Now in his second season as DCU rugby Co-ordinator, Bernard Jackman is determined to build a rugby culture in the college for the long term. The former Leinster and Ireland hooker is not only concerned with the Force’s success on the field, but also its development on a social and administrative level.
Speaking to him on a wet Thursday morning in the Helix, it’s easy to see how dedicated he is to achieving these goals. “The big thing for me is that rugby has really high profile when I leave and that there is a really good structure in place. I also want the committees to leave a legacy as well, so that first years are brought on and they can learn the ropes. So we have a really good club and committee.”
In addition to sharing his considerable knowledge with his players, Jackman, along with some student athletes, has been using the benefits of his sporting experience for the greater community, “I’m part of an access program through the college, where I take scholarship students out to disadvantaged schools and give motivational presentations.”
Coaching a diverse mix of students that have never played the game has been part of a process that the Carlow native has found very rewarding, “We have thirty eight beginners who have never played before, the likes of foreign students, GAA players and hockey players and they want to play rugby. It’s back to the grassroots level and I’m really enjoying it.”
All of these players will benefit from his decade of coaching experience throughout all levels of the Irish game, at clubs including Tullow, Newbridge and Clontarf, as well as stints at clubs in New Zealand and France. Having started coaching at 23, this has been a natural progression; he never experienced the identity crisis some players do in the twilight years of their career.
“When I played I always tried to coach on the field; organise guys, move things around and try and strategise, I love trying to get players to perform in a certain way. I always wanted to go into coaching. Thankfully that’s the career I’m in now. There is huge potential here and I love working in this environment.”
Jackman was playing for DCU when he won his first representative cap for the Irish Colleges, and understands more than most the benefits playing at college level has for players who don’t come from rugby strongholds. At this level they can gauge their talents against new competition, as well as learn from the highly experienced coaches available to them.
“These guys are getting to be coached by myself, Michael Diffley who played for Connacht, Jack Mullens who played at Australian schools, and we have our scholarship students coaching. The guys from local clubs are getting to play with guys from the AIL, and they bring that knowledge back to their own club, and if they have ambitions to move on they are not afraid to make that jump.
“We’re going to work really hard to get guys through three or four years here of college life and come out the other end with a really good grasp of what rugby is about, both in terms of the skills and the social aspect of it. So that these guys will get the opportunity to be the best players they can be; that’s what I’m trying to do.”
In his short tenure at DCU, he has been impressed by not only the standard of rugby he has encountered but the improvements in infrastructure. With the honeymoon period of last season well and truly he over, Jackman has ambitions for all of the college’s teams, and is very keen to add some silverware to the trophy cabinet.
“My ambition for the Force and the ladies rugby is to get as many participants as possible, and to leave a really good structure here. We have some really good players here, guys who could play AIL or higher. I want to win the All Ireland Colleges; both the 15 a -side and the sevens.”
The Force’s next match is against the University of Ulster, Coleraine on Wednesday, November 30th.