Simon Thomas enthused by player development culture at Cambridge Rugby Club
The vision of a player development culture at Cambridge was the decisive factor in Simon Thomas becoming one of the club’s new coaches.
The head of rugby at The Leys School is one of two new coaches for the Wanderers second team, along with Jack Moran, and will support Alan Lane, who worked with the team last season.
Thomas has been at the Leys for the past two academic years, and prior to moving to Cambridge was working at Dulwich School.
He had been considering helping coach a senior side, and it was a phone call out of the blue from Cambridge director of rugby Richie Williams that led to the opportunity.
“It had been something I had been interested in doing for a while to broaden my horizons and learn from good quality coaches in a good quality environment to then take back and put in practice at the Leys,” said Thomas.
“It seemed like a good time to get back into it, and the vision Richie sold me about what Cambridge is about, where they are going and what they want out of the Wanderers and the player development aspect fitted in what I’m about as a teacher and coaching young players.
“The player development part is really important. We’re not really working with the finished article as teachers in schools and your job is to make players better.
“Richie was very keen that with the Wanderers he feels he’s got a good young group coming through, and if he can get coaches in place who believe in developing these players and getting them better it would be really good for their pathway into the first team.”
Thomas’ last experience coaching a men’s team was with Old Alleynians RFC, the senior side linked to Dulwich School. He has coaching experience with under-20s and university level, bridging the gap between schools’ and senior rugby, so the role at Cambridge seemed perfect.
Moran has a similar background, as former head of rugby at Denstone College in Staffordshire and working with the Leicester Tigers academy, while Lane is the Buckinghamshire community rugby coach and South West under-18s coach.
As a trio, they will be perfectly placed to assist the development pathway of the young players.
“It’s a very different experience coaching kids and coaching adults, and I’m looking forward to getting back into that environment,” said Thomas.
“One of the things that has struck me already is how organised Richie is, and how clear his vision is with where he wants to take the club.
“Within the couple of weeks that we’ve been putting some plans together, Richie has been hard at it, flying over documents and presentations, and getting us all up to speed with what he sees the vision as, where the club is going and how we can be a part of getting it there.
“I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I haven’t even coached a session yet.
“It’s nice having that sense that the people you are working with are going to give you the information you need so you can go out and deliver the high-quality session in keeping with what they want.”
Former first-team captain Stefan Liebenberg will support Darren Messenger and Toby White in coaching the club’s third team.
Current second row Rob Conquest will be in charge of the colts, assisted by new signing Marc Koteczky.
Williams added: “We’ve placed real emphasis on the senior end of the club, both the colts, third, second and first team, and underneath that we’re really mindful of working a bit closer with the mini and junior coaches as well to make sure the pathway is as strong as possible.”