Enjoyment the X factor to entice stars of the future
Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30
Where is Marty McFly when we need him most? Oh to be able to turn back that clock.
Such were the thoughts uppermost in my mind as I, along with over 600 delegates, attended the inaugural Rugby Generation X conference at the Aviva Stadium for the largest gathering of key stakeholders in Irish youth rugby ever held.
Rugby Generation X (RGX) is the brainchild of Eunan 'Rocky' O'Carroll. As a former player, lover of the game and parent, O'Carroll, while recognising the career opportunities the game presents to underage players making their way, also found it difficult to access all of the relevant information.
Sometimes we forget that rugby union is still a relative rookie in the hard-core world of professional sport.
As one involved in the game in many different capacities over very many years, I can identify with the parental dilemma.
Like many of my generation, I grew up with that oft-quoted line that 'children should be seen and not heard'. However, when it comes to sporting involvement for children of this generation - on the sideline, at least - it is the parents who should be seen and not heard.
That was just one aspect of what proved to be very wide-ranging and hugely informative agenda.
Craig Doyle set t he appropriate tone as MC alongside Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who launched a ground-breaking initiative before a jam-packed auditorium.
His message was simple and to the point, putting enjoyment at the top of any investment in young rugby talent.
For parents, the information came thick and fast, with High Performance coach Gerry Hussey setting the bar high by way of a passionate and animated delivery on the psychology of achievement.
Player development; the youth development pathway; managing young rugby talent; nutrition; rugby equipment protection and innovation were just some of the topics covered by an array of experts, including Nóra Ní Fhlannagáin, Dr Kate Kirby, Colin McEntee, Peter Smyth and Rob Sheldon, in addition to a wrap-up address by the excellent Hussey.
Former Ireland women's captain Fiona Coughlan was joined by a host of current and future stars of the professional game, including Gary Ringrose, Luke McGrath, Ross Moloney, Andrew Conway and Peter Robb, alongside Leinster Rugby academy manager Smyth for a fascinating panel discussion and Q&A.
Put it all together and RGX 2016 represents a first for Irish rugby in directly addressing the issue of parental involvement. Going forward it will provide a format whereby parents as stakeholders can get directly involved and have access to the best advice and experts.
The plan is to expand in 2017 with future RGX events set for each of the provinces in August of next year.
The future RGX projects will also fund the establishment of a PhD Studentship in Rugby Innovation Research at one of our leading universities.
The purpose of the PhD Studentship will be to focus on research into the further development of the game.
What we experienced on Saturday wasn't an end in itself, but the very first steps in a means to that end.
Could there be a more positive or constructive way to head into a new season?