Youth policy to stay

17th October 1997 at 01:00
Stirling County are continuing to invest in youth to secure their long-term benefit.

Stirling were the first Scottish rugby club to pursue a serious youth policy 20 years ago and it was a policy that eventually led to them winning the Scottish League, primarily with home-bred players.

Drummond Thorn, the junior rugby convener at the club, accepts that the move to professional rugby means that Stirling cannot be wholly dependent on their youth policy but the commitment remains the same.

Mr Thorn admits that there was no structure that Stirling followed when they first set up their youth scheme.

"We flew by the seat of our pants. We just learnt as we went along and I think a lot of clubs followed us after they saw the success of our policy."

There are around 150 schoolchildren attached to the club at present and whereas the local Scottish Rugby Union development officer visits schools, the rugby club relies mainly on youngsters coming to them.

"We attract most of our youngsters through word of mouth. The emphasis is on enjoyment and fun but we are also looking to get players for the club," Mr Thorn said. "We have children from primary 3 upwards and they play small-sided games until they are at S2 level when they can graduate to the 15-a-side game.

"At present though, we are losing a lot of the best young players to Dollar Academy or Morrison's. Dollar do not allow their players to play for a club and the school and it means we can lose players at the age of 13-14. And because they can go to a school like Dollar, they tend to progress to further and higher education and leave the area and so we can lose players altogether. "

Stirling County now have a New Zealand coach, Tom Coventry, attached to the club and while he has his own ideas on junior development, Stirling's model met with his approval.

The club is plugged into the SRU's development policy and works closely with the game's governing body.

Stirling have already scooped the ultimate prize by breeding their own players. In a new professional era, there is no sign of a youth policy being less important.

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