Coaching, Overcoming and Inspiration: Rich Whincup

During my three years at University Centre Hartpury I was very lucky to have Rich as a lecturer throughout my degree. Him starting just when I did in 2012. Rich was very much a favourite,  a ‘legend’ per se, a big fan of ‘hashtags’ and had good chat. Not to mention, a Wasps Rugby supporter.

If you had said to Rich during his final years of school that he would have been a coach for a Womens Super Rugby League side, a county team, an under 10’s team, a speaker and lecturer he would have not believed you. Since ever he can remember Rich had been a stammerer. To give you an idea of how far he has come with his stammer you can watch this video from his first McGuire session in 1999.

Through rugby Rich says he was able to express himself and in the end has ended up being a huge part of his life.  Stammering affects only 1 out of 100 people today, from the British Stammering Association 1% of the adult population is affected. Yet 80% of this 1% population is men.

However this all changed when he attended the McGuire Programme in 1999 and in 2015 became quite the celebrity. Lets now find out more from the man himself.


1) When did you start playing rugby and how did playing rugby allow you to express yourself?

I started at the age of 5, at Stow RFC. Rugby, and sport in general, allowed me to get away from trying to speak and having my stammer get in the way. I could be creative, and lead by example where I could.

2) You mention in a previous interview you were captain of your school team, can you give us further insight as to how that role impacted you and how as a team you worked together?

I couldnt really give team talks that well, so I relied on my performances to do the communication. I was the first to make tackles and I was the kicker, so I was able to put my personal mark on the game that way.

3) You began lecturing in 2012, what brought you to this role and how has being at Hartpury helped in overcoming your stammer even further?

My post at a County Sports Partnership was made redundant dues to the change in government. I was in a maternity cover post when I applied for the role at Hartpury and was very pleased to get the job. Hartpury and the staff and management have been instrumental in helping me to become a stronger speaker. The management give me the opportunity to challenge myself and put myself in difficult situations. Thanks to this, the support and the actual job of day to day lecturing, my speech has never been stronger in 18 years of being able to control it.

4) What is the greatest joy coaching and lecturing brings you?

For me its the light bulb moment. When a student of the athlete all of a sudden understands something that they may not have done before. The best sessions and lectures are the ones where learning and development has occured, but also, everyone has enjoyed it.

5) Coaching philosophy?

My coaching, now matter the level of athlete, should always be in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment, done with the right attitude and with integrity, in a trustng environment, and should encourage humility.

6) How did you hear about the McGuire Programme?

My late Mum used to clean the library in Stow and she saw a poster on the notice board for the McGuire Programme. The Programme had only started in the UK, so why the poster was evern there I dont know. As I was sceptical, Mum was the driving force behind my finding out more.

7)What techniques did you learn from McGuire and what techniques do you still use today?

The McGuire technique is created of many different elements, some physical weapons to control the mechanical elements of the stammer, and some psychogical approaches to ensure that we are in the right mindset. Its like a golf swing or a kicking action in rugby, all of the elements must be working well for the technique to work.

8) In 2015 you became quite a celebrity with being on programmes like BBC Victoria Derbyshire and Stammer School, in addition to completing your final ‘cancellation’. Explain the story behind that.

Stammering out of control surrounds itself with a very negative mindset, when you stammer, you remember that word of situation, so you stammer again the time. Cancellation is a key part of the technique that encourages us to finish situations on a positive. As the only Head boy of my school to not give the Head Boy speech at Speech Day, it was a cancellation that I had always wanted to do, but couldn’t create the scenario myself. Following the success of Stammer School, I was honoured to be invited back to give the speech as guest of honour.

*You can see the story from BBC Victoria Derbyshire here.*

9) You are now a member of the coaching team behind Gloucester-Hartpury women’s rugby who will now being playing top flight this upcoming season. How did this come to be and the your thoughts on the impact of this success on the county of Gloucestershire?

I was coaching my son’s team at Tewkesbury Tigers, and someone from the Gloucestershire RFU saw me and asked me to apply to become a county coach. Following a season coaching the County Girls U15s, I approached Susie Appleby, and asked if she needed a kicking coach. She offered me a role and its been a fantastic 1st season. Having a Men’s Premiership, and Women’s team in the premier competition, and Hartpury Men in the Championship, rugby in Gloucestershire has never been so strong. Its a honour to be a very small part in it.

10) What advice do you have for stammerers who wish to pursue sport or coaching as a career and/or as part of their lives?

My advise to anyone with stammer would be that it doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to. I would recommend that they seek help if they want to, either from the McGuire Programme or some kind of other therapy that they feel may work better for them. The world of stammering is very different now to how it was 30 years ago. More people know and understand about it, and there are many therapies out there. Your stammer does not have to define you any more.

Thank you Rich! Follow Rich on Twitter: @richwhincup

YouTube: Rich Whincup


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