LISTEN: Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester reveals online abuse on The Coaching Manual

By his own admission, Chris Chester finds it hard enough to get time away from the stresses of coaching a Super League team.

The Wakefield Trinity head coach often finds himself lying awake at night trying to come up with plays or double-checking everything which was intended to be covered in training and team meetings during the week has been.

Living in the town where he grew up and has been overseeing Trinity’s fortunes since 2016 affords him little escape either, although the golf course is generally one place Chester finds he can relax away from rugby league.

But, as he recalled from his time in charge of Hull Kingston Rovers on the latest episode of The Coaching Manual, there are times when even golf does not mean he is insulated from everything going on in his sporting life – particularly when it comes to views being aired on social media.

“It’s a funny story now, but it wasn’t at the time when we were going through a tough spell at the start of 2016,” Chester told Sky Sports. “I was at the ninth hole and my ball has gone off to the left, and a greenkeeper has come up to me and says: ‘They’re calling for your head on Facebook’.

“It was just one of those moments where you wonder why did you feel the need to come over to me when I’m enjoying a bit of golf and trying to get some time away from the pressure and stresses of coaching?

“It’s very difficult and I’ve spoken to my family about staying off social media, and you can’t stop what people are putting on there.

“Some of these people are adults with kids and if my kids ever wrote some of the stuff I’ve seen, I’d take their phones off them and ban them from using any social media platforms.”

Chester has been on the receiving end of personal abuse online too, leading to him deleting his Facebook account which he only had in the first place to keep in touch with family members who are based overseas.

It is not just the coach who has had to deal with that issue though, with members of the Wakefield squad also taking similar action with their social media accounts, including those who were previously very active on a variety of platforms.

Education programmes and work with Trinity welfare manager Stuart Dickens has helped prepare the players to deal with online abuse, but Chester is saddened that they have felt the need to take such action.

“The only thing we can do is educate [the players] and the same people tapping you on the shoulder when you’ve had a win are the same people booting you when you’ve had a loss,” Chester said.

“We’ve had a lot of players who’ve come off all social media due to the abuse, and we’re talking about players who were on it every week and using it to promote businesses or whatever it was.

“We’ve tried to educate these guys as much as we possibly can and a big message is don’t get carried away with the applause because when things don’t go particularly well, there is always someone willing to kick you on the way down.”

A winless start following the resumption of the 2020 Super League campaign post-lockdown led to Chester reading unwelcome comments from an anonymous club source in the media too, with the Wakefield boss being accused of poor planning when it came to training and having an unprofessional attitude.

Those comments hurt Chester, but the support of Trinity chairman Michael Carter, his family and the response from the squad in going out to beat Huddersfield Giants 18-14 in their first game after that article was published helped him overcome questioning his future with the club.

“It was one of real disappointment and one whether I didn’t know if there was a way back,” Chester said. “That’s the conversation I had with Michael and he used the phrase: ‘It’ll be tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper’.

“I just felt really let down and what was said was really personal. You put your heart and soul into something, I’m a proud Wakefield lad and a proud Wakefield coach, and for a report like that to come out it had a massive effect.

“I was fortunate I had some really good support around me through the family and with the club as well.”

Listen to the full interview with Chris Chester on The Coaching Manual podcast. Subscribe to that and weekly episodes of the Golden Point Podcast on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Spreaker


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