Newman Senior Lecturer leads Professional Development Initiative for North Midlands Senior Coaches

20/10/2022 by Leah Masters

Alex Powell

Dr Alex Powell, Senior Lecturer and Programme Lead for Coaching Science at Newman University Birmingham, a Level 3 Rugby Football Union (RFU) Coach, RFU Coach Educator and Trainer, along with the North Midlands RFU constituent body have formed a ‘community of practice’, titled the ‘North Midlands Senior Coaching Group’.

The aim of the senior coaching group will be to engage and provide members with education opportunities, development activities and discussion directed towards CPD for coaches. To facilitate this purpose, a high-quality coach development programme has been created which will be delivered at Newman University, Birmingham. Group members will benefit from receiving advanced knowledge, resources and membership to a group who are passionate and committed to improving rugby practice.

The programme has recruited top quality presenters including England Rugby Forwards Coach, Richard Cockerill, and Matt Ferguson, Scrum Coach for Premiership Club Northampton Saints, to share their experiences and knowledge at the university. The program has been ‘kicked off’ by our own Dr Alex Powell who delivered his PhD findings and implications regarding mental toughness and its development, specifically in rugby union.

As part of his research, Alex has interviewed and explored the experiences of 12 world class players’ and coaches’ including World Cup winners, British Lions, and international players and coaches. Following on from the interviews, Alex has conceptualised mental toughness in Elite Rugby Union and created mental toughness scales. The scales were then rated by 468 rugby participants from grass roots to international performers, the analysis demonstrated stability of the mental toughness scales across contexts and performance stages. Based on the findings Alex then designed a research informed, year-long practical mental toughness intervention which was implemented and evaluated at 2 RFU premiership academies.

Dr Powell commented: “Mental toughness is often used to describe mental aspects of elite performance and has become highly desirable for players, athletes, coaches, and the media. The conceptualisation of MT and the effectiveness of development interventions are a relatively new area of research and prior to my PhD research, there were no published MT intervention studies within rugby union. The findings have informed strategies that can be applied in performance and training environments which embed coaching activities, sports science, support structures and psychological strategies and I am really pleased to be able to share the applied recommendations to the select group of senior coaches”.

RFU Council Member, Charlie Hemmings, commented on the importance of the group for developing coaches: “The North Midlands RFU is one of England’s major county areas that makes up one of the 28 geographical Constituent Bodies of the Rugby Football union and covers Greater Birmingham, Shropshire, and Worcestershire & Herefordshire. Newman University have joined with North Midlands to offer an exciting programme aimed at helping raise coaching profile, information, and knowledge across a number of levels, genders and age groups!

“The first programme event, delivered by Dr Alex Powell was enthusiastically received by many of the senior coaches in the area. The session focussed on the constructs and details pertaining to mental toughness and resilience associated with Rugby Union.”

The next delivery will be on Wednesday 9th November where Alex will be sharing his knowledge on ‘How to develop a mentally tough rugby environment’.