Coaching the coach

Discovery Vitality is partnering with Jake White to contribute to healthier schoolboy rugby.

World Cup-winning coach and former schoolmaster Jake White, in launching his satellite-coaching academy on Wednesday, said recognition of the value of the schools coach was long overdue in South African rugby.

White, in association with Discovery Vitality and Highbury Safika Media, has assembled the core of his 2007 Springbok World Cup management team, in bringing South African schools and club coaches the finest possible tuition in June.

‘I was a schoolmaster and I coached against some brilliant schools coaches who, if given the right exposure and opportunities, could well have a professional career in coaching. This course is the first step to giving them an opportunity to learn but to also show off their talent, but more than that it will add a further dimension to schools rugby overall and entrench South Africa as the best schoolboy rugby nation. We have fantastic schools players, but we also have very talented schools coaches,’ said White.

The academy, to be known as ‘Discovery Vitality enabling Jake White’s Winning Way’, won’t be limited to schools coaches, and White has also expressed the hope that club coaches and even those linked to professional teams see the value of tutorship from those who made South Africa’s win at the 2007 World Cup possible.

‘You only have to go to the schools rugby festivals that are on this week to appreciate how healthy the schoolboy game is, but speaking from my own experience as a rugby schoolmaster, the opportunities to improve oneself as a coach haven’t always been there. I keep on hearing we don’t have the intellectual capital in this country, but that’s crazy when you see what we have achieved at all levels of our rugby.‘

And ensuring the future health of the schoolboy game is exactly what is at stake, according to Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness.

‘Jake’s peak performance approach – which focuses on injury prevention, healthy nutrition and physical fitness – closely mirrors the tenets of our Vitality wellness programme. The academy will not only equip school rugby coaches to embrace this approach, but will hopefully result in a healthier new generation of school rugby players.’

‘Discovery Vitality last year launched an initiative into 1 000 primary schools nationwide, representing around 17 000 teachers and 500 000 learners, with the aim of instilling healthy lifestyle habits in children. The initiative encourages kids to eat healthily, make regular physical activity a part of their lives and undergo regular preventive health screenings. It’s an approach that encourages kids to get active and involved in school sports; whether it’s rugby, cricket, ballet or swimming.’

‘Now, our association with Jake White’s Winning Way allows us to extend our message of a healthy, active lifestyle to the secondary school environment, where rugby is particularly popular – so we see it as a flagship project,’ said Nossel.

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who assisted White’s Springboks at the 2007 World Cup, has also aligned himself with the academy.

‘Any opportunity to work with Eddie is a bonus and he brings special qualities to the academy. He loved working with the Springboks and he loves the passion there is for rugby in our country,’ said White.

Highbury Safika Media CEO Kevin Ferguson said it was important for a South African company to back a South African brand and a South African product.

‘Jake White had a winning way that won South African rugby the biggest prize of all and as a company with a huge publishing interest in sport we see it as an obvious fit to our brands like SA Rugby magazine and the rugby website It also creates another opportunity to improve the intellectual capital among schools and club coaches and it is our belief that if the education is there at those levels it makes for a better quality of professional coach in the future.’

Ferguson confirmed that the top 10 coaches on the course, as identified by White, would receive R125 000 from Highbury Safika Media, as well as media coverage in the company’s respective sports publications.

‘The school profile benefits through the excellence of the coach but there also had to be an incentive for that coach, and whoever impresses Jake the most will get R25 000, with the remaining R100 000 split on a sliding scale from second to tenth.’

SA Rugby Union president Regan Hoskins endorsed the academy, saying White’s experience as a former school master and his achievements as a World Cup-winning coach as senior and junior level meant the coaches would be learning from the best.

‘As a former winner of the IRB International Coach of the Year on two occasions, Jake can add value in training and developing coaches on all levels in South Africa,’ said Hoskins.

For all enquiries contact Kara Ross, e: [email protected], t: +27 21 416 0141, m: +27 71 682 6377