15 July 2023
Rugby is a fun, energetic and rewarding sport. Those who play as children often find they’re hooked on the sport for life and pass a love of it down through the generations.
Like any sport or competitive field, there are different levels of professional rugby. Only a small percentage of those who choose to make a career of it succeed, and even fewer have long-term, big-team success. It’s therefore important that your child is doing it for the right reason: that they love the game. They need to be happy taking on the commitment and sacrificing their weekends, also understanding their hard work might not pay off.
Children who start playing young get a head start in embedding the skills necessary to succeed. This includes both the physical skills, such as throwing, kicking and catching, and the mental skills like tactics, teamwork and resilience. Fitness is an increasingly vital part of the game. Instil in your children an early understanding of the need to eat well and be active. Scouts will look out for this.
Joining a club is a must. It’s here that children will truly learn how to play rugby as a team, and experience what life as a pro will be like. Again, it’s good to start young, though it doesn’t matter if your child is older - with the right discipline, fitness and eagerness, age won’t matter. It can also be a good idea to experience a rugby holiday camp. Many top teams run them. Here, children will get a real-life taster of life as a professional player.
Scouts for academies or teams will visit local clubs and, if they like what they see, your children could be accepted. Though technical skills are important, scouts are increasingly on the lookout for that “extra something”. Many scouts report that they want to see resilience, leadership, a passion for the game and, most importantly, a high level of fitness, so don’t overlook this when training and preparing to go professional.
When the time comes, the step up to becoming a pro is to be accepted into an academy (for rugby union) or to be given a scholarship (for rugby league). There are around 14 union academies in England, so spaces are limited. Rugby league teams run their own scholarships, which are equally competitive to get into. The academies and scholarships are split into age groups, with children often needing to perform well in one to progress to the other. At the end, they might be picked up by the main team. Again, the way children can stand out is to show themselves to be fit, committed and passionate about the game.
Many universities have teams that compete in the BUC league. Scouts come along to see these teams so it can be another way into the profession, so if your child hasn’t been picked up while at a local club, perhaps look at this for a way in.
Once a player starts in a professional club, it’s only the beginning. With new players coming in all the time, professionals have to earn and hold their place in the squad. Help your child prepare mentally for this. The pressure is immense. They’ll need to handle defeat, be resilient and ride the waves of success.