A look at how England’s youth teams are the secret behind international success
Created: Wednesday, 09 November 2016 17:43
It’s a strange feeling to look at a young boy or girl and imagine what they might be when they grow up. They might have a definite goal, or maybe they’re just happy to go with the flow and haven’t figured anything out yet. Predicting what they’ll be in ten years’ time is as tricky as predicting the rugby scores for the Autumn Internationals. For the young boys who eat, breathe and sleep rugby, however, youth teams are the perfect stepping stones to get them exactly where they want to be. A lot of what makes the English Rugby team so successful comes from youth and junior rugby teams. Here are some of the valuable things youth and junior rugby has taught England’s national team: Preparing for hardship
The difference between amateur and professional rugby is something that takes years to cover. It’s incredibly difficult for anyone to move up from playing rugby in school to being on a professional team without having a youth team to bridge the gap. Joining a youth team is an effective tool for teaching young players about dedication. Everything that happens from that point on is about working towards a future and improving yourself. You put your motivation and physical and psychological strength – attributes that are invaluable to a professional player – to the test during this stage. Without learning these things, the England team might not have nearly the amount of drive and dedication as they do today.
Facing new opponents
When you play rugby in school you’re most commonly faced with your classmates or other schools and you often play against them long enough to get a good amount of knowledge about them and their tactics. On a youth team, however, there are a lot more than just two or three teams to compete with. When you’re faced with so many different teams you have to learn to construct tactics quickly, adapt when things go wrong and know how to react when faced off with an unpredictable opponent. It’s the difference between routine and quick, clever thinking that is learned in youth teams and instinct plays a key part in international games.
It’s not about who you are: it’s about what you can do
When you’re out on the pitch no one’s going to care about where you come from or what you look like. The only thing you and everyone else will care about is winning. That kind of mind set is what makes youth teams so special and why so much of England’s success links back to them. So many professional players who didn’t have much hope for the future found their success through junior rugby. Youth and junior rugby is an opportunity for young players to showcase what they’re capable and play amongst equals.
No one can force a young player to be good at rugby but, sometimes, being the best isn’t really what junior teams intend to do. Sometimes, playing the game is an important lesson. It’s a way to develop your concentration, your ability to commit to what you set out to do and teaches you how to positively channel your energy. Not only does youth rugby have a positive effect on rugby: it has a positive effect on our youth. The lessons learned and skills developed in youth rugby can be utilised throughout our lives. So, anyone that’s thinking about a future in rugby should set their eyes on a youth team to start.