New Stamford Rugby Club head coach Austin Schwarz speaks about his plans after taking over the Hambleton Road helm
Austin Schwarz is aiming to combine success with enjoyment as he prepares to lead Stamford Rugby Club into their new campaign.
Schwarz has taken over as head coach at the Midlands 3 East (South) club after the retirement of the long-serving Matt Albinson following his 25 years at Hambleton Road.
Stamford agonisingly missed out on promotion on the final day of last season and will face an early test of their credentials this weekend as they open their competitive campaign with a Lincs Cup clash at near neighbours Spalding.
Spalding are among a number of derby rivals in the same division as Stamford this season – Bourne and Oakham being the others.
And Schwarz is hoping his management style will have the ingredients to help the club thrive on and off the pitch.
He said: “Yes we want to win games, but it’s about the overall experience as well.
“Ultimately for me if we can provide an atmosphere where the boys want to come down, they’re enjoying it and they’re having fun then they’ll keep coming and hopefully the silverware will take care of itself.
“Last season was very frustrating because if we hadn’t lost to St Neots near the end then we would have won the league.
“That’s the carrot this year and it is achieveable but, from a collective point of view, I don’t think missing out last season has done us any harm.
“Last year we had five or six young lads playing week in, week out in what their first real proper season at senior level.
“Obviously at the time we were disappointed, but we’ve consolidated, got a good platform and it’s time to go again.
“I’m not saying we’ve got to get promoted this year because, if you do that, you put too much pressure on it.
“At the end of the day, it’s an amateur sport and comes back to enjoyment. We’ll be taking it month by month and breaking it down.
“It will be our target to go out and win our games in the first month of the season. You do that, then go into the next month with the same plan and before you know it you’re three months in and hopefully you’ve won 90 per cent of your games.
“The focus will be on performance and hopefully we can get the wins out of that.”
Schwarz will be supported for the campaign by a team of assistant coaches which include Dave Laventure, Juan Gonzalez Mendia and Michael O’Connor.
He is hoping that the strong back-up will provide another vital component in Stamford’s quest for success.
Schwarz continued: “I worked really closely with Matt as a player last year doing some coaching. He’s a good pal of mine, but he did it all on his own.
“This year we’ve got myself, Michael O’Connor, David Laventure and Juan Gonzalez Mendiawhile George Nairn will be doing some fowards coaching as well as playing.
“We’ve got a structure. There’s a lot more analytics because we’ve got that number of coaches. We can look at stuff and then chat about it.
“The professionals might have walkie-talkies, but we have WhatsApp.
“We had coaches on both sides of the pitch at a recent friendly and we were texting each other backwards and forwards.
“It was quite interesting and it worked because you always see what’s going on. It was great to do that and get a full view of the game.
“We’ve got more than one view and one opinion. You’ve always got someone to bounce off.
“We’ve some different methods of play even after just a few weeks so hopefully when we start the season we’ll be in a really strong place.”
Schwarz will remain registered with Stamford as a player after progressing through to the mini and junior ranks to the first team.
He added: “Matt had me alongside him last season and that’s why I’ve got some exposure to it already so this is a natural progression.
“One of the advantages that I’ve got is that I’ve played here as a mini and junior and have been with the first team for the past seven years.
“I’ve played with pretty much all of the boys, bar the new recruits, last season and I know where their strengths and weaknesses are.
“I’ve played alongside them so know what their frustrations are. I know what they want to do. I’ve got the continuity and consistency from last season and just tweaked a few things.
“I’ve tried to make it quite a relaxed environment. I know that’s different when you’re playing a physical sport, but it’s again about making people want to be here rather than feeling they have to be.
“I’m not saying it was like that in the past, but it’s just my approach to the game. We want good player feedback and it to be open.
“I haven’t retired or anything from playing, but the last six weeks have been focused on coaching because I wanted to give the boys the best experience possible and I didn’t believe I could do that while still playing.
“I want to focus on coaching because that’s the next chapter for me from a personal point of view.
“I’m still trying to stay relatively fit and, if required, I’d be 100 per cent more than happy to play.”
Stamford will start their Midlands 3 East (South) campaign with a trip to Daventry on Saturday, September 14. Their first home league game is against Dunstablians on September 28.
New Stamford Rugby Club coach Austin Schwarz wants his reign at the Hambleton Road helm to help create a 'one club' ethos.
Schwarz is keen to involve everyone from the minis, juniors, colts, seniors and veterans in his long-term vision for the Midlands 3 East (South) club.
He wants to increase the second team fixtures for the coming season and also hopes to attract newcomers to the club, both seniors and colts.
Schwarz explained: "One of the key things and our objective is to get more people playing rugby.
"One of the other nice things about this year so far is that we've had some lads come down who haven't played rugby for 10 years but are keen to get back involved so we need to be able to offer them games.
"We've got eight second team fixtures in the diary for this season which hasn't really been the case in years gone by.
"We've thought about it quite strategically because there's also about five or six veterans who still want to play more than once a month so we've got games on alternate weekends.
"We've also got younger lads coming through which, with the veterans as well, means we could have quite a reasonably strong second team this year.
"We also want to get the youngsters more involved with the seniors, whether it's as water boys or ball boys on a Saturday which will hopefully keep them really keen.
"In years gone past, there's been a divide between the senior section and the minis and juniors.
"It's not been a divide for a purpose or one that's had any animosity - it's just that we've never really had a link. We've done our thing and they've done theirs.
"It's a club-wide objective and we've brought Michael O'Connor on board with the first team who is heavily involved with the juniors.
"That gives us a natural link, but we've done little things like produce a club brochure. Last year we had separate seniors and juniors brochures.
"We want to give something back to the juniors as well, like getting the injured lads to help out with junior training on a Sunday morning.
"That will help retention in the long-term and to make Stamford Rugby Club a place where people want to come."