Dave Ward was interviewed by Neale Harvey from The Rugby Paper, published Sunday 5th July 2020.
“Newly appointed Ampthill forwards coach Dave Ward is taking an alternative approach to honing his skills this summer – by teaching tennis to youngsters in Guildford.
With the Championship on a back-burner until November at least, the livewire former Harlequins hooker has swapped his rugby boots for a racket and is serving up half-volleys to eager students whilst cranking up his coaching knowledge for a shot at rugby’s big time.
Ward, 35, admits he is no Roger Federer, but tells The Rugby Paper: “I’ve always loved tennis and although I’ve never played to any great standard, I’m a qualified Level 2 coach and am currently studying for Level 3 whilst doing some coaching with local kids.
“I needed a summer sport and have been doing this for a couple of years now. As we’ve seen in other sports like rugby and football, you don’t need to be a great player to be a good coach so this keeps me ticking over and it’s giving me a new perspective on my coaching.
“A lot of coaching skills are transferable and one thing I bring to tennis which a lot of coaches don’t is the tactical side of the game. Conversely, I think there’s a competitive element in tennis that I can take back into rugby in terms of that killer instinct and sheer will to win.”
Ward, who will take sole responsibility for Ampthill’s forwards next season after Mouritz Botha moved on, makes no secret of his ambitions to coach rugby at the highest level.
He explained: “I loved the scrum coaching last season and I know what I want to do post-playing now. I want to be an elite coach, there’s no doubt, and it’s just about taking the right steps and getting some really good experience at Championship level under my belt.
“I’ve been coaching for ten years in the lower leagues with teams like Guildford and I’m enjoying it at Ampthill, so I want to earn my stripes and do the nitty-gritty first.
“To finish fifth last season was a massive achievement and most of the credit has to go to Mark Lavery and Paul Turner for the foundations they’ve laid. But as a coaching team myself, Mo Botha and Darryl Veenendaal came together very well and I really enjoyed that.
“To now become forwards coach is what I wanted and to cut my teeth at Ampthill is brilliant. I’ll still be playing but it will fall on me to make sure I get the most out of all the forwards and whilst that’s a big challenge, it’s one I hope will set me up for a future career.”
Ward has not been short of expert guidance, adding: “I was lucky to sit down with Eddie Jones before the lockdown and one of his best bits of advice was to keep winning as a coach because then you build your reputation and there’s no real substitute for that.
“You go around, you learn, you go to watch England training and you tap into guys you’ve worked with before – and I’ve been lucky to work with amazing coaches.
“Michael Foley at Bath was one, with his attention to detail and no-nonsense style, and then there was the man-management of Chris Stirling at Pirates and Conor O’Shea at Quins. John Kingston, Alex Codling and now Paul Turner, they’ve all been great mentors.
“Chris Boyd let me do a couple of days at Northampton last season, so I’m trying to take in all these different experiences and become the best coach I can be.”
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