‘One more year, one more year’ the chant that hundreds of children, women and even men chanted to their hero Brian O’Driscoll encouraging him to stay on and memorize them for one more year as a professional rugby player for Leinster Rugby and Ireland…
Ever since the sport went professional in 1995 there has been a huge increase in the popularity of the sport. Kids all over Leinster 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 that one day they can become someone else’s sporting idol. This often leads to kids asking the burning question how you become a Leinster Rugby player. Due to the increased professionalism of the sport there is now a set rugby development programme to bread new players into the sport.
However the number one important factor at a young age is to have fun. Children will soon lose interest and begin to 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 perceptions that rugby is unsafe to parents.
There are two clear pathways in which a child can develop their rugby, 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 a daunting task for a child which can be lighted through a common interest like rugby. Coaches encourage students to play rugby whether it be on a competitive level or not.
There are many skills that thought on the rugby pitch that can be transferred over into normal life leadership, teamwork and many more skills can be transferred 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.
Those children who still have aspirations to be the next BOD, 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 and those lucky few that are chosen then enter an 8 week program to further develop their skills, conditioning and teamwork.
These young men will now be thought 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.
For the very lucky but select few that have made it to this level they are almost there, there 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. The 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 hero’s and becoming the next generation’s hero is something that is quite unique and special.