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Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley Café manager

Be Inspired Series

Barry Willis

Community Rugby Manager
Irish Rugby Football Union (Ulster Branch)

Former coach and youth development officer

What does your job entail?

My job within the IRFU Ulster Branch is to promote participation in rugby within the nine counties of Ulster. To achieve this I work with the Ulster Branch youth and mini-rugby committees, high schools committee and primary schools mini-rugby committee to organise and develop opportunities for young people to participate in the game.

Outside the rugby fraternity I work with various local authority groups and community partners to create a quality environment for rugby participation.

Is it nine to five?

Definitely not. As my role within the Ulster Branch is primarily within the mass participation or grassroots side of the game, I spend a lot of my time working alongside the volunteers in our clubs throughout the province.

As many of the volunteers work in rugby in their spare time, I am required to be available when it suits them. This usually includes one or two nights a week and the occasional weekend.

How did you get into this line of work?

I've had a lifelong passion for rugby and sport in general. At university in Scotland I took a degree in sport, recreation and management and was able to get some valuable voluntary experience in sport at the same time.

On my return home I became active in my own club, Larne RFC, as a coach. When the opportunity arose to work as a youth development officer with the club and branch I jumped at the chance. I consider myself lucky to be involved in the day to day management of domestic rugby in Ulster.

Outline your career to date.

Having started as a community coach, I got to experience first-hand the challenges that face the network of rugby volunteers.

The next step in my career was when I made the move to the governing body of rugby at the IRFU Ulster Branch. My role has evolved over the last four years. I was originally responsible for the supervision of the development officer network as youth development manager. I then took on additional responsibilities, including hands-on involvement in a variety of community partnerships.

Tell us about your qualifications/training.

As a coach I gained qualifications in mini-rugby, foundation level coaching and Level One coaching. I undertook my Level Two qualification and continue to work towards the completion and accreditation of this award. I am also qualified as an IRFU tutor at mini and foundation level.

Are there any other projects you are involved in at the minute which you are proud of?

We have recently renewed our partnership with independent retail group Centra to deliver the programme of Ulster Rugby Summer Camps throughout the province. The camps provide an opportunity for young people to meet their heroes from the Ulster squad who visit the camps each week.

What qualities are required for your job, personal and professional?

Within my role I believe that three main attributes are essential. Firstly, the ability to listen. Then, the ability to speak the common language of rugby is crucial in developing relationships and understanding what motivates people to be involved. The final essential quality is a belief in what the IRFU Ulster Branch is trying to achieve.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My Dad taught me that we all make mistakes; the trick is to try to avoid repeating them.

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