What is Harlequins Rugby Academy and what does it do?
The objective of the Academy is to provide a balanced pathway through excellent coaching, strength & conditioning, medical provision, nutritional advice, sports psychology and collaboration with stakeholders and education programmes; to promote player welfare and improve the performance of those who have been identified as potential future Harlequins rugby players. The goal of each Academy player is to become a professional rugby player.
How does a player enter the Academy process?
Players primarily come into the Academy Pathway via the DPP, although players can also enter directly at U16, U17 and U18 PDG level.
How can I qualify for selection to the Harlequins Rugby Academy?
To be eligible for selection players must have a postal address, attend a school or play for a club within our catchment area of Surrey, Sussex and the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Wandsworth, Croydon, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Merton, Richmond-Upon-Thames (South of the river) and Sutton.
Players are nominated by their school, club or county coaches or scouted by a member of the Academy staff. Players selected to attend the Academy will be assessed under four main categories:
- Skills & Elements of Competence
- Fitness Levels
- Tactical & Game Awareness
- Personal Attitude
To be successful, players must demonstrate the potential to become a professional rugby player and the mental toughness/desire to "be the best". Players will be expected to put "rugby first" and adopt a lifestyle that will enable them to develop into a professional athlete.
How often do we train?
The amount of training varies depending on the player’s age group;
- U14/U15 DPP training is every other week
- The U16 DPP and PDG groups train once a week
- And U17/U18 PDG up to twice a week
There will be cases, particularly during school holidays, where groups may train more to maximise contact time and facilitate the development of the players.
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How often do we play?
Playing opportunities are available to all players throughout the Academy Pathway, these will include internal and external festivals, ad-hoc fixtures against other Premiership Academies, as well as participation in the U18 Premiership Rugby Academy League.
The competitive programme for each player in the Academy will be personally planned. The Academy, working closely with the relevant school, club, county and England coaching staff, will advise on a programme of matches geared to maximise each individual’s rugby development. Academy players will only be required to play for teams/squads that provide levels of competitive exposure appropriate for this development.
DPP Nomination and selection process
How do players get into the DPP?
The Harlequins DPP has multiple entry points at different age groups to ensure that the programme provides a longitudinal identification opportunity and the engagement of a broad number of players who’s potential will emerge at different stages of development between the ages of 14 and 16.
The main mechanism of entry is via nomination by the player’s club coach or school teacher. Club coaches and school teachers are encouraged to nominate players for the programme within an agreed framework of nomination windows for each age group.
How are players assessed?
The process of assessing players (and predicting long-term potential) is difficult, which is why the numbers within the DPP are kept broad, for as long as possible.
When players are nominated for the DPP, they are assessed across a range of skills and capabilities, as well as against some objective markers such as maturation status and some physical capabilities.
As the DPP is not a competition focused programme, and serves as the platform to identify players with long-term potential, assessment is not focussed entirely upon who is the best player, or the biggest/strongest now.
As we are not selecting players to form a team, long-term potential and player development are the primary focus.
Will I still go to school or college?
Yes. It is vital that players pursue their education as well as their development as a rugby player. Rugby players retire early (normally in their 30s) and few will earn sufficient amounts to not have to work beyond that. Injuries too can interrupt a rugby career, so it is important to have an alternative career path to turn to.
The best rugby players are those who can apply themselves across a number of disciplines. Education/vocation targets will be set and must be met by all Academy athletes.
The Harlequins Rugby Academy will ensure that all athletes are able to pursue the core programmes. This should, in the majority of cases, involve the player taking part in an equivalent of 15 to 20 hours of skills training, technical skills development, conditioning, tactical awareness, and 'active rest' each week. This will normally be delivered during the day at the optimum times for individual player development. In exceptional cases it may be possible to manage this via a mix of evening and weekend sessions with more concentrated programmes planned into school holidays.
Will my son receive feedback after having attended a development or assessment day as a nominated player?
We understand the importance of feedback, and will do our best to provide feedback in some format to all players who attend a development or assessment day.
We ask clubs and schools to carefully consider their nominations and assess each potential player on their merits against the guidance we send out. This is beneficial to us when holding development days, as having manageable numbers of players to assess is the main factor that dictates our capacity to provide feedback.
The type and depth of feedback to players will depend upon the amount of players nominated for any given day.
Will my son be disadvantaged if he is not in the DPP as a 14 year old?
We hope to offer a high quality experience for players which provides diverse opportunities and coaching approaches alongside different players to the ones that players are used to in their normal setting. As such, we hope that the DPP is advantageous to all players that become a part of it.
The structure of the Harlequins Rugby DPP is reflective of non-linear player development for 14-16 year old players, and how quickly players can change in relatively small amounts of time. Therefore, it is not the end of the road if your son were not to be nominated or selected at the start of the programme.
Your son may not be ready for the programme as a 14 year old, and may not be nominated/may not be selected at that stage. We would encourage players who wish to be considered for the programme to work with their club and/or school coaches to determine the areas that they should develop in order to be nominated in the future.
What does the Academy process lead to?
Ultimately, the Academy looks to develop players to Premiership and International playing standards and therefore become professional rugby players. Many will not make the top level but could still follow a career in rugby at club level.
What can the Academy offer?
A player selected for Academy entry will be directed into a personal development programme that is geared primarily to ensuring that his capabilities as a rugby player are maximised. The athlete will be supported by Academy staff, specialist coaches, sports scientists and other specialists appointed by the Academy Manager. All areas of physical, technical, tactical and psychological development will be supported as well as game understanding, video analysis and a competitive programme appropriate to the player's personal development.