What we must never forget is that rugby should be about enjoyment and perspective

What questions would you normally ask a coach of a team who have just been relegated? Normally the questions would be what went wrong and why did it happen? You’d try to analyse the season forensically and identify any weaknesses and shortcomings. The only problem with such an approach is that it doesn’t really get you anywhere. The weakness and shortcomings are all too obvious to anyone who’s followed Macclesfield Blues this season.

So what questions should you ask a Head Coach? Well, we prefer questions which throw a light on what really went on behind the scenes during the campaign: questions that give some insight into the mentality of the coach and the team as the season started to unravel.

So this week, we asked Blues’ Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, two simple questions: what lessons have you learned this season and how will these lessons inform next season’s National League 2 campaign? Here ‘s what Giles had to say  

What 3 lessons have you learned from this season’s National League 1 campaign?

“That’s a good question and one I’ve been thinking about carefully. I’m not sure I’ve got a definitive answer, but I’ll give it my best shot.”

“The first lesson is that the old mantra ‘no plan survives the first contact’ has been proven true this year. All the planning and preparation we did pre-season went out the window when the first ball was kicked. National 1 is a relentless league, and you simply can’t legislate for injury, and as hard as you might try, you struggle to legislate for form, the bounce of the ball and questionable officiating decisions.”

“The second lesson is probably as a group, and I put myself firmly at the front of that queue, you’ve got to learn to relax and enjoy the experience. I’ll be the first to admit that when we got relegated from National 1 two years ago, winning the league became something of an obsession, both for me and for the group. I think there are very few players who were involved in that campaign who could put their hands on their hearts and say they enjoyed their rugby and the experience. There was so much pressure for us to win, both internally and externally, that it sucked the enjoyment out of what should really have been a very satisfying and pleasurable experience.”

“This year we went into the campaign a little more circumspect, but as the results started to go against us, we all started to tense up a little and that inevitably impacted on our performance; and once again the enjoyment of the game started to evaporate. Only when it became fairly clear we were going to get relegated did we start to relax and play some of our best rugby. The upshot of this lesson is that we need to make sure we enjoy our rugby next season. Ultimately it’s a hobby, and there’s no point forcing players to do something they don’t enjoy doing.”

“There were two moments this season where that message came through loud and clear to me. When we came off the field at Hartpury, club captain, Mike Finnemore, handed everybody a beer he’d brought with him in a cool box. When I saw that I thought to myself why have we never done this before?”

“The following weekend we ended the season against Esher, and for reasons I don’t really yet understand I invited the Esher coaching staff to come and have a beer in my office. What should have been just the one beer lasted over two hours and it was one of the standout moments of the season for me, talking about the league and rugby and generally just sharing war stories.  That’s what rugby is and should be all about.”

“The problem is when you’re involved in league rugby it’s all too easy to lose sight of that. What you should never forget is that rugby should be about enjoyment and perspective. So I certainly think next season we’ll be making sure we do things to ensure we enjoy playing the game. Obviously we want to go out and play hard and try to win, but we have to enjoy what we’re doing.”

“The third lesson I’ll take from this season is that whatever happens in this game you need to keep a sense of perspective. Two relegations in three years would suggest that there’s a degree of instability here and that we’re a yoyo Club, but when you look at the rugby we’ve played most of this season, you have to accept that we’ve performed at a high level and played some really good stuff. We’ve scored some amazing tries and dug in deep when all the odds were stacked against us.”

“I saw an interesting stat today which said that now promotion and relegation matters are settled, next season half of National League 1 will be London and south-east-based. There’ll only be four teams from the north, and that is quite startling. When you consider the playing power and buying power of the majority of the clubs in National 1, I think we’ve done remarkably well to have done what we’ve done, given the what we had to work with.”

“In fact, I’d go further and say in the context of those stats, and the fact that we’ve only spent £100K on the squad this season, we’ve done bloody well this year. Obviously I’m in no way trying to justify relegation, but asking supporters to consider the overall results this season in context and with perspective.”

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