Continuing our theme of Sports for Kids articles, Mark Conroy from Leinster Rugby tells us about Rugby for Kids, and outlines the “pathway to Leinster”.
Increasing popularity of Rugby
Ever since the sport went professional in 1995 there has been a huge increase in the popularity of the sport. Kids all over Ireland are now picking up a rugby ball in their back garden and recreating some of their favourite rugby memories with themselves scoring the all-important winning try!
Leinster’s recent success has fuelled the ambition of hundreds of kids all over the province, and indeed country,and they hope that one day they can become someone else’s sporting idol!
Due to the increased professionalism of the sport there is now a set rugby development programme to breed new players into the sport.
Rugby for young kids
Most rugby clubs take children from 6yrs. The number one important factor at a young age is to have fun. Children will soon lose interest and not enjoy a sport if it is taken too seriously at a young age.
Many professional players will comment that some of their finest memories of rugby are playing minis at their local rugby club with their friends.
Blitz’s, minis, tag and 7’s are all different forms in which children can learn and apply new skills playing rugby. These activities are great for the children and also extinguish any parent’s perceptions that rugby is unsafe.
Valuable skills learned playing rugby
Coaches encourage students to play rugby whether it be on a competitive level or not. There are many skills that are taught on the rugby pitch, such as leadership and teamwork, that transfer easily into daily life.
Respect is possibly the biggest quality learned from the rugby ethos. Respect for your coaches, peers, opposition and referee is immediately installed in the mind-set of anyone who wishes to play rugby.
There are two clear pathways in which a child can develop their rugby – either through there club or in school. As a child gets older they will enters the ranks of school’s rugby. Entering a new school can be daunting task for most kids, but a common interest like rugby can help ease the transition.
How do you become a Leinster rugby player?
Those children who still have aspirations to be the next Brian O’Driscoll, Sean ‘the Tullow tank’ O’Brien or even the next Ian ‘mad dog’ Madigan will now be on the radar of the Leinster scouts.
The first contact Leinster will have, is through U-15 and U-16 area development. This is where players that are nominated by their clubs and schools, are screened by Leinster. Those lucky few that are chosen, then enter an 8 week program to further develop their skills, conditioning and teamwork.
These young men will be taught the basics in gym work and will be given a program as well as the importance of diet and nutrition. No teenager likes being told he cannot eat as many pizzas or sweets as he likes, but having a balanced and healthy diet is necessary to become strong enough to handle the physicality of top level rugby.
This process will continue at a regional level for U-17s and then at a provincial level at U-18s.
A Leinster player
For the very lucky, but select few, that have made it to this level, they are almost there. Their dream of becoming a Leinster star is nearly a reality – it is just about keeping up the hard work and being patient and the moment will come. And that moment will then last with you forever.
This process from playing minis at your local club or school to becoming a professional rugby player can be a long a difficult one at times. However the friends and memories that are made can last forever. And the reward of following in the footsteps of your heroes and becoming the next generation’s hero is something that is quite unique and special.
For those who want to get involved in rugby, there are clubs in your local area.
Article provided by Mark Conroy, Leinster Rugby. For more information on Leinster rugby see Leinster rugby website.
Do you or your child play rugby? Tell us about it in the comment box below.