Simon Leader eager to create new structure at Cambridge Rugby Club
Player pathway through the club is the ambition
Simon Leader is aiming to create an Aspirational Player Pathway to nurture talent through Cambridge Rugby Club into the first team.
The newly-appointed rugby development officer is assessing all facets of the club, and has targeted starting an academy-like structure.
There would be three core principles, with themes being train to learn and explore, for under-sevens to under-12s; train to play, for under-13s, 14s and 15s; and then train to perform, for under-16s and 18s.
It would then feed into a senior academy for 18 to 23-year-olds, which would be similar in set-up to professional clubs.
Leader believes that the message to players would be of the opportunities that exist at Cambridge.
“I think the key word is aspirational,” he said.
“The idea is that players who come to the club can have the aspiration to play first-team rugby; whether that be arriving as a seven-year-old or a 15-year-old.
“I think we really need to look at the structure we can put in behind all the really good work that they already do in mini and youth to actually make sure there are opportunities to have that pathway right through.
“As a coaching team that we’ve got in place, and the coaches in and around the playing group as well those that are already working in mini and youth, then we definitely have the right people here to be able to do that and support it.”
It would not detract from the chances provided by the RFU Developing Player Programme at Northampton Saints, but rather enhance the offerings at Cambridge – with the major focus being to aspire to reach the first team.
“It’s giving that opportunity to have that extra coaching, to get the skills working, and I suppose that’s why aspiration is key,” said Leader.
“Whilst it is also about development and opportunity, I think aspiration is crucial because it is understanding that it is a reality for them.
“It’s giving them the chance to see if they want to play in the first team, this is the pathway to go along and if they’re good enough and can commit the time, and have the opportunity to be part of that, then they can.”
Leader feels that the term academy has been diluted a little bit, but feels the products playing at the highest level show that they still serve a key purpose.
“I believe this club has a huge amount to offer people that are not just here, but in the local area,” he said.
“I think there is every reason to say we could have a similar structure in behind, and actually players perhaps don’t need to go off to this academies as early as they do.
“We can have them here and they can actually play a good level of competitive, senior rugby that would stand them in good stead up to 23 even, to potentially then go off to other places.
“But obviously, ultimately, we want to make sure we get the best of what we can out of the club that can eventually come out and play on the first-team pitch for us.”