The English star Genge hopes that the current generation of rugby players can be the catalyst for change
There was one thing that stood out when Ellis Genge saw the NBA bouts take place on Thursday morning. It was Doc Rivers, the coach.
Rivers had taken off his face mask and made an emotional plea about the police shooting of Jacob Blake. His words immediately resonated with his Los Angeles Clippers players and it begged the question: where are the black rugby coaches?
“Being a coach is much more than just getting up and making a few moves,” says Genge.
Ellis Genge didn’t have anyone he could identify with in rugby when he was younger
“I loved the way Doc Rivers spoke. He could because he’s black. His players could see that and interact with him. Do I think boycotting the games will make a big difference? Probably not … but it’s a great statement to make. It just reminded me that there aren’t many black coaches in rugby, right? There never has been, but with rugby’s elite middle-class dynamics, that’s not much of a shock, is it? ‘
Rivers’s words have given impetus to a movement that has had a global impact.
“I didn’t have anyone I could identify with in rugby when I was a kid,” Genge adds. ‘Not at all. Not a single black boy turns on the TV and thinks, ‘I want to be a rugby coach’, because there are none. I wasn’t aware of it growing up, but I am now. I had no role models in rugby. I’ve spent some time under Paul Hull in Bristol, but the longer I’ve spent in the game the more obvious it has become. ‘
Genge hopes that the current generation of players can be the catalyst for change in rugby
Genge hopes that the current generation of players can be the catalyst for change. But he believes that the root of rugby’s battles with elitism lies in the school system, which offers more opportunities for affluent, privately-educated students.
“I was talking to my mom about it the other day and the problems stem from the schools,” he explains. “I have a coaching clinic, Baby Rhino, and the key is to go to the schools where the kids may be from single, unemployed parents who can’t provide the opportunities. Instead of the paid schools that have a full-time rugby coach for £ 40,000 a year. Rugby is seen as a very welcoming environment, but there is more that can be done, isn’t it? ‘
Does Genge see himself as a future coach?
“If you want to become a top coach, you have to love the small details,” says Genge. ‘I’ve worked with some of the best coaches in the world – Eddie Jones, Steve Borthwick, Neal Hatley, Boris Stankovich – and I don’t have the same love for detail as they do.
‘To be honest, I’d rather be a professional League of Legends gamer, but who knows? However, there are guys who would be great for that mold. Guys like Kyle Sinckler or Lewis Ludlam can be classy. ‘
The rugged gag believes the root of rugby’s battles with elitism lies in the school system
The relationship between athletes and activism is closer than ever. LeBron James and Marcus Rashford have all made bleachers, and in the same vein, rugby is trying to break out of its conservative shell.
‘I love hearing guys like Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes publicly express their opinions. You must of course have some understanding of dynamism, balance and respect for people, so that you can never let your thoughts run wild. If I said everything I thought I would probably sound like a ***. ‘
Conversation is about playing. Never one to shy away from an honest assessment, Genge does not take a punch in his reflection on Leicester’s recent fortunes. The club has long been in a slump and is second in the Premier League. There have been few wins, but new coach Steve Borthwick is plotting a change.
“Everyone will have their own opinion about Leicester,” said Genge, a Land Rover ambassador. ‘It’s been pretty dark the last four years, so you can’t blame people who write us off. On a personal level, I have to pull my finger out and start performing. I’m a long way from being at my best and I want to get back to where I should be.
Genge was moved by Clippers coach Doc Rivers (pictured) when the NBA bouts took place this week
‘Wednesday evening was the first time that our defense has not received a point for three years in the first half. It was a good start for us.
“From my point of view, it feels like something exciting to be a part of it now.”
‘The young boys are class. Tommy Reffell is f ****** mint, isn’t it? I’m excited to see Thom Smith get a run against Gloucester. He’s been coming to Tigers games since he was four years old, so you know what it means to him. Genge will be watching on TV as Smith leads the youngsters to Kingsholm today.
He has been reassured as part of the club’s strategy to manage game backlogs.
LeBron James and Marcus Rashford have shown a relationship between athletes and activism
The sport’s power brokers have come under fire for squeezing too many games, potentially at the expense of the player’s well-being, but Genge is aware that he’s giving his thoughts on the subject completely free.
“Isn’t it the guinea pig theory?” he says. ‘We are the first era of elite professionals, so we don’t really know what conditions our bodies will be in 20 years from now. Everyone knows that rugby takes a heavy toll on your body. Cauliflower ears, joints, fingers, knees. It’s hard enough to play one game a week, but we’ll see how we proceed. You always find different ways to deal with s ***, right? It is strange to everyone.
‘We don’t know what’s going to happen. I could come out and make a big headline, but there are more mental issues in the world right now than rugby, right? ‘
Ellis Genge is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover supports rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite, for more than two decades. Visit http://landrover.co.uk