Jack Walker is one of a number of the Bath Rugby squad, who have taken on the responsibility of coaching outside his playing duties.
The hooker has recently joined Club teammate Alex Davies at National League Two South outfit Old Redcliffians and is already putting the steps in place for a future career in the dug out taking his level three qualification, which he hopes will support his development.
Walker said: “I’ve always done bits of coaching – I worked with the Leeds University women’s team for a little bit when I was up there. I did my level two when I was at Yorkshire Carnegie and just started my level three here this year. Coaching something that I want to get into after playing, so I’m just taking the steps towards that.
“For me, it’s just positive being around a different set of people each week. You get to meet new people, make new friendships and spend time with those boys outside of rugby too. It’s good to focus on something else, which is why it’s a focus for me when I finish playing. Getting involved now will only help me for the future.”
Walker has inevitably grown as an individual during his time with Old Reds, and admits that the experience of working with a variety of personalities has been the most challenging but rewarding part of the role.
“The biggest thing for me is learning how to deal with different people, what makes them tick and motivated for a game. Some people need a tap on the back and others need more strict instructions. Working with people and getting the best out of everyone as individuals and then when you bring that together, you can hopefully click as a team.”
On the pitch, it has been a difficult start for the team, but is full of admiration for the squad, who do not have the luxury of rugby being their sole profession.
“It’s been a tough start – being in National 2, it’s a pretty tough league with lots of travelling and there are some good teams in there. We got off to a rough start, but we’re starting to improve. Results haven’t quite gone our way, but the performances are definitely coming along.
“You’ve got to admire and appreciate the amount of time they’re putting in because they work full-time 9-5 each day and turn up on a Tuesday and a Thursday for training. On a Saturday they give it absolutely everything week-in-week-out. It would be easy to relax and just come down for a bit of fun, so they’ve really shown their dedication. You’ve got to get that aspect right in terms of that it isn’t their full-time job and they will get things wrong from time to time. You’ve got to make it enjoyable because they’ve come to have fun, but also want to get better.”
Playing for Bath Rugby swallows up many opportunities for Walker to play an active role on the touchline, but the former England U20 international is integral to the club’s preparation going into the weekend and the review process afterwards.
“I go down on a Tuesday or a Thursday and then if we’ve not got a game or I’m not selected, I’ll go and watch on Saturday. I watch back every game and clip stuff up for the boys and we preview and review teams just like we do at Bath. It’s definitely more advanced and professional than I thought it would be – it’s a decent standard with some really good players.”
As forwards coach, Walker has been extremely pleased with the way that the pack as adapted to some difficult conditions in the competition. However, the focus remains for the Bristol-based club to climb the ladder and drive standards across the board.
“I think the whole pack as a unit have been really strong. In the league, you play on some pretty tough pitches where it’s pretty heavy under foot. Everyone still sticks their hand up every week. Archie (Griffin) has just come on board on loan from Bath and has been involved the last couple of weeks and gone well. Kieran Ward, the hooker has played really well and is a big part of our team and how we function as a unit.
“Our priority is that we want to stay in the league, but also to start climbing up. Realistically, if we finish above mid-table, we’ll be really happy. We’ve only been in the league for two years and we don’t want to just survive, we want to climb up and compete.”
On a coaching level, it appears that Walker and Davies have struck the right balance and gaining a deep level of understanding is the crucial element to delivering performance on a weekend.
“We’ve got Alex as the Head Coach, who is quite bossy, so I try and go a bit lighter and bring a bit of banter. I like to get to know the boys one-on-one find out what they do outside rugby and what they’re about in their every day life. From a personal level, it’s trying to get to know them as friends beforehand and when you do ask them to do the tough stuff on the pitch, you’re probably going to get more of a response.”