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CASE STUDY: Creating Rugby Connections Between Clubs & Schools

CASE STUDY: Creating Rugby Connections Between Clubs & Schools

It’s the time of year when school leavers really start to consider what happens next for them in rugby. Clubs meanwhile are looking to welcome back players who they may not have seen since mini rugby or who have come into rugby through their local school.

Ballyclare RFC played in the Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup Final back in January with a starting 15 that included 12 former students of Ballyclare High. Their coach is Mike Orchin-McKeever.

“A huge measure of the success of our rugby programme here in the school is the retention of players in the game once they leave, and we’ve made significant progress in recent years by embedding a more aligned and joint-up approach with the local club,” he says.

The below case study explains a best practise approach to forging strong links between neighbouring clubs and schools. It also forms part of Ulster Rugby’s Model Club Project.

“We’ve worked really hard to broaden the opportunities where there is direct engagement between both parties,” says the coach. “Amongst other things, we now have club players and coaches supporting various age groups within school, we’ve held Friday Night Lights school games at the club, and we’ve seen a subtle integration of school players into the club environment through various other events and social offerings. This has helped massively with transition, as our players already have familiarity and connection with the club and its people before they graduate with us.

“In addition, we’ve also seen the club extend its suite of rugby offerings as a reflection of the changing needs and interests of players. The U20s programme as one example has proven to be hugely popular, as it’s a little more relaxed and hugely attractive for those that just want to continue playing with their mates on a recreational basis. For others, it’s a perfect stepping-stone into the men’s game if they’re not immediately ready to make the jump.

“Finally, enjoyment, empowerment and ownership are core components in our school and club rugby programmes. We let players review and reflect on previous games so they can contribute towards our session design, and skill development is promoted wherever possible through gamification. Collectively, everything mentioned helps promote a positive player experience, and ultimately increased numbers staying in the game on a long-term basis.”

To access content from the Ulster Rugby Model Club project click here, or for any further information linked to any of the content, please email Matthew Holmes (Club Services Officer) at matthew.holmes@ulsterrugby.com