Since June 2017, award-winning Angus charity the Strathmore Community Rugby Trust has been creating projects to help people of all ages do that, guided by its motto “Developing people through rugby”.
Its aim is to increase public participation in sport, particularly rugby union and rugby league, in the Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin areas to benefit health and well-being and develop young people into healthy, positive members of the community.
Its free Rugby Academy hosts S1-S6 pupils from the Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin areas for sessions 2-4pm on Friday afternoons during school terms.
Despite its name, the aim of the project is to develop them as people as well as build their rugby skills, knowledge and conditioning to allow them to play at senior level if they wish. So far, seven Rugby Academy alumni have gone on to play for Strathmore Rugby Club, including the Men’s 1st and Ladies Team.
Towards the broader goal, they receive coaching in essential life skills as well as how to play, referee and coach rugby union and league.
So far this season the 73 youngsters who’ve taken part have been able to learn about good diet from nutritionist Dale Robertson from Dundee and Angus College before putting the theory into practice by making a healthy, post-match/training meal under the tuition of chef/trustee Mike Bruce and chef Thomas Helyer. They then had a children’s yoga session with Linda Mackie from Children’s Yoga with Linda.
Future sessions will cover injury avoidance and recovery, with Angus Physiotherapy, plus first aid.
A team-building visit to an assault course is also planned. Past seasons have also included a session on communication.
On the rugby side of the curriculum, this year’s cohort have taken part in Scottish Rugby courses in coaching both union and league codes at Level 1 and 2, plus a refereeing course, with 16 passing the Level 1 Coaching course and two gaining their referee badge to date.
Rugby Academy members have in past seasons gained their first aid qualification.
As Rugby Academy members have progressed and graduated, several have gone on to help run it and other trust projects as part of their personal development and as a way of giving something back. Currently, nine of the coaches on its award-winning autism-friendly rugby project are current or former Rugby Academy members.
One of them is Arron Jackson. He recently graduated from the Rugby Academy having left school in 2020. He has since gone on to study sports coaching and fitness at Dundee and Angus College and credits his Rugby Academy experience with being pivotal in helping him to find his vocation and turn around behaviour linked to being unsure of his direction.
Arron explained: “I was given the chance to help with some of the Trust’s projects, but I initially said no because I was getting into a bit of trouble at school and didn’t feel I would be the best role model for the kids.
“Through the Academy I’ve been given the opportunity to do my Level 1 and 2 Rugby Union and Level 1 Rugby League coaching certificates, my first aid certificate and also my referee qualification amongst other things.
"It was after completing my UKCC Level 1 that I realised I enjoyed coaching and it was something I was good at. At the time I was just floating around school, not really behaving and not knowing what to do next, so it was a revelation to find something I enjoyed.
"I didn’t have many opportunities, so it was definitely the volunteering and coaching which helped me stand out and get into the course.”
Maggie Lawrie, community trust manager, said: “After such a stop-start couple of years, the young people have loved being able to get stuck into things again and learn new skills.
"They’ve grown in confidence and we’re always happy to welcome new members.”
Scott Riddell, Game Development Manager (Caledonia Midlands) at Scottish Rugby, said that the trust and Strathmore RFC have been “superb” in hosting the Coaching Essentials and Aspiring Coaches courses.
He added: “It’s great to see an appetite from volunteers to develop their own coaching with a view to benefit the players they work with.”
Gordon Cairns, director of Stracathro Estates, which sponsors the project said: “We’re delighted to sponsor The Rugby Academy - an excellent initiative which instils the rugby ethos in participants, helps them develop mentally and physically and turns them into leaders who contribute positively to society.
"It’s great to see their considerable achievements to date and Stracathro Estates wishes the Trust continued success.”
For more about Rugby Academy and the trust, go to bit.ly/SCRT-Academy