Behind The Scenes | Lewis Sones
Lewis Sones sometimes has to pinch himself when he looks at how far women’s rugby has come at Saracens since he joined the club in 2009. In the past decade he has seen an explosion of interest and investment in the women’s game, yet he gets more excited about where the game will go in the next 10 years than he does looking back.
Sones is one of the key men involved within the set-up that surrounds the ‘Women in Black’ at the StoneX Stadium and works hand-in-glove with head coach Alex Austerberry. As the Saracens academy pathway and women’s performance manager he has a wide range of responsibilities.
At the elite end he coaches skills and attack with the Allianz Premier15s side, while his remit also sees him getting involved in creating the pathway for players to transition from the development groups into the centre of excellence and academy squads.
Sometimes it is difficult to pin-down exactly what his role is, but as a coach, educator, talent spotter and co-ordinator he loves seeing first-hand the growth of game. After so much success with the senior side during his time at the club, the next few months are going to be focused on bringing home the Premier15s trophy.
"Over the past 10 years I've spent time as a Coach Educator, delivering courses and mentoring other coaches, and since 2018 I've coached at the club and led the Saracens Under 18s Centre of Excellence Programmer for the Women."
“On top of that I've had roles overseeing the Saracens academy developing the player programme within the Hertfordshire area for 13-16 year-olds, overseeing the coaching of players in the next phase in their development."
While seeing so many Saracens playing at the international level, and chasing another national title, is great, what Sones is really enjoying at moment is seeing how the pathway system is embedding itself and providing the required stepping-stones for the next generation of players.
“What we are looking at now is how we create the next Zoe Harrison, Hannah Botterman or Ella Wyrwas. We have 35-40 players in our Centre of Excellence national group and we now have 25 players from 16-18 who are spending two-years within our full-time college programme at Oaklands College,” added Sones.
“The first women’s rugby programme at Oaklands was launched in September 2019, and they receive S&C coaching, nutritional advice as well as specialist coaching. We are also able to help the girls understand the values of our club, the approach we take in their development and what we hope they can achieve.
“Lotte Clapp is a former student at Oaklands and we now have 25 players full time and 12 of those players on a residential basis at the college. We are now building the programme and it is just further evidence of the strategic approach the club has taken in developing the women's game.
“You only had to see the crowd at Kingsholm last weekend when England met Wales in the Six Nations to see how fast the game is expanding. You would have imagined 10 years ago we would be seeing a crowd of 14,689 at a women’s game?
“Rugby union is the fastest growing women’s sport in the world, and it is exciting to be a part of it. The club realises we need to take a lead in the space, and I think we are doing that.”
Oaklands recently sent a team to the iconic Rosslyn Park 7s tournament and went all the way to the final. Not bad for a first attempt! England U18 star Katie Johnson was one of the stand-out players along with Saracens Centre of Excellence Centre player Georgia Cartwright. They were beaten by two points in the final by Exeter College.
“I always recognised where the women's' game could go, and I could see the potential at Saracens. We have a seamless approach across the club in terms of support for both the men’s and women’s teams,” added Sones.
“We are still a few years off every player becoming a full-time professional, but we are within touching distance of that happening.”