With a committed focus on the future of the sport, Rugby Canada’s women’s Development Academy and the newly re-formed Pacific Pride Performance Academy are well underway in their 2019/ 2020 seasons, with promising results for the future ahead.
Competing in the BC Rugby Premier League, the Pride have gone undefeated in their first four games of the season. With only two games left before the Christmas break and the heaviest leg of their season coming in the new year, head coach Jamie Cudmore has been pleased with the performance of the program so far.
“It’s been great to test the team with some meaningful competition as we continue to develop and help these players grow,” said Cudmore. “It has definitely helped add excitement around the return of the Pride.”
But for the Pride, success goes beyond the scoresheet with a focus on creating a viable group of players for national team selection with Olympic and professional league aspirations.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Toronto Arrows and their academy to help develop this pool of players. Guiseppe du Toit, Will Kelly, Mitch Richardson, and Tyler Rowland have been training with us and have received call-ups to the Arrows which is really encouraging for the entire squad. Our goal is to keep progressing this way and hopefully get a few more opportunities for guys in the MLR.”
Beyond the Arrows academy, the Pride are working with Rugby Canada’s age grade programs and regional talent ID networks to serve as a connection point from age grade teams through to the senior national team.
“There’s been a lot of positive feedback from coaches and teams not only in the BC Premier League, but across the country,” added Cudmore. “The goal is to improve Canada’s performance on the international stage and building strong pathways is a key component of that.”
On the women’s side, the Rugby Canada Development Academy (RCDA) women’s high school program has had the opportunity to test themselves in the opening part of their school year in the BC Elite Youth Sevens, a program ran by BC Rugby’s Darcy Patterson.
“The BC Elite Sevens was created with an understanding that women’s high school rugby wasn’t challenging those players at the top levels in a way that forced them to become better rugby players,” said RCDA head coach Adam Kleeberger. “While this competition helps us as an academy to play against higher-level competition and test the development of players brought in from across the country, it also boosts the level of competition locally which we hope will continue to grow.”
With the BC Elite Youth Sevens providing local competition, the RCDA will move onto regional competition in the new year—culminating in the Western Championships—before ending their season off in national competition at the NextGen7s, next May in Langford.
Kleeberger and his team have structured the RCDA’s program to complement that competition schedule.
“So, what we’ve built is a three-part approach to athlete development. First, we have training—learning how to train, learning how to practice. Then it’s onto compete—learning how to perform in games and how to challenge ourselves in game scenarios. And then perform—learning how to win.”
With the goal of producing national senior team players and Olympic hopefuls, the RCDA has seen success firsthand with graduated academy players like Madi Grant touring with the senior women’s XV at the upcoming Can-Am series and Ella O’Regan and Olivia de Couvreur taking part in the Oceania 7s with the women’s Maple Leaf’s development team.
“What we want to do is to develop a foundation of core abilities in these young athletes that as they move forward, they can take into university and national team environments,” Kleeberger added. “In high-performance sport, a lot of the time it’s not a linear process in terms of pathway progression but establishing a strong framework to build off of is key.”
For more info on the BC Premier League and the BC Elite Youth Sevens, visit BC Rugby.