Similar to how provincial teams, such as Leinster Rugby, develop a pathway for their players, the aim in Ashbourne RFC is to adapt the same model to their club. The aim is to create a pathway from the mini to the youth to the adult player.

The club have set out a process in which this will be achieved through coach education and player development; everyone will work together knowing that at every stage of the player’s development they are playing a key role.

Ashbourne RFC want the boy or girl aged five that starts mini rugby on a Sunday morning in the club to not only be still playing all through youth level but to also still love the game. Hopefully then when that player enters adult rugby, they have all the necessary skills and conditioning to enjoy and compete at the level they choose within the club.

The wheels were put in motion by speaking to Rod Cosgrave, Director of Rugby, and Scotty Broughton, First Team Coach, who have an excellent vision for the club and together with Kevin McCleery, the Leinster Rugby CCRO within the club, have presented to other senior management and club coaches at various stages along the process which saw the club beginning to draft up what type of player they hope to get by the time that player reaches adult rugby.

Both on- and off-field player attributes are very important, from on-field skill level to off-field behaviours. So working back from this ideal senior player, you can begin to shape coaching at all age groups.

The U-15s and U-16s recently had the pleasure of being coached by three of the senior team’s Leinster Junior players Gavin Kennedy, Sean McKeon and Conor Hurley, and the feedback from the players was brilliant. That’s the club connection you’re looking for.

Kevin says, “The key is alignment. You want a consistency of message from the coaches to their players. Whilst the content will change depending on the age group, the core principles will remain the same. Players need to be having fun and they need to be learning something. You want a scenario where a mini player is watching their older sibling at youth level training and thinking ‘we do that’, or a youth player watching a senior game thinks ‘that’s how we play’.”

When mini, youth and adult coaches in a club share a vision to develop home grown players it can be a very powerful thing. It takes a lot of work to develop such a system and it’s something that requires complete buy in from all involved to be successful. But if done right, it’s a fantastic situation to have a ‘one club, one pathway’ system in place.

Following on from the presentations to the coaches, the next step was to implement it on the pitch through working with mini and youth coaches through their training sessions and club workshops. Together with Kevin the coaches have certainly started to buy in and they have all benefitted from the experience Kevin provides to them bringing the training sessions to life.

But none of this would be possible without kids and teenagers playing so a special thanks must go to Edel Gallagher and Trevor Andrews, the club’s mini and youth coordinators, who’ve put in an enormous amount of work so far this season to ensure the safe return of rugby for Ashbourne’s underage players.