ATTACK coach Nick Walshe believes that a top four finish in National League One would be a creditable return for Coventry in a season of discovery which moved up a gear with Saturdays 39-3 win over Blackheath.
“I know it’s a bit boring, but we’re not going to come first unless Hartpury College lose every game – which they won’t – and I’m not a massive one for saying ‘let’s go and finish second’,” said the former England scrum-half. “The important thing is to keep building.
“I think at the moment we have got to look at getting into the top four which would be a really good reward for the season. We have got to get more and more foundations in place because next season is a year when we’ve got to push on.
“There’s a lot of good stuff going on which isn’t always seen on the field, and if we can feel at the end of the season that we have made real progress all round, then we will have put ourselves in a good position.
“We are going to have more setbacks between now and then, but it is only a setback if you don’t do something about it and learn from it. Then it becomes a disaster.
“We want to finish as high as we can, but as long as we can get to the end of the season, wherever we come, and can say we’ve made massive strides, we’ll be in a good place for next year.”
Walshe is happy to admit that life at Coventry has rekindled his passion for the game.
Named performance development coach of the year in the 2013 UK Coaching Awards, Walshe – who led England to successive under-20 World Championships – concedes that he was ‘a bit disillusioned’ when he left Gloucester at the end of last season after two years as backs and attack coach.
A consultancy role at Cov offered a way back into the game in September, and with that now developed into an enhanced position of attack and lead coach, he is looking forward to an exciting future at Butts Park.
“Obviously I was full-time at Gloucester, but for whichever reason I had to leave that role – it was my decision – and I was a bit disillusioned at one point, but being at this club I’ve got my love back for the game, I really have,” he said.
“I’m really enjoying it, and ideally I’d like to have a part in this club getting back into the Championship and further.
“I think we’ve made some really good strides in the last few months, there’s still a lot to do, but the signs so far are really positive.
“I came in to do a bit of consultancy work, have a look and see if I could help in any way, and it’s developed from there in a natural way – the more you get into it, the more you get involved. I’ve mainly focused on attack, but I helped look at our exit strategies, it needed a little bit of structure there, and I like to think with my experience and from what I’ve done in the past, I can help in all sorts of ways.
“The lads are great, really willing to learn and try to progress as individuals and as a team, and everyone’s striving to get better every week. There’s been a few hiccups along the way, but those are part of it and I think that’s good because we have to learn from them.”
Walshe, who had a wealth of Premiership experience as a player at Harlequins, Saracens, Sale and Bath, considers himself very much a ‘hands-on’ coach.
“I love the coaching side of things, seeing the players and the team develop and seeing the boys enjoying what they do because that’s massively important for me as a coach,” he said.
“They’ve got to enjoy what they do, I believe that’s how you get the best out of people in life and in sport. If people are enjoying the environment they are in, as well as making it highly challenging for them, then you are going to make strides and hopefully the team will get better.
“I like to give empowerment to the players. A coach should be a guide and not necessarily somebody who dictates.
“I don’t think you should always be tell, tell – the guys have got to work out situations for themselves because that’s how they learn quicker.
“You’ve got to allow them to make mistakes, and they’ve got to know that they can make mistakes without being highly criticised as long as they learn from them.
“I like the players to go out and express themselves, they’ve got to have the chance to make the right choices both on the field and off the field. Hopefully, with what you’ve done with them and how you’ve structured training, creating the situations they are going to meet in a game, they will make better decisions.
“Rugby is becoming so pressurised and I do believe there are coaches who are coaching rugby out of the players, but there are a few who are brave and who allow players to make mistakes, to express themselves and play with flair, and I think those are the ones who get the rewards in the end.
“I think the flair in somebody is them having the vision and the ability to do something, but they’ve got to make the decision and it has got to be the right one.
“Rowland (Winter) wants to run the ball and I want to run the ball, but there are times when you have to be a bit more pragmatic and it might not be the best decision to run the ball.
“We are a running side, but also if we have to kick the ball all day to win the game, we’ll do it.
“I believe in a player-led group, I think it gives them ownership of what they’re doing,.
“But you have got to lead and guide them and there has to be that unity between coaches and players, and at the end of the day the coaches still make the final decisions – this is how we’re going to do this, we want to look at it this way……”