The Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) and the Tom Maynard Trust entered into a three-year partnership in late 2015, with the funding provided to the IRUPA going towards supporting the Association’s work in developing young players in the four Irish provinces (Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster) and in the women’s teams.
With exceptionally high performance demands placed on Academy players in their bid to become professional rugby players and the women’s team in their own pioneering place in World and Olympic Rugby, IRUPA recognise the very specific demands placed on them. PDMs (Player Development Managers) are tasked with providing learning and development opportunities that give players the necessary skills to help them cope effectively and continue to improve both on and off the pitch. Barriers faced include simple monetary constraints to critical educational career choices through to dealing with difficult conversations.
A recent partnerships with the Trust has enabled the PDMs in each province to tackle some key issues around basic and healthy cooking skills, meal planning and budgeting for athletes’, kitchen and food hygiene, engaging with key partners with the aim of developing player confidence in social settings. These have all been achieved through designing and developing cooking workshops with local experts. This could not have been achieved without the financial support of the Trust.
The second aim of the partnership was to deliver workshops based on increasing each player’s ability to manage difficult conversations. After analysis, it was evident that players experienced stress in managing press interviews and conversations. Workshops were specially designed to give players the chance to practice in front of the camera, experience a press interview scenario, structure answers coherently, answer controversial questions without contradicting their personal player brand or their provincial brand and, last but not least, increase their awareness of the impact social media can have. To date, some of the provinces have already delivered specialist workshops (delivered by Kieran File from Reactive Sports Media) while the others plan to deliver these over the current season.
Both parties are already discussing plans for year two of the partnership in 2017.