Rugby Club Issue 72 - Page 37

Stockton EEC Electrical Contractors Residential-Commercial-Industrial Tel: 01642 674511 Mobile: 07723 328549 Email: Having these facilities is key to attracting supporters and players alike, when the cold wet weather sets in. The sun doesn’t always shine in the North East contrary to popular belief! RC: How important is youth rugby to the club? KK: It is absolutely key. We went through a period a number of years ago whereby the senior and junior parts of the club were left to develop and run themselves independently, to the detriment of both. Our junior section began to lose players and our senior section no longer had the conveyer belt of players coming through the ranks. Many of the older players now also coach the juniors and we have recently expanded the junior section to have teams at all age groups, which means we have around 200 registered junior players, which represents a rise of over 200% since the move to our new home. We have also taken coaching into a number of local schools and have partnerships with several in addition to Grangefield Academy. RC: How does the club ensure that young players enjoy a smooth transition into the senior game? KK: Usually, as players represent the colts, there are opportunities in a season for them to be introduced into senior rugby by occasional appearances for the 3rd XV and occasionally the 2nd XV if they are good enough. In both these teams the older players coming down the teams are very protective, supportive and will give advice and guidance to the youngsters coming through. This is proving extremely successful and if we can keep this development going I predict we will have a very bright future. RC: Would you consider yours to be a community club? KK: Ours is very much a community club. As well as the work we do with schools, we have also partnered with Stockton Cricket Club. Some of our players and growing numbers of children play both sports all year round. We have been very successful in attracting sponsorship, mainly from local businesses, such that this year we have been successful in having every strip from seniors downwards, plus coaches kitted out. Sponsorship is essential for a club like ours, we have a lot of out-goings on kit, medical supplies, laundry and food for teams throughout the year and without this income we would not be able to function. These companies are increasingly looking for how we are involved in local initiatives and schemes. RC: What do you believe could be some of the biggest challenges the club may face in the next 5 years? KK: Given the development via our youth section, I don’t think it is out of the question for us to progress up the leagues in the next 5 years. In itself this will bring its own challenges. Can we keep hold of the players we develop? How will we continue fund the expansion that success will inevitably bring? We also need more volunteers to step forward. Such has been the change over the past couple of seasons (we moved home due to the partnership with the Academy, which has meant new legal documents, setting up of joint committees and many other challenges) that some of the Committee members probably need a rest! 37