James Hook led a group of six Ospreys that flew into Pyle RFC this week to visit the latest Summer Kids Camp.
Fellow Ospreys Ross Davies, Jonathan Thomas, Tom Isaacs, Marty Holah and Tom Smith joined him for the visit, where the group passed on rugby tips and advice before signing autographs and posing for pictures with the youngsters attending the course.
Hosted by Community Initiatives Officer Ioan Cunningham and a team of Community Rugby Development Officers, the camps provide an opportunity for boys and girls aged between seven and eleven to develop their basic rugby skills in a fun and non-competitive environment, always proving popular with young Ospreylians.
Speaking about the Camps, Hook said that they were vitally important to the Ospreys in terms of ensuring the conveyor belt of local talent remained well stocked in future years. He commented:
“You can’t underestimate the importance of these camps. It’s great to come along and see so many youngsters, most of them in Ospreys shirts, enjoying rugby and learning the game. Everybody has to start somewhere, and for lots of children in the region, the first experience they have of rugby is either when Ospreys coaches go into their school, or when they attend one of these courses.
“It’s a fantastic experience for a youngster to come along and receive guidance from an Ospreys coach, and it wasn’t that long ago that I was a young kid who would have been excited about meeting some of the top players of the era in this kind of environment, so I know how much it means to them. All the guys in the squad appreciate that, we’ve all been in their position when we were first starting out in rugby, and we realise how important it is to these children, to see for themselves how local boys like us can progress from youngsters learning the game to professionals representing our home region.
“The management have a player development pathway in place at the region, to ensure that future generations who pick up a ball can see a way for them to progress and play for the Ospreys. Events like the Summer Kids Camp are right at the very beginning of that pathway; it’s the first opportunity for children to experience rugby with the Ospreys. There’ll be plenty of youngsters who’ll never look to do more than play rugby for fun with their mates, and we have to encourage that, as the more people there are playing rugby in the region the better, whatever their age or standard. There’ll also be some who maybe have that little bit extra, and for the coaches and talent ID guys working in the community, these courses can be the springboard, the start of the development pathway towards them potentially becoming an age-grade player and hopefully, graduating to an Osprey in years to come.
“I’m a local boy and the Ospreys are my region, and that’s the case for the majority of the squad, so the impact we can have as role models is incredible. It’s important that we get out there into our local communities and provide the inspiration for youngsters to want to follow us, to encourage them that they have the chance of pulling on the black shirt.”
The Ospreys 2009 Summer Camps continue over the next two weeks at Llandarcy Academy of Sport.