Connacht head coach Andy Friend joined Monday Night Rugby on Off The Ball as he looked back at lockdown so far and ahead to the remainder of the rescheduled rugby season.
Like many, Friend took the COVID-19 enforced shutdown as a time to reconsider some aspects of his chosen career. The Australian has been involved in the game as a coach since the beginning of professionalism.
"The one thing I've learned from 26 years in coaching is the need for a balance ... I've managed to find a balance that I'm happy with"
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"I went from being an amateur player to being a professional coach," Friend recalled. "When I went into pro coaching, I remember being told 'we have got to fill their day' and that's what we did.
"Ever since then we've 'filled the day' and upon reflection I think: is that the most effective we can be? Are we as impactful as we need to be? Or, are we just busy and are we just filling a day?
"I think I'm definitely guilty of doing that, so it's given me the chance to stop and reflect on doing that and have a look at how our week runs.
"So we're going to have a very different looking week next year as a squad and as a team. We have a very open-minded leadership group who have accepted that as well as our coaching staff and management. I'm actually really excited about the new year because we have got some new things to try which I think is going to add real value to us."
Friend elaborated, without giving away too many state secrets, on how the new look week will be for Connacht.
"One of the things is it will be more effective time," said Friend of the changes in practice. "A real simple thing is, we normally train a Monday, Tuesday, day off Wednesday, and train Thursday and Friday ahead of the game.
"We're going to move to a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday training week with Thursday a day off on a normal [match] week. There are lots of different reasons for that but we reflected and talked about that as a coaching group.
"We had a working group on that and felt that was the right way to do it [schedule]."
There are more changes coming for players too, who will not be treated like school kids - according to Friend.
"The way our meetings are structured throughout the course of the day, we're going to change that up," said the Connacht coach.
"We don't always need a meeting. There's a massive opportunity for players to meet, rather than for it to be like a school where it's teachers up the front and kids down the back.
"That's not the way we play rugby, we play rugby with these men and they are out there making decisions. We need to give them space to make decisions, so we've added some of those things to our training schedule for next year which I think will be really exciting for the players."
Like almost everybody in lockdown, Andy Friend realised the benefits of Zoom and working from home for a better quality of life.
"Do we have to be at work for 7am [on a Monday] to get our whole working day done?
"No, we don't, we can actually have an hour Zoom meeting on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, depending on what day we play, which allows us to spend time with the kids in the morning, if you need to get them off to school, then get in.
"So all of those little things, and there's another array of those too that we have come up with and I'm excited to see how they work and I think they'll add value to the programme."
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