By Ian Gilbert
Argentina’s exploits in the Test arena are well-documented, but the nation is also proving a trailblazer for developing coaching across South America.
The Pumas’ World Cup exploits (two quarter-finals and one semi-final) have undoubtedly put the region on the rugby map, and the prospects are good for their neighbours, with Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay all in the top 50 of the IRB World Rankings.
Quality coaching is essential to maintaining this progress, and a recent collaboration between the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) and IRB in Buenos Aires can only help the game prosper.
A “superweek” of courses in Buenos Aires saw 116 participants from eight CONSUR (South American Confederation of Rugby) unions earn their coaching spurs at levels ranging from accredited IRB trainers down to those tackling Level 1 coaching.
Rolling out consistent training demands efficient use of resources, especially given the geographical size of South America – Brazil and Argentina are among the world’s 10 largest countries.
IRB training and medical manager Mark Harrington said: “We’ve done similar weeks before but that was the most ambitious, with seven things going on.
“The two big benefits were that it’s very cost-effective to have people there for four to six days; and after the training they can go into real environments.”
Harrington oversaw the training camp, which finished in early June, with Alejandro Degano, the IRB regional training co-ordinator in CONSUR. The San Isidro club in the north of Buenos Aires was the setting, the Argentine autumn providing perfect conditions.
New trainers were accredited and existing trainers and educators undertook CPD (continuing professional development). A key element was the educators putting their new skills into practice on “live” participants – those studying for their Level 1 awards in coaching and officiating sevens, plus strength and conditioning.
This ethos of “train the trainer” means the rugby message reaches as far as possible. The participants return to their unions with consistent coaching skills to pass on to coaches and referees.
“The cascade effect is definitely the intention – we hope they go back to their regions and it gains momentum,” says Harrington.
The emphasis is on the local people delivering the expertise, and in this respect Degano is the key figure. “The educators have to deliver and the trainers have to observe,” he says. “The trainers trained the educators in this because they were in charge of quality assurance.”
IRB trainer Cristian Sanchez Ruiz, who is UAR referee manager, said: “This week we invited a great number of match officials for the sevens officiating course as we intend to have them well-prepared for this format of the game. We will keep on doing these ‘superweeks’ to complete the task.”
Other participants were similarly clear about the benefits. Chilean Dalivor Franulic, who was involved in continued professional development, said: “It was very important to meet with all trainers and many educators of nearly all CONSUR Unions and share our experiences and practise our skills.”
The importance of strength and conditioning (S&C) was underlined by trainer Horacio Herrera, a CONSUR development officer, who said: “We decided in CONSUR to deliver the new IRB S&C course Level 1 in the second half of this year and we prepared 11 new educators that are now keen to deliver.”
Argentina is identified as crucial to the channelling of this expertise, says Harrington: “Argentina is the biggest Union in CONSUR with the largest workforce and throughput of courses. It is also cost-effective in South American terms to hold courses there.”