More Than A Game award 2007/08
West Suffolk College (Eastern Counties)
West Suffolk College Sports Academy has worked very hard to develop a vibrant and mixed ability group of rugby players aged between 16 and 19. The college is building a strong group of young players with a strong commitment to supporting their education through the spirit and ethos of rugby.
The students are currently studying a range of subjects that include building skills, sports management and creative arts. Inclusion in the sports academy requires a high level commitment, primarily to their educational needs and then to improving their rugby skills. The college also insists that the students promote and assist the development of rugby in the clubs and schools around the college.
The project takes 16 year-old rugby players and offers them a range of courses to suit all abilities and needs. It also allows players in other full time education establishments in the area, that do not offer rugby, to be included in the sports academy. The standards of play these players are achieving are a testimony to the success of the program. Players from the academy are already playing in the adult first teams of local clubs. Others are being picked to represent British Colleges. Some are being identified as National League players of the future. The College’s team can also hold its own with other ASA colleges that are linked to Premiership clubs.
Recently the students all gave up their half term break to attend and qualify as coaches and referees. 42 of the academy students have now passed the Level 1 coaching qualification and taken Level 1 and 2 of the referee award. The students are already identifying opportunities to use these new skills to benefit the grassroots of rugby in the Suffolk area. Parents have applauded the way that this project has given their children a focus and purpose that they did not have before. They believe that this project is very special and should be copied in other colleges.
The College has set up and funded this project without any outside funding and is determined to improve and expand the project to reach out to more young people. The discipline and commitment that these young people have shown in pursuit of enjoyment through rugby has been tremendous; this project is a great example of how rugby and education combined can provide young people with a future career and an effective bridge into a life long commitment to rugby.