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The Big Interview with Sean Bass
PEOPLE who say sport is just a game, that it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of life, should probably steer clear of Sean Bass.
His weekend lives and dies by what his York RUFC team do on a Saturday afternoon. The head coach cares, enormously, and it can drive him to distraction.
“If we lose, I have a bad weekend and my family suffer,” he explains. “When we win, it’s a happy household in the Bass family.
“As I told the team last Saturday, I get up on a morning and I am really looking forward to the game. Whether that be playing the bottom of the league or a team that, quietly behind closed doors, we think we might struggle against.
“I just look forward to watching the team play, and trying to play the rugby that Pete Clegg and I, along with coaches Mike Cawthorn and Matt Green, are trying to get the team to play.”
Clifton Park’s sentinel is a one-club man.
The love affair began when he was 12 when, having failed to find a rugby league outfit that would accommodate someone so young, he milled around at Shipton Road, training every Tuesday and Thursday, and willing the clock to tick by to the day he could get on the pitch for the club’s youngest team – the under-16s.
By the time that came around, the desire to make an impact was overwhelming. At 17, he made his debut for the first XV.
“My first ever game was on the wing,” adds Bass, who soon became a hard-hitting centre. “It was York’s first ever league game against Selby.
“I was a fresh-faced kid surrounded by blokes with hairy legs. It frightened me to death, really. But York is a good club and it always has been.
“We just played. We didn’t think we could get beat – wherever we went. We played at places like Coventry and gave them a run for their money in the Pilkington Cup, as it was then.
“Pete Nash was a good coach and he was the Yorkshire coach as well so we had a good structure.
“We got promoted several times and we had a pack to die for. They were York men and we were led. Micky Negri (now president) was our team manager and we were a good outfit.
“I was lucky to be in that side. I came along at the right time. We trained Tuesday and Thursday and we played together. They were good times. It was a good standard to be in.”
Having worked through the ranks to play, Bass trod a similar path on his way to the role of head coach.
From the juniors, to assistant, and now to the main man. He considers himself to be in a very lucky position.
“I don’t think the guys know how proud I am to be head coach of York,” he says. “It’s a very proud honour.
“Having coached up from under-12s right up to U19s, I was then assistant coach to Ken Higgins and am now head coach myself.
“I’ve been joined by Pete Clegg (formerly of Otley), who is teaching me things. He’s a very experienced person and, with Micky helping as well on the managerial side, it is a really proud thing for me.
“I really do get excited leading up to games. Maybe Alex Ferguson might tell me that’s wrong. Maybe sometimes I have got to drop players and they might think ‘are we not friends any more?’ “But they are my lads and I will support them through everything. I support this team to the bitter end and I have complete faith in them.
“I know when they turn up and play rugby that there isn’t a team in Yorkshire One that can beat them. It’s about getting them to turn up every week.
“That’s our job.”
York are currently mid-table in Yorkshire One after three wins and two defeats from their opening batch of games.
It’s where York feel they also belong. But Bass has higher aims.
“We are under no illusions,” he explains. “We want to build this team. Whether it happens this season, or next season, or in seasons to come, we want this team to win this league.
“But what we want to set in place is not just a first XV. We want a second team, a third team. We want to have 30 to 45 players who can all play first-team rugby – who we can call upon – and the youth section so we can carry on and be self-sufficient.
“I would absolutely love to field a first XV of ex-youth section players. That must be every coach’s dream.
“You wouldn’t get the loyalty anywhere else – from a player who has played up through the youth section into the seniors.
“He knows what it means to play first-team rugby. We’ve got players like Jack Buxton and I know it means a massive amount to him to put on a first-team jersey. His heart and soul is in the club. He will go the extra yard for you.
“There are more of them as well. We want that to be every player in this club. I am still learning all the time.
“The close relationship I have with players is not just with the first team, it’s with every player in this club.
“We are friends, yes, but I am the coach and when I say ‘jersey up’ they do. When I say the laughing and the joking stops, it stops and we start playing rugby.”