Inge Visser has had plenty of time to reflect on her coaching ambitions over the past 12 months, and she is excited to put those theories into practice with the Wallaroos in the next year.
The former Netherlands sevens player, who relocated to Australia in 2013, has spent much of 2020 working from home, writing training programmes and refining her coaching ambitions.
Visser has got used to signing into online webinars as part of her participation in both the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy for High Performance Coaches (WSLA HPC) and World Rugby Virtual High Performance Academy.
With top-level women’s rugby currently halted in Australia due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Visser’s only hands-on coaching has been with the local teams she works with in New South Wales.
“I think the girls here in the local competition have got some high quality coaching and analysis,” the former UNE (University of New England) Rugby Lions coach joked.
Huge congrats to Inge Visser who's been appointed as a Coaching Intern for the @WorldRugby #RWC2021 program to assist the @WallaroosRugby. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻— Jilly Collins (@JillyCollins_) September 21, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/QSjKCF7Y9w pic.twitter.com/XLBhCrWnrb
However, that should soon change after the Dutchwoman was accepted onto a new World Rugby initiative, the Coaching Internship Programme for Rugby World Cup 2021.
Over the next 12 months, Visser will work as part of Dwayne Nestor’s Wallaroos coaching staff, helping the squad to prepare for the tournament in New Zealand.
“To be part of the programme was already a great thing,” she said.
“But now, in the last couple of weeks, just giving form to the actual role and getting to know the staff and people, and actually having the first couple of meetings, it's very exciting.”
Shadowing Wallaroos coaches
The Coaching Internship Programme has been designed to help talented female coaches take the step into a high-performance environment.
Having worked mostly in development, Visser is grateful for the pathway the initiative provides.
“Just to fill that gap from always setting programmes up and working just with new beginners,” she added. “To actually working in that top [level], learning from the best.
“Our head coaches … Dwayne and [Matt] Tink, that will be [up to] me to really be in their shadow to see how they train and what they do and the cues that they're giving those girls.
“That will be, for me, a big learning curve.”
Visser represented the Netherlands as a player at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow, and is well aware of the impact working at RWC 2021 as a coach could have on her career.
“It just gives you that chance to actually have that experience as a coach,” she explained.
“Otherwise, you just do local competitions, national competitions. But, actually taking it up to that level will be great, a great thing on your résumé to have that experience.
“And that's just an opportunity you [only] get now. Normally it would have been, ‘oh well, I'm not experienced enough’ or didn't have that level as a coach. So, that will close the gap.”
The case for the defence
Visser is determined to make the step from being a development coach to what she describes as a “technical” coach.
Her work over the past 12 months on the WSLA HPC and Virtual HPA has clarified in her mind that she wants to work on the defensive side moving forward.
“I actually had a lot of time to write a lot of programmes and work on my individual process and reflect [on] what I've been doing so far as a coach and where I want to hit through,” Visser said.
“It's always been a passion for me, coaching and giving back to the sport and seeing all those girls, you know, developing and getting involved with the game.
“But I think it's shifted now more from being always in that part, in developing and setting up, to now, what could I bring as a technical coach and what are my points where I really need to work on?
“And, I decided that I really want to work on my defensive side. So, I want to be one of the best defensive coaches. And that has for me been a big, big goal.”
Through the Coaching Internship Programme, World Rugby is keen to address the barriers facing female coaches in high-performance environments in both the men’s and women’s games.
Prior to being accepted onto the programme, Visser had already had conversations with Rugby Australia about the possibility of gaining experience in a male environment.
“I spoke about that with Rugby Australia, because I think [when] you're a woman and you've played women's rugby, you sort of get pushed into women's rugby,” Visser said.
“I really want to fill up my backpack and I want to get as much experience with other sides and other teams as well as in other competitions.
Making close connections
“So, obviously through COVID, those opportunities this year have been taken a little bit away and then this opportunity came up where I just applied for and it will be great.
“But yeah, I'm really looking forward to work with the men next year in some sort of competition as well.”
Visser’s participation in the WSLA HPC has also brought her into contact with coaches from several other sports, with representatives of cycling, rowing, tennis, triathlon and wrestling also enrolled on the programme, which is part-funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Her approach to rugby has subsequently been informed by that network of coaches, while she has held meetings with both Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia as part of her development.
“Networking with coaches from other sports and other countries, I think you can learn a lot out of that,” Visser explained.
“In the Netherlands, because it's such a small country, we always had heaps of connections.
“As the Dutch rugby team, we would go over and spend the day with the Dutch hockey girls.
“And I know in Australia it's all a bit bigger and a bit wider. But, I think, to have those networks and those close [connections], it's where you learn, and as a coach see how others are approaching their sport or the style of coaching.
“That's something that I've always been very interested in, and what I just try to keep doing. And if there is an opportunity to have a look at another sport, I am jumping on that.”