Welcome to The Preston Grasshoppers Experience
Welcome to Youth Rugby at Lightfoot Green Lane, the home of the Powergen National Two (North) club, Preston Grasshoppers.
Welcome also to perhaps the largest Mini Junior Rugby group in the North of England.
IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE . . . .
Preston Grasshoppers has long established itself as a safe, efficient and child friendly rugby club and for many years has followed its own code s of conduct, quality coaching and administration and more recently child protection guidelines.
In early October, this was officially recognised. The club was accredited under new governing body and national criteria to achieve the RFU’s ‘Seal of Approval’ and Sport England’s ‘Clubmark’, the first rugby union club in the country to register this significant landmark.
When the presentation was made in November, as is referred to in the press release (See Under the Posts), the club remarked that these awards not only mark the end of the first thirty years of Mini Junior Rugby at Hoppers, but also the foundation for the future.
Further Hoppers initiatives have followed since; there are more to come!
140 YEARS OF TRADITION . . . .
Since 1869, Preston Grasshoppers has been the focal point of Rugby Union in Lancashire, established even before the unveiling of the city’s football club. The early Victorian pioneers sought to expand the game to other areas around the county – if only to ensure opposition.
Today, many of those same clubs remain. The fixtures they provide evoke for the youngsters in the 21st Century a rivalry similar to the era of the sepia-tinted photographs draped on the Clubhouse walls.
Back in the 1870-80′s, A. N. Hornby not only gained nine international rugby caps, he also captained the English cricket team. The intervening years saw representatives of many generations of established Preston families turning out for, and captaining, Grasshoppers – even the odd Welshman!
Playing towards the end of the ‘amateur’ era, former Preston Grasshoppers, England and British Lion lock forward Wade Dooley remains one of the most respected English second rows ever, amassing 55 international caps. The police officer’s constant selection from the lower reaches of the – then – fledgling league structure was a remarkable achievement, but the ‘Blackpool Tower’ was something exceptional in his day.
A representative sample of his international opponents’ shirts is displayed in the cabinets hung in the appropriately named ‘Dooley’ suite in the clubhouse.
TODAY’S HEROES . . . .
With the professional era arriving, many of today’s “Hoppers Heroes” departed Lightfoot Green to establish their full-time careers elsewhere.
British Lion and England star Will Greenwood (once acting in tandem with former Hoppers and England coach – his father, Dick Greenwood) left for Waterloo, Leicester and Harlequins. Paul Grayson emerged from a football background to shine in the Hoppers Colts XV before, at Northampton, developing into the dependable points scorer that England almost took for granted.
Currently, a number of former Mini-Juniors are England internationals :-
Iain Balshaw, recently moved from Zurich Premiership Gloucester to French club Biarritz and ex-England captain Steve Borthwick currently plays for Saracens. Worcesters’ Patrick Sanderson emerged with honour from the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games Sevens squad that was knocked out by Fiji whilst his brother Alex was the youngest-ever captain of a Premier League side, playing his rugby at Sale Sharks.
ALMOST 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE . . . .
From 1974, Preston Grasshoppers has attracted a growing number of Mini and Junior players to the facilities you see today.
Now, one of the biggest sections in the North of England, we have over 350 players attending each Sunday morning from September to April, training for – or playing in – competitive rugby. The Saturday Colts squad takes the total towards 400.
The newly appointed Director of Youth Development is an integral member of the 50-strong coaching team. An experienced administrative backroom provides the necessary support to those working on the field.
All the squads are supervised by qualified and knowledgeable coaches.
Our Coaches and Administrators are expected to implement and observe the RFU’s Fair Play Codes, guidance that expanded Hoppers’ own codes of conduct adopted six years ago.
Players should not play beyond the permitted number of matches in any one season, albeit left to the Coaches’ judgement as to how best utilise a squad within his own fixture list.
The Hoppers’ coaching policy is ‘inclusive’, all players being involved in inter-club fixtures and the season’s Minis tournaments with the only significant selection occurring as the Juniors enter the Lancashire Cup.
We have an Equity in Sport policy, all of which should ensure that we can cater for all players no matter what their background, gender, race or – within the boundaries of a contact sport – their disability. We aim to ensure that players of mixed ability are treated equally, again with the thought that being a contact sport, the safety of players is the top priority.
Today’s less-able players may be the stars of the Hoppers Colts XV in years to come.
Child Protection is a topic of importance, and whilst it is taken most seriously the issue requires balance, common sense and sensitivity. Dr Max Fryer, the ‘person-in-charge’ embodies every requirement together with an objective and independent mind.
The majority of our coaching and administrative team have attended courses on the child protection, and all are aware of the RFU’s current guidance on the subject.
In all we have over 80 volunteers involved with youth rugby, all of whom will shortly have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau. This includes a new Hoppers initiative, ‘the Observers’: those parents who can offer to each age group an extra pair of eyes and some extra security, an important role that Hoppers is piloting.
