Life busy but Yule embraces it

Life busy but Yule embraces it

It’s the players who receive the accolades after a hard-fought win, and rightly so, but the army of support behind the scenes is just as vital to any successful side.

Stuart Yule is Scottish Rugby’s Head of Physical Performance and as such, leads a team who meticulously endeavour to ensure that as far as preparation goes, everything is in place for teams to deliver the optimum display on the pitch.

As Stuart so succinctly puts it: “There’s a science and an art. The principles are science-based but the application of that is very much an art of how that’s embedded within a programme and a player’s life.”

Alongside Carlos Ramirez (National Team Sports Scientist) and Chris Leck (Strength and Conditioning coach), Yule is part of a tireless operation, one which almost acts as a coach behind the coaches; as analysts behind the analysts.

“It’s an early start,” says Stuart of a typical day in the life of a coach. “We’ve got Carlos, Leckie – a lot of the operational stuff those guys crack on with. So Leckie will be setting up pitches, Carlos is getting GPS ready, we’re getting protein shakes made up, there are a lot of operational aspects.”

Pictured: Stuart in the preamble to Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2023 match against South Africa.

“I’ll stay around and tie in with David Edge (Team Manager) about how the day is looking and if we’re on track. I’ll go over programmes and make sure players have the right gym programme in place, check any injuries that have been reported by the physios. There’s a real appreciation and empathy towards players.

“So the planning is done in advance, and then it’s like small check points the rest of the day. If there are gym sessions in the morning, I’ll take the front five players and Leckie the back row, then even at lunch there are little micro meetings.

“After training there may be some extra gym work, stuff we didn’t want to do before training, then I’ll maybe train with Leckie and Steve [Tandy, Assistant Coach] for 40 minutes or so.

“Then it’s dinner, we’ll have coaches’ meetings with a review of the day, planning for the next day and then we’ll feedback on anything that needs reported. It’s a long day but if you’re planned and prepared, it’s not hectic. If there’s a mistake, let’s learn from it.”

Stuart’s sporting background is steeped in high performance. He competed in weightlifting at Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and again in Manchester four years later, before retiring through injury. “That opportunity was part of a dream growing up,” he explains.

“My parents represented Scotland at Games in the 70s, my twin brother was at the Olympics in 2000, so it was almost a family tradition.

“I had an elbow injury [in 2002] which is quite common in weightlifting with the positions you get in to. I had surgery on that and then it was time to get on with the next part of my career as I was at Queen Margaret University at the time doing physiotherapy.”

Initial forays into the ‘normal’ world included stints as a physiotherapist at Falkirk Football Club and Lead Strength and Conditioning (S&C) roles at the Scottish and English Institutes of Sport until his rugby journey started in earnest with being appointed in the same role at Glasgow Warriors in 2009.

On the move from athlete to coach, Yule said: “I think any sportsperson needs a goal and a purpose, and I knew weightlifting was not my sole purpose. Studying to be a physio when S&C was just becoming a viable option with the Scottish Institute of Sport being established, it was important to having something to challenge myself with.

“I was very fortunate at that time in my career, I had good knowledge and experience to transition into it.”

After nearly eight years at Scotstoun, working with Gregor Townsend for much of it, Stuart took up his current position in an act of symmetry with the Scotland Head Coach’s appointment in 2017.

During what is his seventh Six Nations, Stuart says it’s his “privilege to workwith the team, with that anticipation and excitement about where we can go.”

As if things aren’t busy enough, Yule is also trying to rekindle his competitive spirit this year, as he explained: “Through stupidity or naivety, I’ve entered the Scotland under-90kg Strongman competition, 13 years having first competed in it. I’ve put a bit of pressure on myself, especially getting the weight down to 90!

“I won it in 2011, so it’s more of that purpose away from my job; it’s something about me and it gives me discipline. It’s about bettering yourself and improving with that purpose.”

And it’s that last line which can carry over to his day job as Stuart strives to help players become the best physical versions of themselves.

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