Monday, November 30, 2015

Q&A With Greg McWilliams From ATAVUS

Earlier this month it was announced that Yale coach and former Ireland women assistant Greg McWilliams has joined the staff of ATAVUS. To get more on his role with the organization we sat down and chatted with McWilliams to get his insights.

TIAR: What attracted you to joining the ATAVUS staff?

Greg McWilliams: I first started with ATAVUS last April in Florida, working with Emilie Bydwell and USA Eagle Phil Theil, at a weekend camp. I was immediately impressed by the professionalism of the company and the set up of the camp. I was attracted by the idea of traveling to many different parts of the country, meeting and learning from coaches and players. Having the chance to assist in providing a great experience for all who came into contact with the sport was appealing. Since then I have worked at a number of camps during the summer months, while Yale were in their off season. Last August we sat down in Seattle and since then I have been working with the coaching staff, designing a curriculum that we will deliver to the players and coaches at our camps and coaching courses. There are some excellent young coaches working with ATAVUS, who are very focused on developing core coaching skills, effective planning, improving their system documentation, and in doing so, developing clearer communication pathways. I have learned a great deal from them to be honest.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: In addition to coaching at Yale you've had experience with the Ireland women. Do you approach coaching Americans different from coaching Europeans?

GM: Not at all. In Ireland I was coaching at a number of various levels from high school & collegiate, through to club, provincial academy and National Women's players. My mindset will seldom change in terms of the overall environment I am looking to create / assist with. At differentiating levels however, as a coach, you may need to be quite prescriptive or need to empower the players to make effective decisions on their own, in fact, at times both. Being with the Irish Women’s side for 5 seasons, up to, and including the Rugby World Cup in 2014, was an interesting journey. As a coaching staff, I think we would have started out being quite prescriptive, but by the end of the journey we were able to let the players lead and make sure that they were being provided with clear actions, understood the systems and were prepared for each opposition according to threats. For me, the key to coaching any group, from any country is to identify which mind set suits the playing group or individual at any given time. The beauty to coaching is there is no set way of being successful. Brian O Meara, a successful Rugby International & coach, uses the term KISS, keep it simple stupid. I like that.

TIAR: What is your coaching philosophy?

GM: I would like to think that my coaching style is designed to make players enthusiastic about the game and keen to learn. I listen to all others involved in the game and aim to learn something new every single day. In this game you can never stop learning. I spend a great deal of my time as a coach, planning / studying / watch footage / talking to coaches, in order to be able to provide players with the most extreme clarity of actions in the simplest of ways. I am very much focused on the understanding of the game and love challenging players to think about their actions, both on and off the ball, as an individual within the collective. These challenges vary from playing group to playing group and that’s the beauty of this game. No matter what level you are coaching at, no matter what standard you are working with, you need to create an environment that promotes intelligence and expressive actions. Every activity should have a goal and that needs to be designed by, both the coach and the player at the elite level to develop ownership and player buy-in. There are many different ways to do the same thing, collective understanding is king.

TIAR: What do you see as your role for ATAVUS going forward?

GM: At the moment, I am trying to add as much energy as possible into being as effective as I can, assisting as many people who are willing to listen. At ATAVUS, we are working on producing the best possible product. Currently we are designing a curriculum through our core values & philosophies, providing the best experience we can for all who come into contact with Rugby through the company. We reward intelligence of actions and merit work rate. At the end of the day, players need to enjoy the sport, our job is to make it as much fun as possible.

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