you (coaches) deciding what we are doing but coming up with it together”.
“Every senior player was partnered with a young player, took him under their wing and supported him throughout the two weeks right up to presenting the jersey to their ‘mentee’ the night before the game”.
“It was kind of inspiring as well because you’re having intimate conversations about your game with players who you grew up watching that you really respect and admire”.
“You had freedom to show what you could do, show your skills, what you had learned up until now, don’t get bogged down on errors and go out and enjoy it. An example of that was a coach saying ‘I just can’t wait to see you play’ gave me great confidence anyway”.
3.3. Impact Post Challenge
“Positive things that have come from the situation are that we [academy staff] are trusted a lot more now by senior staff and by players due to the feedback from the senior players that were here”.
“The dynamic between the younger and senior players is different now, it’s like they are one squad now. The senior players are far more inclusive and engaged with the academy players, any previous divisions are gone”.
“Some of them definitely have grown a lot, the confidence that experience has given them, being able play at a level above what they thought they were capable”.
“Looking at player A, player B and player C playing, who you train with all the time, you’re thinking that if they are able to do that there’s no reason why I can’t do that as well, it gave you belief, that it’s there for you”.
3.4. General Discussion
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Higher Order Themes||Lower Order Themes||Raw Data Themes|
|Groundwork to establish alignment and coherence on the pathway||Integration/alignment of academy and senior team|
(players and staff)
|Training programme alignment|
|Senior and academy coaches alignment|
|Social integration between academy and first team|
|Connections and communications with senior coaches|
|Connecting the pathway||Coaching up and down the pathway|
|Shared mental models/common coaching framework|
|Relationships between academy coaches and pathway players|
|Creating a high performing environment||High challenge support environment|
|Clear purpose and vision guiding behaviours/practices|
|Horizontal alignment with key stakeholders in the TDE||Links to clubs and mutual support|
|Practices to inform player selection|
|Increased visibility of Munster coaches at club games|
|Preparation for the Munster-Wasps game||Dual management—|
Player empowerment and responsibility
|Empowering senior players|
|Building trust between coaches and players|
|Shared ownership of game preparation|
|Player led sessions and meetings|
|Squad integration, building trust and connections||Getting on the same page quickly|
|Connecting the squad|
|Creating a positive task focused environment||Creating balance between work and enjoyment|
|Managing information flow|
|Managing pressure and challenge|
|Excitement to embrace the challenge|
|Role models and mentoring||Buddy system|
|Inspired by role models|
|Support from senior players|
|Playing with a cause and a deep sense of purpose||Creating a legacy, a Munster moment|
|Clear sense of identity and history|
|Representing the whole club|
|Impact post challenge||Inspired and highly motivated players||Motivation from first cap|
|Inspired and hungry for more|
|Increased vertical alignment and interpersonal relationships between staff and players||Acceptance as a Munster senior player|
|Established trust between senior and academy staff|
|Increased engagement and inclusivity in the HPC|
|Stronger relationships across the club|
|Connection through shared experiences|
|Newfound confidence and belief to play at this level||Confidence in own ability|
|Belief that opportunity is within touching distance|
|Post event anti-climax||Disappointment with limited playing opportunities post Wasps game|
|Academy staff experienced an anti-climax slump|
|Confidence that the future is bright||Confidence in players coming through pathway|
|Belief in young players ability|
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Costello, I.; Belton, S.; MacNamara, Á. Stand up and Fight: A Case Study of a Professional Rugby Club Negotiating a COVID-19 Crisis, a Talent Development Perspective. Sports 2022, 10, 124. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10080124
Costello I, Belton S, MacNamara Á. Stand up and Fight: A Case Study of a Professional Rugby Club Negotiating a COVID-19 Crisis, a Talent Development Perspective. Sports. 2022; 10(8):124. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10080124Chicago/Turabian Style
Costello, Ian, Sarahjane Belton, and Áine MacNamara. 2022. "Stand up and Fight: A Case Study of a Professional Rugby Club Negotiating a COVID-19 Crisis, a Talent Development Perspective" Sports 10, no. 8: 124. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10080124