September 2012

Training tips from Neal Hatley, Bath Coach.

by admin on September 20, 2012

A lot of people will not have heard the name Neal Hatley outside of London Irish circles where he is a living legend. Serving the Exiles well, he “prop’d” his way to being the most capped Premiership player of all time. For most, this would be a career to look back on with pride having played with the best in the world and collecting an array of silverware including captaining the Saxons and winning the Churchill cup.

However Neal then embarked on a coaching career that is fast eclipsing his playing days. Having worked his way through the academy ranks Neal has delivered a system that no one else can touch. He is now the most successful UK academy coach of all time. No other coach can boast that 68% of a premiership 1st team that are made up of academy players. Not only that but he has delivered more players into the England set up (and international) than any other club. Names such as Delon Armitage, Alex Corbiserio, Tom Homer, Steffon Armitage, Topsy Ojo and Guy Armitage to name a few the come to mind. This is a lineage and a stat that many a coach could dine out on, however the only reason I know this is from knowing Neal for years and watching the boys come through the ranks having spent a lot of time with him at London Irish. The stats don’t come from Neal telling me or boasting to others. If you met him you wouldn’t even know what he did and if you asked you would get the impression he was chief water boy.

His humility is remarkable given his success and with this in mind no one is better placed to talk about team training and what to look for in the 15’s season, than Neal. Having just taken over at Bath Rugby, Neal took some time out to give us some tips and thoughts about the season and training.

Neal thanks for taking time out to talk to us, can you tell us what are you looking for in players who want to join an academy?

We start at 13/14 with the kids and some of them are just faster and bigger at that age so we don’t focus as much on that. We focus on work ethic and work attitude, these are the buildings blocks that you can develop over the 5/6 years they are with us. Technique, fitness etc. can be built on as the kids get older and hopefully that gets honed and then you end up with an 18/19 yr. old that has great ethics and good skills.

What tips would you give to people at the start of the 15’s season in terms of training, including pre-season and the start of the season? What do u recommended?

There is no standard formula but for me strength base training for 4 wks., gym based, weights focused with very little in terms of conditioning. In the 4 weeks leading up to pre-season strength and condition should kick in along with rugby conditioning. Skill blocks of 25 mins encompassing basic skills, kicking, passing, catching etc. This will lead nicely into pre-season with 2-4 games. In these games don’t run players ragged, give them 40/50 mins game time each, not full games. Then you’re into the season.

Given the climate in the UK, does the changing weather affect training and your outlook?

Definitely, it changes how you play. It’s a much longer season here compared to Southern Hemisphere and the weather and pitches change considerably from the start to the end of the season. Aside from that just the sheer length means you need to change and adapt, you need to be looking to change constantly.

How do you gear the players mentally?

We do mental work, in the past this been undervalued, well non-existent. Clive Woodward started it in terms of rugby. It’s another “muscle” it can be trained. Particularly with younger players, if you look at the England u21 guys they get profiled to help the coaching staff understand about them. It shows them the style of teaching that works for them. Audio, visual, kinaesthetic etc., this is then used to coach them in a style that suits them. This ensures they will learn a lot quicker this way, it’s about trying to find the best way to get message across as quickly as possible. This is becoming more and more important, the whole mental condition side, but we are still far behind say the Americans with all of this.

As an ex forward do you think forwards need it or is it just about the grunt?

Lol! Well in my day maybe, but it’s a long season and there need to be coping strategies. Toughness, forward play by nature is about repetition, it’s the grind. It’s mentally how they process these facts. It’s not always fun, it’s about the grind at times and how to cope best with this. It’s enjoyable but the work needs to be done. This is massively important from 1-15, so yes everyone has to be involved, but the mental exercises are different for each player.

What is the most critical phase of the rugby season?

Dec-Jan/Feb for premiership sides, they will lose players for international duties. Also if you are in the top 4 and within touch and everyone is still on board as the pitches freeze and harden then you are in a good place and this is what you should aim for. It’s the worst part of the winter, but a very important part of season. But different people may say differently. It’s impossible to stay on game for 34 weeks. Focus on finding key performance times and utilising them to their best.

Neal thanks for your time and good luck with Bath Rugby this season!



Graffitti day photoshoot and timelapse video

by admin on September 12, 2012

We spent the day with one of the most amazing graffitti artists, Chung Fu as he unleashed himself on our giant canvas.
Having started graffiting people’s shops, he then progressed onto airbrushing using his Japanese influenced style. Everything from motorbikes to clothes and trainers became his canvas. His clients have included Nelly, Chris Brown, Tim Westwood, 50 Cent, Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D. He has also designed for Nike poster campaigns and for the Nike ID design range.
Owner of a successful tattoo studio and multi award winner, he is living his dream.
We were very pleased to spend the day with him especially since he has not done any graffitti work for more than 3 years! He loved the idea we had and so agreed to do it. Watch the time lapse video and see how he worked his magic over a 9 hour period with no break!
The whole process took 9 hours on the day, all freehand and no stencils were used. He blended colours to get the correct feel and impact using a mix of spray cans and airbrush technique using up 15 cans of spray and a bottle of ink. He took no break.