Gareth Walker hears Alan Kilshaw’s delight at returning to coaching with Hunslet
Alan Kilshaw could never have imagined the length of time he would spend out of coaching when he left Rochdale Hornets in 2018.
It was almost exactly three years – or 1,087 days if you want to be exact – between jobs for Kilshaw, who was recently appointed at League 1 Hunslet.
For a man whose coaching CV included promotion to the Championship and two seasons of survival there at Rochdale, success with Sarina Crocodiles Down Under, and working in Warrington’s system at the start of his career, that constituted a surprising and frustrating wait.
But now Kilshaw is back in the professional game, and a thrilling first game draw with Keighley Cougars helped whet his appetite as he looks to make up for lost time.
Kilshaw explained: “Missing that day-to-day part of coaching was really difficult at times.
“With the Covid season writing things off, it prolonged it; I’d only missed a season and then that hit.
“There wasn’t going to be any coaching movement when there were no games underneath Super League, and there were a couple of other opportunities with jobs that were promised to me that fell through.
“That was tough at the time and you do get frustrated and disillusioned with the sport, and at times there was a bit of depression and wondering whether I was every going to get back in.
“But each time when there were little setbacks, I tried to bounce back, keep positive and I kept working on myself as a coach.
“I’d done six years in a row as a head coach – three in Australia and three in Rochdale – and you don’t usually get that time to work on yourself.
“I had a bit of a role with the New York bid, which allowed me to do some diverse things, and look at different sports and how other people do things.
“I did some media as well to help keep me involved and active, but you do miss that day-to-day craic with the lads.
“At my first training session at Hunslet I had a little smile, because you take that for granted.
“I’ve always had a strong work ethic and know what a privileged position you’re in when you work in semi-professional sport, but sometimes you can have a bit of a moan about things that are quite minute really.
“It’s made me appreciate this more.”
Kilshaw also worked as a teacher at a school that specialises in children with learning or behavioural difficulties, which he feels has developed his understanding of dealing with people from varying backgrounds and abilities.
He hopes to continue that in some form in future, but for now much of his focus is on revitalising a Hunslet team in which he sees rich potential.
Kilshaw added: “I coached against Hunslet in League 1; knew a few people in and around the club, and always had a lot of respect for it.
“But since going in, that has gone even higher.
“The number of people they have at the club off the field, volunteers and a structure in place to support the coaching and performance section, means there’s no excuse for me as a head coach not to get the best out of the players.
“On paper, the squad was really appealing to me. I know I’m going in at a tough stage of the season, but rather than having to scratch around for players to get a team together, there’s a lot of quality already there.
“The players we have brought in are helping to boost the numbers.
“I’ve been really impressed by the club so far.
“We’ve got plenty of points to play for still, and I think there’s been a bit of a burden on the players, so I’ve banned the word promotion from the group.
“Everyone wants it and it’s still reality if we hit the ground running and transform what we practice into performance.
“But at the moment we need to focus week-to-week, and what we achieve will be a by-product of that.
“If we can make it to the play-offs then I think this team can beat anyone on their day, which they’ve proved already.
“But we need to get some consistency first.
“I like to think that I’ve been successful everywhere I’ve been and left the club in a better place that when I started.
“Whenever I leave Hunslet, hopefully that will be the same.”
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