Coventry Rugby Club U18s: if the kids are united…

Hello mate, alright?
Yeah, I’m alright

For once in my life I’ve got somethin’ to say
I wanna say it now for now is today…

…If the kids are united!
They will never be divided!

Sham 69 – If The Kids Are United

The kids were certainly united last night…

In the pouring rain yesterday evening some 30 or so Cov youngsters were put through their paces by a number of players from the first team squad in a training session that was hastily arranged following the postponement of the U18 fixture against Hinckley.

The cancellation of games below the first team is all too often a recurring theme these days and yet again Cov, through no fault of its own, was the victim of another club pulling out of a fixture .

Not only was it a disappointment for the youngsters who would have got to play their first competitive match on the new surface at the BPA, it was also a blow for the Supporters’ Club who are sponsoring the U18s this season.

Even the shirts have Tuska on the sleeve.

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Despite the cancellation, the club was happy for supporters to come along to watch the training session and get an early glimpse of some of the talent that is coming through the club at a junior level.

The chance to watch the session was very much appreciated.

In setting out his vision for Coventry Rugby Club three seasons ago, Rowland Winter made it clear that in years to come he expected to see within the first team squad a number of home grown players; youngsters who had come through the junior ranks at Cov and who were good enough to play professional rugby for their home city. At the time it was greeted with real enthusiasm by Cov supporters and remains something that we all hope to see sooner rather than later.

The U18s is part of that vision RW shared with us back then; a stepping stone to the Development Squad.

Maybe yesterday evening I was watching one or two lads who in a season’s time will be offered a chance to move up to the next level. But even if that doesn’t happen, Phil Boulton and his coaches are giving local youngsters the opportunity to develop their skills beyond school or college  – an opportunity for the community as much as it is for Coventry rugby Club.

And it’s not just about improving their rugby, it’s also about developing them as future leaders, as communicators and improving their confidence and feeling of self-worth.

What I saw yesterday was about so much more than just rugby.

Introduce that at U7, U8s, U9s and so on and there’s an a lot of young Coventry boys and girls who will reap the rewards.

The plan remains for the club to offer junior rugby from the Didis right through all the junior age groups up to the U18s and beyond. It is a bold plan for a club with just one pitch, but with Coventry sensibly taking small steps rather than attempting to do too much too quickly, hopefully the structures are being put in place to allow that sort of  progression.

On the basis of what we saw yesterday, that very much appears to be the case.

If you have the kind of facilities that, say, Ampthill or Cambridge have then the task is made that little bit easier and partly explains why they are so much further ahead of us in this area of the game. They are both genuinely community clubs, something that Cov aspires to be at the moment. But it is heading in the right direction for sure.

For an inner ring club like Cov though, the need to be at the heart of the community is even greater. Keeping youngsters off the streets and putting them in a safe and secure environment instead seems like an eminently sensible idea to me, irrespective of how good they are at rugby in their early teens.

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As I hope the photo opposite shows, it was a foul evening in terms of the weather.

It had rained for a good while before the practise started, at 6.00 pm, and continued to do so throughout the session.

A session which almost certainly wouldn’t have gone ahead had we still been playing on grass.

The rain was pooling elsewhere around the ground, but other than obviously being very wet, the synthetic surface showed no sign of an excess of rain at all. To have trained in such conditions last season would have resulted in significant damage to the playing surface which so early in the season would have been a real concern.

Irrespective of all the financial  benefits that will accrue as a result of the pitch becoming a community resource, the rugby club now has a training facility whenever it is needed.

Yesterday was proof of what a sound decision it was to ditch a grass surface in favour of an all-weather one.

And it was good to see so many of Cov’s first team squad out in such miserable conditions. Boulton, Wallace, Stokes, Buckle, Kessell and, I think Dan Lewis (?) were all present, together with Coventry’s Development Academy head Coach, Ross Stewart.

The youngsters were split into groups across the pitch, with each one led by one of the Cov elite…

…so, for instance, Joe Buckle worked with the hookers, Phil Boulton with the props, Luke Wallace with the back row and so on.

It would be interesting to know how the senior pros were selected, but it would be an ideal opportunity for any of them interested in a career in rugby post-retirement to get a coaching badge or two under their belts.

