Ross Sutherland Rugby Club launching Rugby Academy programme combining training with academic qualifications
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When schools around Ross-shire and Sutherland return from their summer break, a small group of pupils will be piloting a new programme at Ross Sutherland Rugby Club.
Dubbed the "Rugby Academy", the initiative will combine specialised rugby training with academic qualifications for school pupils on Friday afternoons – the only programme of its kind to be offered in the Caley North region.
From a sporting perspective, it is designed to help get more promising youngsters into Caledonia regional select squads, while also helping them attain National 5 qualifications through Borders College's sports-based developing players programme where they will learn about strength and conditioning, as well as aspects of coaching and analytics.
To ensure it is as productive as possible for players' on-pitch development, spaces have been limited to 15 at S3 and above for the qualification element, but the club intend to add a precursor to it for younger players who are interested.
"We have 13 signed up at the minute, and out of that 13 boys, maybe seven or eight of them went in for Caley last season and just fell short of the mark," club development officer Mitch McSpadden said of how the programme came about.
"At 15 years old or so, they were quite upset, so they came to us and asked if they could get extra training stuff – it came from them really, and we have evolved that idea of what they wanted.
"Realistically, that is how we measure how well the programme is going – how many of them get into Caley next year.
"It's what we want, and it's what they want, so a lot of our success will be gauged on whether that happens next year.
"It's still being developed, and it's properly starting after the summer. There will be tweaks being made as we finalise it.
"We ran a taster session for it at the end of June, and all the boys seemed very keen – none of them said they didn't want to do it anymore, so we must be doing something right!"
Ross Sutherland have already seen Gregor McPherson get selected for the Caledonia regional age group squad, and McSpadden believes that achievement will only serve as motivation for others to follow suit.
"Gregor's coming down to do the Rugby Academy as well for that extra training on top of Caley," McSpadden added.
"He has worked hard to get where he is, so he's a good role models for the other boys, and all the younger ones.
"Gregor's now in S5, so these new ones coming into the age group he has been in can see they can do it if they put their minds to it. That's what we're hoping for anyway, fingers crossed."