Tom Ellis is embarking on a new adventure on the flip side of playing at Bath Rugby, the backrow forward has taken up a coaching role with Combe Down RFC who play at Holly’s Corner.
Since July Ellis has been appointed as Forwards Coach at Combe Down who compete in the eighth tier of Rugby Union in Southern Counties. Ellis admits that he is enjoying the complexities that come from coaching and owes his thanks to Freddie Burns for getting him the opportunity.
The back-row forward said: “I am really enjoying the opportunity. It allows me to get out the house on a Tuesday and a Thursday night. It feels very different because I am seeing the game from a different perspective and I enjoy interacting with the boys at Combe Down and having a laugh with another set of lads.
“Freddie Burns asked if anyone wanted to help out with the forwards coaching at Combe Down as they were struggling. Freddie’s old man still plays up there for the second team and they were short in the coaching set-up as they only have Chris Thompson as Head Coach and the forwards just looked after themselves. It was a good opportunity to get out and see if I enjoy coaching.”
The 25-year-old is charged with leading the set-piece and team defence in his role whilst also holding tough conversations for matchday selection and the backrower has been enjoying inviting other Bath Rugby players down to add to the squad’s experience.
Ellis said: “I cover scrum, line-out and defence for the team. I work on defence with the whole team, but I mainly focus on the line-out. We had Beno Obano down for one session and took a scrum clinic which was really beneficial, and they really enjoyed it.
“I have a conversation about team selection with Chris every week and the final decision always rests with him. I can see that coaches have a hard task and hold difficult conversations to drop people and not select certain players.
The former Old Millfieldian has played over 73 games for Bath Rugby and is hoping to use his experience of playing in the Bath set-up since joining the Senior Academy in 2013/14 to deliver high quality performances at Combe Down.
“I have learnt a lot and have been coached by several different coaches at Bath Rugby, I have also picked up a lot of different things from certain drills and I try to use those as much as possible.
“If you drop the ball in training three times, the coaches notice and then they have the impression that you have bad hands, it’s things like that, and it’s about creating a good perception of yourself as a player.
“The challenges for coaches at amateur level are the frequency of numbers to training. It makes you a good coach because you don’t know the numbers that you are going to get eight or thirty, which massively impact what you are going to do with the training session. You have to think on your feet and be able to adapt so I think it is setting me on a good course to improve as a coach.”
With an option to remain coaching whilst playing with the potential of continuing his role as a career after playing, Ellis admits that he doesn’t want to choose his career pathway just yet but is keen to continue as he weighs up his options.
“I have done my level one and level two coaching badges but unfortunately I couldn’t get on to do my level three coaching scheme this year so I am just using this season coaching up there to get better and see if I can improve the forward pack at Combe Down.
“I joined the team in July, so It has only been around four months. We won both of our pre-season games and won both of our league games to begin the new season and then we came up against some teams who finished in the top four last year and came unstuck a little. We are looking to move forward and our goal this year is to stay in the league.
“Alongside playing I will continue to coach but our time after rugby is something as players, we are encouraged to think about. There are only a handful of players that manage to make it to their mid-thirties playing rugby and I am at 25 now, finding myself at the back end of it.
“It makes sense going from being a professional rugby player to working in an office, despite having a degree I am starting at the bottom of the ladder in a different industry. I think it makes sense that I get my badges and become a good coach and then have the option to transition into coaching after that.”