Just weeks after the Eyasses claimed the silverware following a 29-28 win over the Scarlets in the WRU U-16 Championship Final, preparations are already underway for next season, with the Ospreys taking a closer look at the current U-15 District sides from across the region.
Ospreys staff are hosting weekly sessions each Monday evening at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport, where players are invited along to train with the region's age-grade coaching team, while both the players and their parents are participating in a series of educational seminars that are aimed at preparing the players for a future in rugby.
The weekly sessions sees Afan Nedd, Bridgend and Swansea District U-15 players coming in on a rotational basis, where one group will be taking part in weight sessions with Academy Conditoning Coaches, while another group will be involved in skills sessions, in addition to attending seminars that focus on either psychology, nutrition, medical or holistic development. While the youngsters are training, their parents are also invited along to participate in similar seminars, that are aiming to provide them with the information they need to fully sport their child as they take the first steps towards a lengthy career in the game.
Andrew Millward, Regional Performance Development Manager, said:
"It may have been only a few weeks ago that we had our U-16 side involved in their final against the Scarlets, but preparations for next season with the age grade sides are well and truly underway already. At the moment, we are bringing in the potential next batch of under-16's in from the three District sides, who are all currently under-15's, and they will come in weekly on rotation for us to have a good look at, and for them to have a good look at us.
"It means that we are working with a wider pool of players, just over 100 at the moment, and they all have a chance to impress before it gets worked down to a manageable squad for next season. There'll be groups from two districts in on a Monday evening, one working with the coaches while the other group will have an educational seminar, with the same topic covered in a separate session for parents of that group. The sessions cover a wide range of things that all have a direct impact on their development as a rugby player and as a young man. We cover psychology, medical protocols, nutrition, and holistic.
"These weekly sessions are running over 12 weeks until the end of April, and they are crucial to us in terms of putting together the U-16 squad for next season. They are also crucial to these young boys, and will help to set them on the right path as rugby players and as people, by providing them with valuable advice and guidance that will benefit them in all areas of their lives, on and off the pitch."
In addition to the next batch of U-16's, Millward and his staff are also working closely with the new U-18 squad in preparation for next season, with the players and parents taking part in a similar development programme over the same period. Millward explained:
"We are also working with a smaller group, which consists of players preparing for under-18's rugby for next season, which covers similar subjects, but because of the fact that this is a smaller, more focused group, we are able to cover off things in a lot more depth. Instead of just having one session per area for parents and players, with this age group we are running three sessions covering each area.
"It's vitally important that the under-18's and their parents buy into these sessions, even more so than the under-16's to be honest. It may be that they think they've covered it off already, but you have to remember that some of these boys may be just months away from starting their careers as professional rugby players and as such, they need to be ready and this will help them make that step.
"It's about getting an understanding of what's to come for them, what the expectations are and what standards they have to live by, on and off the field, that will make them better players and better people. I'm confident that the development programme we have in place at the Ospreys will produce not just better rugby players, but also, better people, and these sessions are just the first building blocks towards that, so it's important that we have the full commitment of players and parents over these next couple of months."