QUALITY AND SUCCESSFUL RUGBY . . . .
Our fixture list for the eleven Mini Junior age groups (Under 6s and 7s to the Junior Colts, Under 17s) extends to over sixty different clubs from all around the country including league, cup and the normal friendly fixtures.
The Under 18s/Under 19s (Senior Colts) play on Saturdays and enjoy a challenging mix of fixtures, with opportunities to play in the Development XV.
The Junior Colts, Senior Colts, Development XV and First XV train together mid-week, the upper section of a clear ‘Pathway to the Top’ which begins all the way down the ladder at the Under 6s.
Last season, three Junior age groups reached the four Lancashire Cup Finals with two being successful. The Colts have also enjoyed significant Cup success in recent years.
In representative rugby Hoppers has been an important contributor to Lancashire Junior rugby and beyond. The Keany brothers, James and Edward both distinguished themselves in England colours in the Under 18s and Under 16s group. Like Dooley and others, their shirts are proudly displayed in the clubhouse.
Currently, Richard Wigglesworth is understudying Brian Redpath at Sale Sharks and Daniel Fernandez Arias, another recent addition to the Hoppers family, has been in the Premiership Club spotlight.
At last season’s Presentation Awards Dinners we recognised the 44 players to gain Lancashire honours from our Under 13s to Under 17s, 23 coming from the Under 16s squad alone. It was hardly surprising that they, like the Under 13s, lifted the 2002 Lancashire Junior Cup.
Five players from that side (James Cooper, Luke Cunningham, Andrew Dockray, Douglas Fitzgerald and John Peterson) represented the North of England, Fitzgerald also being part of the England Development Group.
Current Colt scrum half, Chris Leck has international honours at Under 16 level, and a number of players are representing the North of England in various squads this season.
UNRIVALLED FACILITIES . . . .
No other rugby club in the North West can boast the extensive facilities that we offer here at Lightfoot Green Lane:
4 senior pitches, 2 midi pitches (Under 11s & 12s) and 5 separate and designated mini pitches (7s to 10s);
an abundance of training and coaching back-up, with scrummaging and other equipment for the exclusive use of Youth Rugby;
an extensive clubhouse for members, parents and players, and
our comprehensive Hoppers Shop.
COMMUNICATIONS . . . .
The ‘Youth Rugby Handbook’ includes all the details of fixtures, fair play codes, reviews of last season and general information about the Club.
Our ‘Hoppers Hotline’ (01772 862771) offers match and training details from Friday evening through to Sunday morning. This is particularly important during periods of inclement weather, or where the departure times of away matches are in doubt.
The ‘Hoppers Board’ is in the Club each Sunday morning showing a summary of what’s on, last week’s results and forthcoming events.
Here on the web, ‘Hoppers Online’ combines a lively mix of weekly match reports (In Touch) and news (Under the Posts) about our Mini Junior and Youth Rugby in the Mini Junior section.
Finally, the regular Newsletter ‘From Knee High . . .’ brings everyone up to date with what is going on the Youth scene.
CURRENTLY . . . .
a record number of Mini Junior youngsters are playing in Hoppers shirts,
a record number of County players are regularly selected from our Junior ranks,
all eleven age groups enjoy successful results both home and away, and
most importantly. . .
WOMEN’S RUGBY. . . .
In recent years we have introduced Women’s Rugby into the Junior Section to take advantage of the Hoppers Experience and to complement the younger girls playing in Tag and Mini competitions at the Under 7s to Under 12s ages.
The lack of local opposition has proved to be a problem but we are slowly forging links with Schools and other clubs to offer more meaningful outlets for the squad’s ambitions.
Now, with the advent of a Senior Womens Rugby XV on Sunday afternoons, Hoppers has introduced a focus for the older Under 16s group to continue their enjoyment of the game.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES . . . .
Our mission statement can be found elsewhere but at our Development meeting in July to cover the next twelve months we set ourselves the following goals:-
100% player registration by Christmas (picking up all the stragglers!);
at least 90% of all Coaches to have achieved qualification under the new RFU structure by September 2003;
a minimum of four members of the Mini Junior Section (players, former players, parents or coaches) to have become qualified referees this season;
marketing the player membership so effectively that two squads (Saturday and Sunday) emerge at Senior Colts level within three years;
womens rugby to flourish at Junior level within two years with a Senior side emerging within three years.
THAT’S ALL ABOUT US, WHAT ABOUT YOU . . . . .?
Surely you can see the ADVANTAGE, kick other ball games INTO TOUCH.
What’s the SCORE? Don’t get caught in the SCRUM, TACKLE a real sport – RU Ready for RU? TRY Hoppers this Sunday!
For more information or a CONVERSION, contact Preston Grasshoppers today (01772 863546 or firstname.lastname@example.org)