Highlights on Off The Ball

07:00 AM-07:30 AM

Highlights on Off The Ball


Stuart Lancaster on Irish leadership & why the best play many sports

Stuart Lancaster joined our 'Future of Sport' series to give an insight into teaching sport, and ...


Stuart Lancaster on Irish leadership & why the best play many sports

Stuart Lancaster joined our 'Future of Sport' series to give an insight into teaching sport, and why growing Irish leadership is different to doing so in England.

The Leinster coach offers a remarkable span of experience as not only an elite coach in both England and Ireland, and as a former physical education teacher.

Growing leadership

Lancaster believes that generalism is the way to produce the most-rounded players, as opposed to specialising in one field.

"I would say that in the academy system I was involved in [in England], specialisation into rugby only happened when they had left school, around 18 or 19.

"I would argue strongly that the best players are the ones who had the broadest experience of sport.

"The invasion game of rugby, it is not exactly the same as other sports, but the concept of space; playing to space and finding space in basketball, soccer, hockey, hurling or Gaelic football - they are all the same concept.

"The more you can play and the more that you can get that feel, the better.

"The footballers and rugby players that have the best decision-making are the ones that have the most rounded skill-set."

Lancaster recalled the English setup getting rid of the under-16 side altogether, because it was creating 'false hope' for players when the chances of them making an under-20 side was around 10%.

Teaching experience

Firmly in favour of a broad palette of experiences for young people, how did this translate into Lancaster's teaching experience?

"The key is to have a broad and balanced curriculum, so it appeals to everyone. But if you can motivate and create the right lesson plan, and differentiate for people of different abilities, then everyone can enjoy a badminton or gymnastics lesson, if you pitch it in the right way.

"You make it a games-based approach, make it fun and active, you pitch people of similar ability together. You don't look to make it elitist, you make it inclusive.

"That was very much how I saw it, because not everyone wanted to do every sport all the time. Certainly, my experience of the school that I was at, a state school in West Yorkshire, the motivation and uptake to take part in P.E. lessons was always high.

"The longer it went into my teaching career, the less we tried to make it games-focused all the time; a balance between the traditional games that we play in England with personal training, or things that girls and boys would prefer to do.

"It could be circuit training, an introduction to aerobics, HIIT training - whatever it was at the time.

"That was very much our job as a teacher - giving people motivation to do sport within school, but also out of school as well."

It appears that growing leadership requires a lot of different inputs.

Ireland & England leadership

With experience in two countries, how do the players in both countries compare?f

"Over here, generally they would be a bit more quiet than groups I've coached in England. So [we're] trying to grow that 'voice' and their point of view of the group that is coming through at Leinster."

Why is that?

"I don't know [...] perhaps it is part of the school system whereby a lot of them would have come from some of the bigger rugby schools.

"Such is the strength of the schools in Leinster; the quality of the coaching and the environment is phenomenal.

"Because of the Schools Cup and the drive to win this competition, it really does drive a high level of coaching, performance and intensity around that trophy - which I didn't realise.

"Alongside that, we have to make sure we balance the desire to win that trophy with the desire to grow individuals.

"I get the sense that they come out of that environment that is so intense, into an academy with a different group of players, where it is more open-ended."

Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

Subscribe to OffTheBall's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.

Read more about

Lancaster Leinster Stuart Lancaster