Jake Jeffs has said he returns for his second spell as head coach at Haverhill Rugby Club having done a lot of growing up as a person.
The 31-year-old takes over from departing head coach Martin Hughes, who stepped down this summer after spending more than three years in the hot seat.
Hughes was the replacement for Jeffs when the experienced fly-half resigned from the role at the start of 2013, and last season guided Haverhill to a second successive fourth place finish in Eastern Counties Greene King Division Two West.
Jeffs, who intends on being a player-head coach for the club this season, believes he is now more equipped to succeed in the role.
“I’ve grown up a lot as a person,” he said. “I’m now 31 and I think I’ve learnt how to deal with certain personalities and certain situations while being in a pressurised environment.
“This time round I’ve got a bit more savvy. I know how to understand people’s reactions to different situations.
“I left Haverhill and went to play for Saffron Walden in their first team for a few years.
“They play in the London League so when I came back to play here I had a lot to offer.
“Paul Bergin was coaching the forwards and I was coaching the backs.
“I always directed the lads on where to go and what to do, so I kind of fell into it really.
“They got to grips with how to play my style of rugby and they a such a good bunch of lads here at Haverhill.”
Jeffs’ first competitive game back in charge of Haverhill takes place a week on Saturday, with a trip to Division Two South side Mistley in the preliminary round of the Suffolk Plate (September 3).
Haverhill then get their 2016/17 Division Two West campaign started away at Sawston the following Saturday, before Jeffs takes charge of his first home game of the season when March visit on September 17 (all 3pm).
“I’m not setting myself a target for the team this season,” Jeffs admitted. “But for the second team I want them to be playing at least 70 per cent of their fixtures.
“The first team will look after themselves, but for the seconds it’s a new team really.
“We’ve always had a second team for the last three or four years, but we didn’t have enough youth players and the old first-team players were getting too old to play in the second team.
“The youth players are now turning into elderly teenagers and we’ve got some new veterans in what is a very social team. It’s for people who want to try their hand at rugby and it’s ideal because all the games are always very close.”
Jeffs has regularly had 30 players turning up for pre-season training this summer, with his first-team squad expected to have a very local flavour to it.
“We’re hoping to add a couple more,” the Haverhill head coach said. “We’ve got a good Haverhill squad and I want to build on the foundations from last season and also the family feel we’ve got at the club.”
Hamish Stewart returns this season after dislocating his shoulder last year, while second row Joe Wilson (travelling) and back Jack Hamilton-Fox are among those hoping to make a good impression.
“I’m looking for the team to play open rugby,” Jeffs said. “I want my players to play whatever they feel. Watch this space!”
n Haverhill Rugby Club are holding a Family Fun Day this Saturday from around 12pm and will include a bouncy castle, face painting and a BBQ.