Who’d be a Coach? When the Game is out of your hands.

Have you ever stopped to think what a head coach is going through on the sidelines?

The RugbyTown7s tournament over this last weekend provided some fantastic rugby sevens on the pitch.  A number of the matches stood out for their quality, intensity and also for their closeness.  On more than one occasion a winning score was made during the last play of the game, well after the final hooter had sounded.

Though I was at the tournament to shoot images for the British Army my accreditation allowed me pitch side for some of the other matches.  One of these was the Pool A match between Canada Maple Leafs and USA Collegiate All-Americans.  It turned out to be a humdinger of a match with the All-Americans producing a controlled passage of play to score the winning try well after full time had expired.  During all this time my camera was on their Head Coach, Steve Lewis, rather than the on field action.  The images below are all from that one sequence of play.

Who'd be a coach?

All-Americans pressing. Maple Leafs defence holding firm. One score will win it it. Ball turned over and Maple Leafs in possession. Coach Lewis looks on.
Thoughtful! Maple Leafs move up field controlling possession.
The hooter has gone. If this was knock out rugby the Maple Leafs would kick the ball out and take the win but in Pool play all the points count, they go for one more score. All-Americans defending with the last ounce of energy they have left in their bodies. All the play is mid field and Coach Lewis can only watch on.
What goes through a coach's head at a time like this. A thousand questions of himself. Was it the selection? Was it the preparation? Was it the game plan? All-Americans still defending hard but Maple Leafs are controlling the game.
A dominant tackle from the All-Americans and they contest for the ball. Coach Lewis instinctively, involuntarily, calls out for the penalty. The call was raw. Raw emotion. The referee agrees, possession to All-Americans. Last chance saloon. One play, one roll of the dice.
All-Americans have possession but the play is static at half way. They can not find a hole in the Maple Leafs defence. Coach Lewis looks on intensly. Making every play, running every angle but ultimately unable to effect the drama that is unfolding before him.
The break is made. Only the goal line awaits. Is that the winning score. Is it?
Yes!. A clenched fist. But what emotions are now going on behind those closed eyes?
A congratulatory slap on the back. Some release of tension in the face but those eyes remain far away. The mind still getting to grips with the events of the last few seconds. Still fighting to control the emotions in the head. Who'd be a coach?
And for the winning Head Coach, the obligatory post match on pitch interview. Reliving the play. Can Coach Lewis yet believe it? Who knows but he has to clear his head because in 90 minutes they play Atavus. Sevens rugby can be relentless for players and coaches alike.

The time between the first image and the penultimate image is one minute thirty eight seconds.  A huge time in rugby.  In this time possession changed twice, the All-Americans went from attack to defence and back to attack.  A single unforced error by any of the players would have ended the game and the result would have been different.  Every second was felt by Head Coach Lewis and his coaching team in the technical area.  My personal thanks go to Steve Lewis who I met up with after the match and later in the tournament.  Great to chat to the man I had just photographed but I keep coming back to the question.  Who'd be a coach.

All images taken with a Canon 5DSr and EF200mm f2.0 wide open.  Click on any image to see a larger version.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis was appointed Head Coach of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans Sevens team in July. He has worked as a coach with the US Northeast Academy and also the Army West Point Women's team. He is a former USA Rugby Senior Coach of the Year.

6 Responses

  1. Robert losick
    | Reply

    Wonderful photos

    • Geraint
      | Reply

      Thank you Robert. I was fortunate to have good light and a tense game. As a photographer that’s all you can ask for. Glad you liked the images.

  2. Louis V. Mills
    | Reply

    Have Known Stevie, The Lizard, Lewis for quite a few years. I give him crap every time. The only reason is he is a damn good coach, albeit a Scotsman, and worth listening too. At least on the pitch. Great photo essay…..Did Stevie buy you a few beers at least???
    Dr. Lou “Spider” Mills OBRFC

    • Geraint
      | Reply

      Spider, thanks for the comments and the added info on Steve. I had never met him until after I took the images but if I had known he had a Scottish heritage I would have had him stand me a ‘wee dram’. Glad you enjoyed the images, i am currently travelling back to the Isle of Skye in Scotland where I will raise a glass to what was a great tournament.

  3. Jan Losick
    | Reply

    Great pics and a wonderful idea!!! You caught it all. Oh the drama!!! Good job!!!

    • Geraint
      | Reply

      Thank you for the kind words Jan. It was a great tournament and I had a good chat with Steve after this match, I think he was happy with what I was trying to convey in the picture story.

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