Rugby coaches from top flight rugby in the UK and Europe donned their robes and mortarboards to be honoured as Hartpury graduates at Gloucester Cathedral today (16th October).
Stephen Meehan from French Top 14 Club Toulon, Don Barrell and Joe Shaw from Aviva Premiership club Saracens, Darren Cunningham, who is now at Antwerp RFC, Ian Davies from Cornish Pirates and John Widdowson from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), all graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Development (Coaching Rugby Union).
These ‘students’ followed a unique pathway in achieving this qualification, having used their RFU Level Four coaching award as the basis for their postgraduate study.
RFU Coach Developer, Nick Scott, said: “It is great to see coaches with the highest levels of expertise having their skills recognised academically. They are at the top of our game and beacons to the rest of coaching. We look to them to lead coaching to the next level.
“The Level 4 course delivered by the RFU is recognised as helping to develop the craft of coaching to a high level; the extra support from Hartpury, giving coaches the chance to evaluate and reflect on their practice adds hugely to the experience. To have this recognised by a respected institution such as Hartpury is important. I look forward to many more graduates in future years.”
Each coach had to complete a self-evaluation and review of their Level 4 experience before planning a piece of research that would address their future development needs and those of their fellow coaches and colleagues.
All six coaches will now go on to study for a Masters degree in Professional Development (Coaching Science) at Hartpury.
They joined more than 300 fellow Hartpury graduates in celebrating this UK first at a stunning ceremony at Gloucester Cathedral on Friday (October 16th), with Rugby Football Union Coach Developers, Nick Scott and Dick Tilley, also in attendance to mark their landmark achievement.
John Widdowson from the RFU, said: “Together with my esteemed colleagues, I feel more than honoured and privileged to represent my family, friends and all those who have supported my journey to date and would like to thank them for enabling me to be part of this very special and memorable occasion.
“Having developed a wide range of experiential skills and knowledge over many years, the opportunity to gain academic recognition and accreditation for this has been another part of an incredible journey that is set to continue.
“The next stage for me will be learning from leading coaches in the sport to identify key elements of their coaching philosophy and how these could influence coaches of the future.”
Dean Clark, Senior Lecturer for MSc Coaching Science at Hartpury, said: “Working alongside coaches who share such a passion for player development and so fully embrace opportunities to develop their craft has been a wonderful experience.
“That this group will be joining our MSc Professional Development programme, and in doing so sharing their wealth of experience with our whole postgraduate cohort, is an exciting prospect for everyone in Hartpury’s HE Sport department.”