Percy Park RFC coach Mark Jackson is one of 15 newly qualified Level 2 rugby coaches helping to develop the game in Northumberland through the QBE Coaching Club, a joint initiative from QBE Insurance and the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
The initiative was a key strand in the RFU’s 2015 World Cup lead up and legacy programme, with more than 2,015 Level 2 coaches recruited and trained ahead of the tournament.
Jackson and the counties 14 other qualified coaches are having a positive impact on more than 375 players in the Northumberland area.
Since achieving his Level 2 qualification, he has noticed a significant change in his relationship with the players.
He said: “The relationship with the kids is two-way now days. They come to me with questions and have now developed a better understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
“Their feedback has been positive. Everyone is more confident and their understanding is great.
“I can see that they want to improve and that’s key to our future success.”
While the side’s win rate has remained consistent, Jackson has noticed an improvement on how the players perform.
He added: “The standard of rugby we’re playing now is much better. We play against a lot of sides that have rugby playing schools in their catchment areas, so it’s challenging competing with them. Our kids play very limited rugby at school, so to improve as they have is impressive.”
The QBE Coaching Club was developed to provide coaches with the tools to attract new players and keeping existing ones in the game, something that Mark recognises.
He said; “The club has always done really well with numbers, and we have about 200 kids playing every week across our sides. We get lots of good feedback from parents who are impressed with the quality of coaching and the way we play our rugby.
“Our retention is great, and we have kept a lot of the guys for a number of years. A lot of new players have joined Percy Park and I think a lot of that is down to the quality of the coaching.
“We’re welcoming players that haven’t played rugby before, but they’ve heard about our set up. We had one new player join this year who had never done any sport at all.
“He is a really big guy, well over six foot. He turned up, not really sure about rugby and now he loves it.”
The team’s development benefited from last year’s World Cup, with the north east hosting a number of group matches.
Jackson said: “There was a lot of interest in rugby last year and I think we are really going to feel the benefits of the tournament in the next year.
“We’re already seeing more people coming down to watch the club games when they haven’t done so before.”
As well as positively impacting the counties players, other coaches are also benefiting.
It is estimated that Jackson and the other 14 QBE Coaching Club coaches in Northumberland will share their new found knowledge with an additional 30 coaches, ensuring a lasting coaching legacy in the county.
He has encouraged senior players to take part in coaching the younger sides.
He said: “If you invest in coaches rather than players you can make a big impact. Having two Level 2 coaches at U15 Level at the club is huge.
“The other coach and I have different styles, we bounce ideas off one and other.”