Stortford rugby: Fly-half Austin Pope takes on community coach role at Silver Leys
Austin Pope is looking forward to spreading the word about his "second family" after taking on a community coach role at Bishop's Stortford.
The first-team fly-half has been given a three-year contract to introduce the sport in all its formats to the town's boys and girls as well as supporting teachers and coaches to create and grow opportunities in order to increase participation levels.
Not only will he be working with primary and secondary schools to get rugby more embedded in the curriculum, Pope, 21, will look to increase the Silver Leys club's revenue by getting their facilities hired out and growing the membership.
Pope, who coaches in the minis section, began playing for Stortford in the under-10s and progressed all the way through the youth system before making the first team.
He moved to the town from Harlow in his last year of primary school, attending Richard Whittington before moving up to The Bishop's Stortford High School and then sixth form at Herts and Essex High School.
Pope's younger brother Cameron is a member of the colts set-up and his father Steve previously coached the senior team. During the 2012-13 season, when Stortford were promoted to National League 2S, he travelled home and away with his dad and the team, earning pocket money by lugging the kit around and running the kicking tee on.
"It sounds like a cliché, but the club is like a second family," said Pope. "We have so many fantastic people who give up a lot of their time to make the club what it is.
"I still play rugby with some of the boys that were in my under-10s age group, which is a testament to the grassroots nature of the club.
"From the supporters, staff, volunteers and players, everyone buys into the 'one club' ethos and it's a special community to be a part of.
"I genuinely enjoy working with the minis section of the club and think this is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn and develop my skills as a young coach, alongside being able to focus on my own rugby.
"I'm excited about building and developing new and existing relationships between schools and the club, getting as many individuals involved as possible."
Joint head coaches Marcus Cattell and Tom Coleman have both been community coaches for England Rugby in the past. They felt, with RFU funding having dried up in recent times, it was the right time to create the position and that Pope was the ideal candidate.
"We want to make the club even more of a focal point within the community," said Cattell.
"Austin's got so much history with the club, carries himself very professionally and will be a great ambassador for the club."
Pope is being sponsored by Russell Property Ltd, CC Coaching, a private funder and Spencer Kersey over a three-year period.