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Extended Interview: Graeme Paterson

With it now being over 3 months without rugby, Head Coach Graeme Paterson chats about life in quarantine, how the players have been keeping up with training and ambitions for next season.

"How has lockdown life been for you?"

Just like everyone else it's been a big change to our normal lives and routine but overall it's not been too bad and we have been lucky that no one in our family our friends appears to have suffered from COVID to the extent many have.  It's been a challenge though for me trying to learn how to home school an 8 year old and I think I'd find putting together a session for 35 rugby players on a Tuesday and Thursday evening a lot easier!!!

“It’s now been 3 months since we last saw ‘Burgh play their last game against Currie. What has been the focus in post season for the team?”

The focus has been really to allow guys some down time as you would during "normal" times and also conduct a review of our season and plan for the future.  Getting together to do these things has clearly not been possible so we have conducted a few meetings via Zoom with the other coaches and also the senior players.  The big focus for the coaching group for the past few weeks has been looking forward and planning our training and playing strategies for when we get back on the fields. The players have been trying to keep up some of their fitness with some limited training which we fed out to them.

"What has been biggest challenge in quarantine?"

I think really it has not been able to sit down with the guys and thank them for their efforts over the season and congratulate them all on a job well done but as we have gone through the period it is really the whole uncertainty around how and when we will come out of this situation and the challenges that we will face in that.

We have tried to engage with the players with the twice weekly "Training Sessions" that I used to send out for them to complete which did get the competitive element sparking again with some interesting results being posted and the inevitable "integrity testing" by their team mates which was fun to watch at times!!

“How will you adapted training to fit around the government guidelines on social distancing for the time being?”

That is a very difficult one to answer as we are unsure at this time on how the guidelines will be rolled out and in what format but looking at what some other countries have done or planned it looks like the first stage will be smaller groups of players doing training which will involve no close contact at all so this will mean splitting training groups and areas with designated coaches for each of those groups to oversee some form of conditioning training.  I think it will be good to just get some form of contact between the guys and start putting in place the good relationships the guys have with each other and start conditioning ourselves again ready for the next stages. We have our season plan which incorporates the normal training schedule but we are acutely aware that this is probably going to need adjusting but that will be guided on how the restrictions are lifted and when.

“Do you think rugby will be different as a result of the past few months?”

I am hoping that there won't be too much change and that everyone gets back together on and off the pitches in as quick a time as possible but that may not be the case.

Certain aspects will be different and these could be around when we eventually begin to play if there is a sway towards a change in season times but that is a very big change and would need a lot of talk and compromises from a lot of people and organisations for that to happen.  Me personally would like to see some form of season change towards more summer time playing and training which could help in many ways to re-energise rugby with better playing and spectating conditions, more opportunities for social interactions pre/during/post games with wider audiences primarily family and friends but also sponsors who will all have a better experience of what rugby is about.

On the playing front it will be interesting to see after a long lay off how quick the players, coaches, referees and clubs all get back up to speed with the game but I am confident it won't be long before we fully immerse ourselves again in those full blooded challenges on a Saturday afternoon.  In our own league there may be some changes around which teams are strong and others who may be affected by this situation with players maybe having to leave, others not being able to attract players as a result of the financial crisis a club may find themselves in with budgets now under restrictions as with many industries and sectors across the board.

“Looking forward to next season, what is the main focus for the squad in the Premiership?”

In simple terms it is about starting the season as we left it with a positive feeling and producing performances on the pitch which gained us valuable points in our efforts at that point to maintain Premiership status.  Through those performances we showed that we can compete and now we are focussed on getting this on a consistent basis so the team is progressing and this will give us a higher league position at the end of the season.  I really do believe that we can be a team that can go out a beat any of the other Premiership teams on a given day but our focus is producing that performance or as close to it as possible every Saturday.  Technically we have identified areas which are prioritised within the training schedule and this we are confident will mean that the players will be ready to produce these performances every week.

“Will we see any changes to the squad with new players joining or even more players getting 1XV game time?”

Yes we will but not a huge amount because as I said earlier I am very happy with the guys that currently play for Musselburgh and think they can get even better and they deserve that opportunity to do that having performed so well last season.  I have been talking to a number of potential players to join us and we have 4 guys committed to joining and one the areas we wanted to focus on was looking at East Lothian and being that place for ambitious and talented players to go to in order to get top flight club rugby and that has been a big part of our recruitment strategy.  I have found though when speaking to many guys about their plans that most are very uncertain about the future and therefore many just want to hold off just now on making any final decisions which is understandable at the moment but we will continue to monitor this and revisit these guys when the time is right.


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