Back in the game

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
About 100 boys are now training and playing rugby at Alva Academy, where a few years ago there was virtually nothing. Close links with the local Hillfoots club and Stirling County ensure continuity beyond school, while top players join representative district teams. It is not far off the dream Scottish Rugby Union schemers envisage for rugby development.

Philip Stephen, the physical education teacher and sports co-ordinator at the Clackmannanshire school, has added the impetus the game needed, ensuring the school regularly turns out teams in S1, S2, S3 and at senior level, where 25 boys are involved.

"We do not turn boys away. Anyone who trains regularly gets to represent the school team," he says.

Training is on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the seniors add a weights session on Mondays. A parent from Hillfoots helps out. Competitive rugby is on Wednesdays aftr school since the boys tend to work at weekends, although senior boys might play midi club rugby or turn out for the Hillfoots seconds.

Mr Stephen believes the growth in rugby is down to persistence, encouraging S1 pupils through skills training and games and hooking them gradually into the school team. John Manson, the local SRU development officer and former international player, helps with festivals, coaching and inviting along role models, such as Andy Nicol, the Scottish captain.

Local sponsorship and funds from the SRU's accreditation scheme has ensured supplies of balls, strips and tackle shields. Special shirts and the re-introduction of school colours for the seniors add to the rugby ethos.

Next season, Mr Stephen is planning three weekend matches against Borders schools' second XV teams. It is a clear sign that Alva is moving forward.

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