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More Than A Game award 2008/09

Winner: East Berkshire College (Berkshire RFU)

East Berkshire College Rugby Club’s aim was to establish a rugby club (never existed at the college before) that would provide a high quality environment with a friendly and relaxing manner fit for both the College and its learners that would enhance each and every individual who is a part of the club.

To make the college team viable it was vital to link both the Langley and Windsor Campuses together to help form not only a male XV, but also a female XV or VII.

Links were formed with Windsor Rugby Club with the aim of having access to their changing and playing facilities on a Wednesday afternoon for both training and playing purposes. This was agreed in principle by Windsor Rugby Club with no additional costs to either party and would be supported by the slow influx of learners from East Berkshire College into the playing ranks of the Windsor Club from Under 17s to senior level over a period of years. Windsor RFC were also able to offer the club and players a higher level of coaching when needed.

The college worked on a plan to become accredited by May 2009, moving towards Beacon status within 3-5 years. Part of this plan included the training and development of at least 3 RFU Level 1 coaches (October 2008).

During discussions it was suggested that the College could offer Windsor Rugby Club some ‘behind the scenes’ Sports Science support in the way of fitness testing, performance analysis, sprint training equipment, sport and position specific training programmes and nutritional guidance, all in conjunction with the management and coaching side at the club.

The partnership has been made with the longer term objectives of helping to increase and sustain the player development and profile at Windsor Rugby Club by encouraging learners to participate in training sessions run by the club and to ‘filter’ players into their playing ranks where appropriate, not only to enhance the quality of the partnership, but also the strength of both clubs with the utilisation of learners and possible future students, who may be currently playing in the junior teams at Windsor Rugby Club.

Runner Up: Henley College (Warwickshire RFU)

Henley College Coventry is a medium sized college located in the socially deprived north–east of the city. Whilst it has a good reputation for the provision of sports courses it had never, in its 42 year history, promoted rugby union until September 2006.

The Henley Rugby Development Centre was launched by Sport Science lecturer, Pete Glackin and has developed into a successful rugby union squad of currently 25 players, consisting of new players to the game and players currently playing for local clubs. These 16-19 year old students study a wide range of courses including sport, public services, engineering and hairdressing and combine their studies with their weekly rugby union programme of technical skills, coaching, leadership, fitness and game preparation.

Strong links with local rugby clubs and player pathways have been developed, providing a strong rugby ethos within the College and excellent links to the local rugby community. Within the past two seasons, the development centre has made great strides with many players gaining representative honours with British Colleges Midlands Squads and Warwickshire County rugby at U19 & U20 age groups. The team reached the West Midlands Plate final in 2007/08 and have won the regional 10s qualifying stage for the past two seasons gaining a place at Lilleshall. Players have been recommended and invited to train and play at National League clubs which is clear evidence of recent progress.

The Development Centre is also committed to providing coaching and leadership opportunities to all players; demonstrated recently when the College supplied 10 volunteers to coach and referee primary school children during the one millionth tag rugby day held at Allesley Primary School in December 2008. The College was recently awarded the RFU Community Rugby Accredited certificate which has allowed further development links with the community with a total of 19 players gaining the Rugby Ready qualification and Entry Level Referee Award. These qualifications have helped assist the college organise and run a local 7s tournament aimed at U16s for all local schools within the community, again providing the opportunity to play and promote rugby union within the area.

A number of students also help promote grass roots rugby by completing mentored work experience with Warwickshire Community Rugby Coaches within local primary schools. This experience has allowed the participants to complete an NVQ Level 2 in Activity Leadership and these voluntary placements greatly assist the development of the primary school programme.

Runner Up: Oxford Rugby Partnership (Oxfordshire RFU)

The Oxford Partnership, an amalgamation of Oxford RFC and Oxford Harlequins RFC is now in its third successful season. It was evident at the outset that there was a need to develop the 16-24 section given this is such a prestigious university city and so many young players were leaving the game.

The partnership immediately employed an Academy Director to be responsible for this section. They formed a development plan, presented it to local businesses and secured a £50K sponsorship over three years. Each age group 16-18 at both clubs run Sunday league sides along with an amalgamated Colts team. The best 16-19 year olds are invited to join the academy (limited to 32) for extra training. The older ones play Oxford Brookes Freshers as part of the university link programme - 53 players took part with approximately 18 Brookes players representing the partnership on any given Saturday.

The enthusiasm it has generated in the players is infectious. One evening in July last year, 53 players under the age of 23 attended pre-season training. Equally the level of interest from local schools and colleges is unprecedented. The larger independents do not see it as a threat, but use the academy to supplement their training. There are plans and finance in place to develop an education centre to run BTEC rugby specific sports courses for post 16 students linking with the F.E. College.

Last year the partnership organised a successful eight-team U20 10-a-side tournament. Interest was such that places were quickly filled and the entry will be raised to 32 teams on 4 pitches for this September. Although early days, it is apparent that by deliberately focussing on the 16-24 age range, the partnership has kept youngsters in the game, attracted students to the club and drawn some disillusioned players back into the game  

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