ALEXANDRIA OLTON is ready to tackle her new role as assistant coach of the national women’s rugby team.
Olton is a certified Rugby Football Union level two coach and is also a qualified level one referee. Her recent appointment to serve at a national level came as a surprise but Olton embraces the challenge and eagerly awaits the resumption of outdoor sport to hit the ground running.
Owing to the pandemic, rugby, like the majority of other local outdoor sports, is prohibited by government regulations to control the spread of covid19.
During this lull period, Olton and national women’s rugby 15s team coach Vernlyn Ross and fellow assistant coach Kwanieze John, will be working behind the scenes to ensure things are put in place for a smooth transition back into the sport when the restrictions are lifted.
“I’m very excited," said Olton. "It was a hope of mine to someday become a national coach. But of course, I didn’t realise how quickly it could become a reality. It’s a pleasant surprise.
“The pandemic is limiting what we are able to do with the rugby programme right now but things are within the development.
“We will use this time to prepare so that moving forward, when we are given the go ahead to actually play, interact in person and host our trials, we are ready and can hit the ground running,” she said.
In 2017, Olton travelled to England to begin her rugby coaching certification. In two months, she was able to attain her certificate, moved on to training junior athletes and even refereed a couple games there.
Olton returned to TT in 2018 and began coaching on the local circuit as Royalians rugby club women’s coach. She regularly interacted with Carlton Felix, the club’s and national women’s programme technical director.
Through his interactions and learning from him, Felix advised her to sign up for the position of assistant coach. Prior to her appointment, Olton continued pursuing other advanced qualifications to improve her craft as a women’s coach.
“Upon returning home I used the level two licence to coach but it’s difficult to maintain that licence when you’re not in England. I have now pursued the World Rugby’s level two coaching course in which I’m in the process of completing through the TT Rugby Football Union (TTRFU),” she added.
This course is currently being pursued virtually but is taking a bit longer to complete owing to the unavailability of hosting practical, coach planning and theoretical sessions outdoors.
With respect to the national women’s programme, Olton pointed out that rugby does not have the luxury of having all completely developed ready-to-perform players.
She said that when rugby resumes locally, they would have to conduct developmental sessions within national training to get certain players at the same level. Although women’s rugby can be a little less under participated, Olton is confident women’s rugby will make a welcome return.
“Women’s rugby has grown enormously over the last couple of years with the school leagues, an increase in club activity and the women’s league among other programmes.
“One of the primary focuses for me as assistant coach, working together with the head coach and other assistant, I think we would like to get their physical ability back to where it should be. Good physical conditioning lessens the risk of injury,” Olton said.
After such a lengthy downtime, she added that coaches would have to reintroduce concepts such as the basics of passing, tackling and working together as a unit in the attacking and defensive scope.
Additionally, she plans to focus on the technical side of things while working alongside the players to re-condition themselves and reintroduce their bodies to physical contact.
“It would be quite a physical shocker for the players to return to training after such a time of not participating in sport,” she added.
On her recent appointment, Olton noted, “We are finally beginning to change the narrative by introducing women as coaches of the game. It is now for us to take up the opportunity to inspire and empower those athletes with whom we are charged.”