Stamford Rugby Club coach Auz Schwarz reflects on a season of success
An appetite for learning coupled with a strength in depth and a commitment to the cause have been some of the driving forces behind Stamford Rugby Club’s success this season.
The Hambleton Road side were crowned Midlands 3 East (South) champions after a terrific campaign which saw them record 15 wins from their 18 completed league games.
Head coach Auz Schwarz has been delighted with the unity in the camp in his first season at the helm.
Schwarz said: “Having a good second team has really helped us this year. We’ve had a full-on senior squad and I’ve had about 30 players to pick from.
“You get certain players who will always stand-out but the biggest thing for me this season is that a couple of the lads who perhaps weren’t stand-out players in the past have really stepped up this year.
“They’re a year older and wiser and have taken on more of a leadership role themselves.
“They’ve really stepped up to the plate while some of the other younger lads now have another year’s experience in senior rugby.
“It’s a massive learning curve for some of them, but that’s all part of the journey and the right thing now is to challenge them at the level up.
“When we came down two seasons ago, those young lads were playing first team rugby at 18-years-old but now they’re 20 or 21.
“We’ve been really good across the whole park this season and we haven’t relied on one person to pick up 10 or 15 points every game. Everybody has chipped in.”
Schwarz introduced some new plans at the club following his appointment in the summer and his policy of involving his players on what they wanted to see implemented has been a big hit.
He added: “I knew that we had a really good foundation when I took over in the summer. I was confident that we could achieve what we have.
“We didn’t talk about that and set it out as our goal, but we had two things that we wanted which was to have fun and get more people playing rugby.
“Ultimately if you do those things then you create a culture which breeds positivity and I believe that the results then look after themselves.
“The turning point for me was people making the effort to actually be there week in, week out.
“If they couldn’t make it, they were very apologetic on the phone to me because we were creating something that those that couldn’t come felt they were missing out rather than me having to chase people.
“That’s been really key and a change in culture to try and provide everything that the team has asked for.
“We went through everything with the players at a couple of points during the season and said that we were giving them everything that the guys had asked for.
“We continued to go that because it was working and everyone was getting the enjoyment out of it which was what they wanted.
“We’ve had anywhere from 40 at training sessions and, in years gone by, you might have got eight or nine on those horrible wet and windy nights.
“Everything we have done this season has been productive and it makes such a big difference.
“It makes you think what you’re doing is working and that gives you as an individual or a person a buzz to do more and push the guys harder.
“The appetite to learn has been one of the biggest things for me this season. It’s been fantastic to see the players really push themselves.
“Perhaps one of our downfalls is that the guys set themselves such high expectations and, if something doesn’t go right, they get frustrated.
“That’s great in one aspect but my point is that we shouldn’t let perfect get in the way of something which has been really good.
“We need to set ourselves realistic expectations because for me it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding first season.”
Michael O'Connor - head of the senior section at Stamford Rugby - believes recruitment will be vital for the club next season.
O'Connor and Schwarz have been buoyed by the number of players who have made themselves available for the Midlands 3 East (South) champions this season.
And they are keen to maintain that momentum as Stamford get ready to tackle the challenge of higher level rugby next season.
O'Connor said: "One of the key goals when we met at the start of the season was promotion.
"To say we’ve consistently been in the top two all season is a testament to all the players, coaches and support staff.
"Our goal for the new season will be to adapt to life in Midlands 2 with faster game-play and stronger fitness but one of the key objectives for me is recruitment.
"We want to recruit new players, not only for the first team but for a second team to play in a merit league.
"We promise lots of game time in a really forward-thinking passionate and friendly club."