Getting your PhD in rugby would be awesome, but this isn't exactly that. It is learning at a higher level, its a program, there is useful material, but its not an actually PhD. Rugby PhD is a new initiative by decorated rugby coach Kevin Battle to help coaches develop and improve coaching in the USA.
Kevin Battle is not just the founder of Rugby PhD, but he's Head Coach for the Santa Barbara Rugby Academy. He was head coach for UC Santa Barbara for 12 years (and in that span he took the Gauchos to six Sweet 16s, three Elite 8s, one final four and in 2011 were the national runners -up). In addition to his collegiate head coaching experience Coach Battle has held numerous roles with USA Rugby as a coach, manager and selector for the College All Americans, USA Falcons, USA Hawks, the Eagles 7s team, the 2009 7s World Cup team. He was part of the staff for the Eagle's 15s teams for the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup. Coach Battle has been a commissioner for D1-A Rugby and if that wasn't enough he was also one of the coaches last season for the Sacramento Express of PRO Rugby. Needless to say, Coach Battle has a wealth of coaching experience and resume full of accomplishments.
So now Coach Battle is bringing his experience, knowledge and contacts to the masses to help develop coaches. Below is our chat with Coach Battle on what the Rugby PhD program is all about and how it will help rugby coaching in America.
The Rugby Republic (RR): So the most obvious question. What made you decide to create Rugby PhD?
Kevin Battle (KB): After putting on coaching clinics for several years, I find that coaches have a lot of questions that come up well after each clinic is over. Since most people are visual learners, it can be challenging to articulate some concepts and drills over the phone or email. I was cutting up training video and sending it to coaches and thought there’s got to be a better way.
RR: So Coach, what is your vision for Rugby PhD?
KB: My vision is to make coaching knowledge and information easily accessible to every coach in America. Rugby enthusiasm is high, but there is a void of information and quality training for coaches. The internet can be a black hole. Its difficult to decipher and navigate through all of the clutter. Traveling to coaching clinics can be expensive and time consuming. Many of us give so much to the game, and another weekend away from the family may not be feasible. However, in order for us to improve as a rugby playing nation, we need all coaches to have access to the best information, regardless of geography and finances.
RR: Will the Rugby PhD program be able to customize some of the training information/content to meet specific needs of various coaches?
KB: Absolutely! If there is one thing I learned from coaching clinics, is that people are more engaged if you can present on topics they are looking for. We have a comment and feedback section specifically designed for people to send in requests. We will offer 1 new video every week, 50 weeks a year.
RR: There has been talk among the rugby community here in the United States that we need to focus on developing more high level coaches domestically to be able to become a Tier 1 nation. Do you agree and can Rugby PhD be a tool to develop future and younger coaches?
KB: Rugby PhD will be the key to the development of younger, high level coaches. Some skills and drills help you to add more variety to your training sessions and enhance your teaching, kind of like “decorating the house with new furniture” so to speak. Other parts of the program help open doors in the mind to “rooms you never knew existed…” in other words, The idea behind teaching through progressions and expanding your vision and coaching philosophy will reap benefits far beyond. For example, in 2006 I was in camp with the NZ Maori in advance of their match against the British Lions. I was graciously allowed to shadow their staff during their preparation. I watched as about 85% of their practice looked a lot like practice sessions I’ve been involved with, albeit at a much higher rate of accuracy and intensity. After warming up with your standard four-five man passing lines, the Maori All Blacks then switched to “no look-one-handed-tip passes.” Now as soon as we were heading back to the hotel, I quizzed the coach on why they would practice 50/50 passes. His response was this “….if we never practice it, it would be a 50/50 pass. We train so that what may be a 50/50 pass for most can become 60/40, 70/30 or even 80/20. If we can be successful with an advanced skill 8 out off 10 times, then I tell the boys have a go…” ”Besides, they really enjoy it.” After all, thats what the game is ultimately about right? Enjoyment!" My mind was blown! We want players to accomplish remarkable things; are coaches prepared to help them be successful in this endeavor? Rugby PhD can provide the skills and guidance to help make these accomplishments a reality.
RR: Is Rugby PhD for club & college coaches or can youth and high school level coaches use this with their players?
