Bournville benefit from Grove’s experience

Bournville are benefiting from the experience of former Scotland and Worcester Warriors centre Alex Grove who returned to Avery Fields during the summer as player/defence coach.
Grove’s first stint with Bournville in 2019/20 was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic and, after spending time on other interests, he is back as part of a new coaching team working with Director of Rugby Paul Sumner, new Head Coach Matt Price and attack coach Jon Perks after an initial approach from Managing Director Phil Maynard.

Although injuries have restricted Grove to just two appearances so far this season he has made a greater impact off the pitch imparting the considerable knowledge that he gained in a professional career that included three caps for Scotland in the 2009 Autumn Internationals, 153 appearances for Worcester, a spell on loan at Edinburgh and spells with Birmingham & Solihull, Birmingham Moseley, Stourbridge and Coventry.

“I had a year here in the 2019/20 season when we were in the Midlands Premier which was my first year coaching,” Grove said.

“We won more games than we lost, we won the league and it’s always more fun when you are winning.

“Then I had a couple of years out before Phil Maynard picked up the phone and asked me whether I might be interested in coming back.

“I realised that I do have an appetite to stay in the game but not necessarily as a player. I might end up playing the occasional game here and there but I would rather coach.

“Looking at the squad now there is a lot more strength than there was four years ago. There are a lot more players who could do a great job for the first team.

“We were saying that, as a coaching group, we now have that selection headache of keeping players happy. We can only pick 15 starters with five on the bench which is a challenge. But we do know that if someone does drop out then someone comes in and it’s a seamless transition which is what you want.

“We do have a big squad so I don’t see myself as a player but I do really enjoy coaching and trying to facilitate growth in players, challenging them to get better and if I can help do that then I get a kick out of that.”

Grove gained his Level Two coaching award while he was still playing at Worcester but coaching courses are no substitute for hands-on experience.

“I got my level two badge a long time ago but you certainly learn more working with players than you do picking up a certificate,” he said.

“The awards are important and good to do but there is nothing like having to manage different characters and different abilities. I have probably learned more about the game this year than I did in any year playing full-time rugby because you see it through a different set of eyes.

“Coaching can get frustrating because you can see things which you think is an easy fix but the challenge of a coach is to get that message to the player to perform it on the field. That’s the challenge that I am quite enjoying. 

“When I spoke to Phil and Matt we said that we were going to have a bit of fun, first and foremost, and enjoy it. We are here to compete and to win but we are also here to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point?

“The togetherness of the club and the playing group is apparent. We stick around on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and after matches on Saturdays. We enjoy each other’s company and it’s not just about the rugby.”

Rugby may not be as all-consuming for Grove as it once was but his previous experience of Championship and National League rugby means that he has an appreciation of the demands of fitting and playing and training commitments around a full-time job.

“Rugby is something away from work and family life and it’s something that I really enjoy. It’s a hobby, something that is challenging and which takes more time than you would imagine because you are invested in it and you care,” he said.

“But we are limited with the time that we have with the players on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. We rely on the boys doing any weight training and fitness sessions away from the club. There’s a trust that they do what they can and there is an understanding that some, because of their work commitments, cannot do much or any.

“Fortunately we have a group that buy-in, that care and that have a crack. It’s quite an inexperienced group, a lot of young guys who have come from levels six, seven and eight this season.  

“There are lots of new faces at the club this season, both in the playing and coaching group and we’re just starting to see certain combinations gel.

“If we can keep the group together for two or three years then I believe we can kick on and challenge further up the table.”

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