Western Force Head Coach David Wessels has praised RUPA’s Player Development Program as a great way for players to prepare for life after Rugby and establish a healthy balance between their commitments on the field and off the field at the same time.
Wessels said that while each player’s individual circumstances differed, it was important for each of them to aim to improve themselves as both Rugby players and people during their time in professional program.
“As a coach you obviously want to win games of Rugby, and there’s no doubting that is the number one priority, but you certainly can also take pride in the development of your program and watching young men grow,” Wessels said.
“What you want to see is them being successful in life when the time comes that they do leave the program, and that’s going to be shaped by far more than simply what they do on the field. It’s also their extra-curricular studies and how they interact with society as large.
“I think it depends from player to player, but some players really thrive on being stimulated away from Rugby while some are a bit more a single-minded and that’s how they get the best out of themselves.”
RUPA employs a Player Development Manager (PDM) within each of Australia’s professional Rugby setups, with the PDM tasked with looking after the six pillars of Career & Education, Wellbeing, Cultural Awareness, Finance, Personal Toolkit and Integrity. PDMs are employed by RUPA as experts in their field, whose capabilities and qualifications position them to make a real difference in the players’ lives.
In Perth, Sam Cox has been the Western Force PDM since 2014, moving into the role after previously working as the Force’s Team Coordinator. It’s a unique setup, with Sam employed by RUPA but based full time within the Western Force’s high-performance program, but it is one that Wessels believes is working well.
“I only think of Sam as part of our team and I have never considered the fact that she is employed by somebody else,” he said. “I see her all day, every day, and she is as passionate about the Western Force as I am and I think that employment situation works well.
“Sam does a fantastic job of engaging the players in their life away from Rugby, and overall I really believe that RUPA has done a great job in putting mechanisms in place for us to be able to build sustainable programs and meaningful programs for our players away from Rugby.
“Sam is great at understanding with each player what they want to achieve away from Rugby rather than imposing things on them, and treating them all as individuals.”
RUPA’s General Manager of Player Development, Rosemary Towner, said that the strong respect between Sam and David showed that the system works, and was indicative of similar relationships at the other four Super Rugby teams and within the Australian Rugby Sevens program.
“David’s willingness to engage with the Player Development Program, and to be aware and involved with what Sam and the players are doing, is a real positive,” she said.
“The relationship between all high performance staff and the Player Development Manager is vital in allowing players to access the program and everything it offers as they desire. It also genuinely recognises that off-field development is a part of enhancing on-field performance.”