Always aim high



Louis joined Richmond Rugby Club at the age of 5 back in 1998 and almost immediately dad, Declan was drafted in as ‘manager’. As Louis’ game developed and Declan qualified as a RFU Mini’s Coach, Sunday mornings ran into all day tournaments across London and the south east, culminating in a real busman’s holiday for the event organiser who ended up as Tournament Director for the Richmond RFC Mini Festival. By this time though Louis was a handy little scrum-half and utility back and the transition to high school beckoned.

 Jason Leonard

Declan, Louis, Jason Leonard OBE, Richmond RFC Mini Festival 2004


Louis signed up for the rugby team at his new school and turned out on the first Monday evening in September 2006 for training alongside around 50 other boys ready to show the new coach what they were made of. It soon became clear there was a cabal of club players that really knew their stuff, who quickly became the core of the Under 12s XV and Louis, as scrum-half was duly appointed captain.


The captaincy at Richmond was highly valued among the players and cries of  ‘can I be captain’ expertly handled by head coach, Dave Samuel, whose rotation system allowed most players to get a few games as leader under their belt. But Louis was now in the big time and dad saw his boy as a FEC (Future England Captain), but sidelined now how could Declan help the cause?


A search of Amazon proved no help at all. Tomes by Will Carling, Sir Clive Woodward, Mike Brearley and the like were all aimed at adults, taking the sport leaders’ talents into a boardroom scenario, there was nothing for kids. So having a chat one Saturday morning on the way to the school playing fields in the shadow of the hallowed turf of Twickenham, father and son came up with a plan to seek professional help! They decided to aim high, go direct to the top and ask real captains for their top tips, words of wisdom and advice on how they do it.


Together they sat down and drew up a list of captains from across all sports and crafted a letter which they posted out to clubs and offices up and down the country, and then waited..... Then one day the first stamped addressed envelope dropped onto the mat, Rhona Martin the Team GB curling skip that claimed the gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games in 2002 had replied. This was followed by many others that today include;


Malcolm Alker – Karen Atkinson - Rob Andrew - Leighton Baines – Rory Best - Ian Botham - Geoff Boycott - Lee Briers - Matthew Burke - Mark Butcher - Will Carling – Bob Casey - Mike Catt - Mark Chilton – Seb Coe - Jonathan Davies - Robin Ejsmond-Frey – Andy Griffin – Gavin Hastings - Matt Holland - Kelly Holmes - Stuart Hooper - John Inverdale - Justin Langer - Mark Lawrenson - Tom Lehman - Gary Lineker - Rhona Martin - Brian Moore - Graeme Murty - Jamie Peacock - Paul Sculthorpe - Kevin Sinfield - Jeremy Snape - Ray Stubbs - Richard Swain - Tanni-Grey Thompson - Andy Todd - Sam Torrance - Michael Vaughan - Hugh Vyvyan - Henry Winter - Jo Yapp – Kevin Davies - Ben Hawes

Gary Lineker


“I had not focused on the fact that there were hardly any books on 'being a good captain'

so it is terrific that you are prepared to fill that niche. I am very happy to contribute.”

Gary Lineker OBE


Gary Lineker’s reply really put Declan in a dilemma. As a marketer by profession, was there enough in this to try to get it published, to fill that gap in the market? He had to give it a go, and so began the most difficult and tortuous task. He identified literary agents and likely publishers and fired of proposals for an ‘Art of Captaincy’ book for kids.


Declan felt like J K Rowling as the rejections rolled in, sometimes curt but mostly encouraging occasionally with a good piece of advice. Some suggested a comic narrative to link the advice, others a dos and don’ts summary or a quiz, but alas in the end there were no bites and the trail went cold.


As Louis moved up the age groups, now relieved of his captaincy role, Declan wondered if an inspirational book might just have made the difference. In 2008 he dusted down the publishing proposal and gave it one last shot. He put out feelers again with sports journalist friends of friends and was hugely encouraged by a direct hit with Gooner and Beckham biographer Tom Watt who gave some great advice and direction. In the end it was A&C Black, part of the Bloomsbury group, publishers of the Harry Potter books, who had been the most interested two years previously that breathed new life into the project. The new commissioning editor Charlotte Croft began to look at the numbers and eventually came back with a tentative yes. There was life in the project yet!


A contract appeared in July 2010 and the schedule saw me submitting the final manuscript in autumn 2011 prior to publication of ‘So You Want To Be Captain?’ on 15th March 2012. Contributors had been promised that a proportion of any profits would be donated to Sports Relief, which took place at the same time. An initial donation has been made and more will follow if and when any royalties ever appear!


So in a year of sporting excellence with the London Olympics and Paralympics, our first ever Tout de France winner and a men’s Grand Slam champion too, there’s hope that a lot of kids, parents, grandparents, godparents, teachers, coaches, friends and family will be inspired by this great new book.


Football Captain



Having switched codes from rugby to football, Louis' (above left) transferrable captaincy skills are now practised in the 11 a side game. He made Deputy Head Boy at his school too!



Following in her brother's footsteps, Louis' younger sister (with book) captains her Richmond Hockey Club team to their first victory.


Richmond Hockey Club