KB: Rugby PhD is for all levels of coaching. We have labeled videos as beginner, intermediate and advanced based on our best assessment. Ultimately it we be up to each coach to judge what is suitable for his/her particular audience. Each skill video has a progression. Many of the same drills can be done with U-12s and senior clubs. Some are more advanced. We cannot over emphasis the fundamentals and basic skills. This is what will make every coach and player successful.
RR: You’ve just launched this new effort how are you getting word out to coaches, clubs and the rugby community?
KB: Primarily through FaceBook and targeted email campaigns. We are partnering with USA Rugby Training & Education Department and are discussing offering continuing education credits on many of our videos. USA Rugby will assist us with reaching all newly registered coaches to provide another coach training resource.
RR: Now Coach, the membership to Rugby PhD is very cheap (if you drink two cups of coffee a month you are spending more than this membership) but why should coaches or aspiring coaches join the program?
KB: Part of our aim was to make this affordable and accessible. If you think about it, our annual membership ($75) is less than the cost of attending an in person coaching clinic, however, with Rugby PhD you can access the information from your home, office or even while you are sitting in your car before training starts! How many coaching clinics offer unlimited access to the content days, weeks, or even months later? Rugby PhD is easily accessible on your time, wherever you are located, as long as you are online.
RR: As a high level coach with national team experience and contacts who/what are some of the experts you are able to access to get the best info and minds to help Rugby PhD members?
KB: I have been blessed to have many top international coaches who have mentored me over the years. Jim Love (NZ Maori) Eddie O’Sullivan (Ire/USA), Darrel & Buck Shelford (NZ), Matt Te Po & Donny Stevenson (NZ Maori), Mick Burn (NZ), Kieran Keane (Waikato) Alan Muir (Wellington), John Mitchell (NZ/USA) to name a few. I’d be remissed if I didn’t name many of the top flight domestic based coaches such as Luke Gross, Paul Keeler, Alex Magleby, Emil Signes, Dan Payne, Mike Tolkin, Matt Sherman, Tim Obrien, Rick Suggit, Adriaan Ferris, Scott Lawrence, Davey Williams, Freddy Waititi, Paule Barford, Paul Holmes, Justin Fitzpatrick, Phil Bailey, and Nate Osbourne. Each of these gentlemen have graciously and openly shared with me their knowledge and philosophies. They have be willing to have in depth discussions, even debates about how they believe game should be coached and played. I’ve had many more coaching influences and cannot name them all, so the list above will have to do! Much of the material in Rugby PhD can be directly attributed to these gentlemen and their generous direction. Next month, our women’s coach, Eagles Olympic Captain Kelly Griffin will also begin contributing to Rugby PhD. Kelly is eagerly making the transition from International player to coach and has vast experience and insight that will be hugely beneficial for all coaches.
RR: Now Rugby PhD is not just a web based/on-line forum, you will have coaching clinics as well? Any plans on those as far as how often, where they’ll be, etc?
KB: I’m glad you asked! We are partnering with Canterbury on our player and coach development camps and have a planning session this week. We plan to include guest coaches to include some of those who have inspired us to develop this material. We will have a full comprehensive list of camps and clinics shortly!
RR: Anything you'd like to add?
KB: For years I have constantly heard phrases like: “Our players can’t do that, we’ve only just began playing the game…” or “…we haven’t developed the experience or instincts to do that…” I disagree. Any players can accomplish everything they want on the pitch. Its up to us coaches to have the knowledge, information and quality training to deliver to our athletes, and enable them to compete at their full potential. One of the main components holding back the American rugger is a coach defining or limiting what the player can and cannot do. Rugby PhD will make accessing information and training easier. We do not claim to have all the answers, but we will get them! We aim for players to get maximum enjoyment out of the game. Rugby PhD can arm coaches with the tools and know-how to deliver!
As we noted Coach Battle is one of the premier coaches in the States and his new effort with Rugby PhD will be an innovative way to help develop coaches. It will be great if USA Rugby can coordinate continuing education credits for some of the work/videos that Rugby PhD will be doing. It will add so much more value to coaches. As Coach Battle noted, its not always easy to get to coaching clinics, yet through the Rugby PhD program you can get great drills, insights and support. So check out their website and you can follow them on Facebook where they'll post some tips as well.
We want to thank Coach Kevin Battle for taking the time to talk to us about Rugby PhD. Now its time for you to go get your Rugby PhD.