Mark Rodden - Irish Times
SPORTING PASSIONS: Cricketer Kyle McCallan tells Mark Rodden how much he enjoys coaching rugby at schools level.
CRICKET WAS obviously my big passion in the summertime but I would have played rugby all through my schooldays at Ballyclare High School. I played at scrumhalf and outhalf. Once the cricket took off I took a wee notion that the rugby might be too risky to play in case I hurt myself for the cricket so I took a year playing hockey. But I missed the rugby and in my final year I went back and played first 15.
I played in the schools cup and I went on to the University of Ulster and played in a varsity match against Queen's. That was when I made the decision there was little future in rugby for me. Jeremy Davidson turned up for one of the University of Ulster training sessions and I thought to myself 'this is men and boys'.
I would have been a pretty lightweight, skinny wee outhalf and I thought, 'I'm never going to be a rugby player at any great level', so I decided to focus purely on cricket then.
I played outhalf against Andy Park and he went on to play for Ulster when they won the European Cup in 1999. I played against a lot of guys who have made good rugby careers but they would have been representative players at school and it was a big challenge for me to try to match them as best I could.
I had a good kicking game but I wouldn't have got too involved in the rough and tumble of the game. Let's just say I would have been a non-tackling 10 – I tackled but it would have been as a sort of a last resort.
I love my rugby and I coach it at Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast. I get a huge amount out of the extra-curricular side at school with the first 15 and it's one of the main reasons why I enjoy my job. I've done my coaching badges and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of coaching rugby.
We were unfortunate to be knocked out of the schools cup the Saturday before last after a replay against my old school, Ballyclare, 10-7, which I was pretty gutted about. But for me it's important in schoolboy rugby they enjoy the game. Some of the schools will coach a fairly limited brand in order to be successful. We would try to encourage the guys to enjoy throwing the ball around and enjoy playing the right brand of rugby.
Whilst we are a good rugby school, in the North you have your big rugby schools where if they don't win a schools cup it's a massive issue. We aspire to do well and want the best for our boys but rugby has to be played to be enjoyed, and not to become a chore.
I would try to put my cricket experience to use in rugby. We would go into matches in cup situations as big underdogs and I would use old anecdotes from the World Cup – if Ireland can beat Pakistan in cricket then Grosvenor rugby can beat any of the big schools on their day, so long as you do the basics of the game well and keep it simple.
Sometimes the boys get a bit tired of me going on about that!
Ulster winning the Heineken Cup was massive. A lot of the guys I had played Ulster schools and Irish schools cricket with, Jan and Bryn Cunningham and the likes of those guys, they all made it as professional rugby players.
From our point of view as aspiring professional cricketers, there's nearly an envy there. What you often find in school now is talented sportsmen play rugby in the winter and cricket in the summer and unfortunately when it comes to choosing one or the other, they look at one as a career option and the other one not. The sooner we can get professional contracts in place, hopefully that won't be as easy a decision for them to make.
Watching rugby progress to the level it's at now and watching guys pit their skills at the highest level, as sportsmen it's all that you want to do. I'm looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers and the 20/20 World Cup and being able to challenge myself. The rest of the guys are the exact same. If I look back at the start of my career, you didn't challenge yourself – you were just happy to take the field against these guys and be able to say, 'I've played against so and so'. But I'm glad that things have changed.
The mindset now is that we're not just happy to play against them – you're not satisfied until you've beaten them.