We sat in the main stand and slightly to our left…

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JB with some of the youngsters last night

…Joe Buckle was with a group of youngsters working on throwing in at the lineout. He had a really good understanding with the group and had them doing everything he asked of them, always very positive but also correcting them when they didn’t quite manage what he’d asked of them first time round.

As seemed to be the case across all the groups too.

What was also clear was that there was a fun element within  each group (which was often competitive) and despite the awful conditions there were lots of smiles and happy faces – testament to the relaxed approach of the coaches as much as anything.

DSC04523Phil Boulton clearly enjoys his role with the U18s and he was often to be seen with a broad grin on his face, encouraging the youngsters whilst also keeping a close eye on what they were doing.

The whole session was really well organised from start to finish and I left with the impression that the club is very keen to establish the U18s and build on its success. There were several parents watching on and I’m sure they will have left the ground happy with what they’d seen and confident that their lads were at the right club.

There was even someone from the club there taking a recording of the training session, presumably for the coaches to dissect at a later date. Hopefully, such material from training sessions and on match days can be put on to the website for everyone to see.

There is an interest amongst many Cov supporters in what is happening at the club below the Championship and I’m not convinced it is something that Cov have really either understood or got to grips with.

For instance, given the importance the club clearly attaches to the U18s, and indeed the Development Squad, why aren’t their separate pages on the website dedicated to them?

As it now stands, even the Development Squad photos are incomplete, something which doesn’t exactly send out the best of signals in terms of the importance the club attaches to this group of players. They train regularly at club so it shouldn’t be too difficult to organise a get together, or even just to pick them off one at a time.

It’s hardly a major criticism, and Cov are getting it so right elsewhere, but it is a perennial problem and it’s not a case of someone coming in and taking time to find their feet.

Povey, Titchener and Sharpe were all with us for at  least part of last season and still their photos are missing..

It looks like most of the Development Squad are available for sponsorship, but as a potential sponsor looking at the website, I’m hardly going to be persuaded in investing in the Development Squad when there are so many missing photos…

It just doesn’t come across as being ‘professional’ – and as a player I’d kind of want my photo up there, too.

We’re in mid-October now…

Just a squad photo with the names attached would be useful. Louis Beer was one of the stand out players in the game against Ampthill a few weeks ago but no one was able to put a name to the face.

So a suggestion –  separate page for each of the two squads, with results, reports, clips from training and so on. Enough to ensure the supporters know who the players are and a brief up-date of how the squad is getting on, without making the work load excessive.

And lastly, there are well over  250 members of the Supporters’ Club who have contributed to sponsoring the U18s – it would be good for them able to be able to see how their team is getting on this season.

Moan over…

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I really appreciated the opportunity of seeing the U18s train last night – many thanks to the Club for allowing us in.

And I left mightily impressed.

Cov has set its stall on bringing together a group of youngsters amongst whom, hopefully, are some of Coventry’s stars of the future. Whilst the U18s is still very much in its infancy, maybe there are one or two within the squad already who are destined to play for Cov in the Championship…

…or above.

Of course the more successful Phil Boulton and Ross Stewart are in bringing these youngsters on, the more difficulty they will have keeping them at Cov.

Then again, if the kids are united…

…they will never be divided.

Well done to all involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim

2 thoughts on “Coventry Rugby Club U18s: if the kids are united…

  1. Interesting to hear RW’s comments about Cambridge. Before his arrival at Cov the club was a one trick pony…no development squad and no juniors. RW has worked hard to make the club far more community orientated and as you rightly say, the SC has been instrumental in integrating the two.

    Plenty to do but the signs remain good!

  2. Excellent Tim and I hope the club take on board about Development and U18’s squads being properly listed on the website including photos. As you say important members of the club structure.

    You mentioned Cambridge and Ampthill and their success at developing players and being community based teams. This triggered a memory of what RW said about his time at Cambridge. He said a big problem when he joined was a big split between 1st XV and then all the club rugby, he said it was like two clubs. His first job was to get more intergration between thd two.

    That seems to be happening at Cov with the CRSC sponsorship and so many first team squad helping Phil with coaching. However some of the points you have made would help cement it further.

    I must admit I was set to attend the cancelled fixture, but was unaware of the training session or the fact it was open to fans? Otherwise I would have popped down.

Any thoughts:

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