Mikey Short appointed as Head of Open Touch

10 Oct 2019 @ 10:10 BST

We talk to the newly appointed Head of Open Touch Mikey Short

“It’s time for a short break and to help Scottish Touch build a four year plan for an attack on World Cup 2023”.  This was Mikey Short’s opening line when we spoke to him upon his announcement as Scottish Touch’s Head of Open Touch ahead of next season.

“It’s a temporary rest from playing for Scotland” said Mikey, hurriedly confirming that he’d be back for the 2022 European Championships.  “It’s an exciting opportunity for me to step back and help build a structure behind the three Open teams that will bring about an improvement across the board: coaching, playing, conditioning, culture and leadership.  I have fantastic friends and teammates in these teams that I want to see succeed over the next four years and this is the best way I can think of to try and support that objective”.

The Head of Open Touch role is a new one, announced as a small part of the overall changes Scottish Touch is implementing after the thorough independent review undertaken by Duncan Campbell.  The role involves:

  • recruitment, selection, development and evaluation of the Open team coaching groups
  • implementation of the overall Scottish Touch selection policy in respect of Open teams
  • setting of priorities, objectives and strategic plans for the Open teams on an annual basis
  • management of a mentoring programme for Open team players
  • consultation with coaches regarding individual player development plans
  • overall responsibility for the performance targets of Open teams.

“We have an exciting playing group, talented coaches, an excellent Academy programme, experienced leaders and a strong reputation in European Touch” says Mikey.  “But, at a time when Touch is gaining more TV exposure and the game continues to grow more professional in its delivery, we need to keep pushing for more on-field performance across all three Open divisions”. 

Scottish Touch has a traditional strength in mixed touch, and the Academy has seen success both in terms of medals, but also through the graduation of players into Open teams.  There has been a consistent coaching group for several years, with Robbie McKenzie, Monica Wallace and Eddie Sanjuan leading the Open teams.  Mikey says “The loss of Robbie, who retired after leading the Scottish Mixed Open team to bronze at the 2019 World Cup in Malaysia, obviously represents a huge change.  You can’t lose a hugely successful coach like that without it leaving an enormous hole in our system”.  Robbie’s record of six European gold medals and a bronze World Cup medal is unparalleled in European Touch, but Mikey is convinced that there is a strategy that can build on this success rather than have 2019 regarded as a “peak”.

“We [Scottish Touch] are far from perfect. We have a lot of improving to do in many areas, but we have an abundance of committed individuals, experienced winners, charismatic leaders and an Academy that can supply talent for years to come.  So yes, I think there is no need to regard 2019 as a “peak”.  We need to react to a changing European sporting landscape and that will bring change, but I think we can go to the 2023 World Cup and come back with even better results and higher world rankings across the 3 teams”.

Mikey explained that in his new role, he will begin to immediately implement his 2023 Strategy which will comprise the following:

Phase 1  - The 2020 Euros

  • An open recruitment process for Open coaches and assistant coaches and an appointment for the 2020 Euros only       
  • A clear objective of 2 Open teams making their Euro’s finals, and the third team collecting 3rd place (results not linked to any specific Open teams)
  • The creation and early testing of a player mentoring programme formally linking experienced players with new ones, supplemented by meetings, calls and support systems to facilitate development for both players
  • A selection policy for Open teams that would focus the Men’s and Women’s sides on performance and leadership development, whilst the Mixed side will focus on skill acquisition, talent identification and generating Open level exposure for Academy graduates.

Phase 2 – The 2021  Permit Competition

  • This phase will be focused on coach development during the Permit year, to develop new coaches, develop the skills of the exiting group and increase the talent pool ahead of Phase 3.
  • The playing objectives for the 4 Permit teams will be consistency (i.e. I want there to be no significant difference between the performance of the 2 Women’s and 2 Men’s sides in 2021).  Generating strength in depth is key ahead of phase 3, so 32 male and 32 female players of a largely consistent quality is the target in Phase 2.
  • The continuation of the mentoring programme in Phase 2 should allow the mentees to flourish with increased responsibility and exposure via the Permit competition.

Phase 3 – the 2022  Euros and 2023 World Cup

  • The coaching team for these two competitions will be selected immediately after Phase 2 and the appointment will last until the 2023 World Cup, for consistency.  A competitive recruitment process will be sought, having developed a larger, high quality coaching pool in Phase 2.
  • The playing priorities (i.e. priorities between teams) for this Phase will be assessed after the results of Phase 2.  However, the objectives will be: all 3 teams in their finals for the 2022 Euros; and all 3 teams in the top 5 at the 2023 World Cup.

“It’s an ambitious plan” confirmed Mikey, “but one that I firmly believe is possible.  We need a lot of things to go well for it to happen, but many are within our control. We need our current playing crop to realise that they are talented but have a lot more to give and have more medals within their grasp if they want to work hard; we need to trust that overall national squad success follows natural cycles between the different divisions and there are lessons to learn and skills to gain from playing within different divisions and with different coaches and players; we need committed coaches to never settle and keep reinventing how the game is played; and we need to bring our amazing Academy graduates into a system whereby they are developed not just by me and their coaches but by their fellow players”.

In the short term, Mikey confirmed that the recruitment process for coaching teams is now open and the first element of the process for players to begin their journey to the 2020 Euros would occur before Christmas 2019.  “We’ve all had a post-World Cup rest” said Mikey, “now it’s time to kick into action.  I’ve done a few of these cycles before, I trust that we have the time and the expertise to have a quality lead-in to the Euros.  After all, it’s just down the road and we’ve done Nottingham quite recently I think…”

To apply for an Open team coaching role, please click here to submit your initial application and to have an interview with Mikey.  This process must be completed before 31 October so don’t hesitate to enter an application or ask Mikey any questions directly at Michael.Short@scottishtouch.org.uk