The yellow jerseys
This season's recruits are thoroughly enjoying their sessions, and 2016/17 has seen a few new elements added to academy life. The yellow jersey has been introduced, with one awarded to a player from the U14s, U15s and U16s each month for their effort, dedication and commitment. So far, Ross Bulloch, Andy Morrison and Michael Lafferty (December), Lewis Doak, Chris Easton and Jonny Faulkner (January), and Finn Lanni, Callum Shinn and Harry Ledgerwood (February) have been the recipients.
As well as improving their on-field skills, academy players also learn things that are useful away from rugby. From leadership and team work to health and nutrition, the players gain knowledge and understanding of a wide range of subjects that can assist in school, university and work. This season, the U16 academy players have embarked on media training, led by Laura Hamilton, who has worked in this field internationally for a number of years.
Laura took the players through conducting a press conference, presenting themselves in a professional yet natural way in front of a camera and also led a workshop on the dos and don'ts of social media during a fun and informative afternoon at Millbrae.
300m gold for Jack Edwards
Ayr Rugby Academy players are a busy lot. As well as playing rugby, several of them compete in other sports, and Jack Edwards of the U14s is a keen - and now medal-winning - athlete. Over the weekend of 11th/12th February, Jack claimed the 300m gold in the U15s National Indoor Championships at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. We send him our congratulations.
Another successful season
Ayr Rugby Academy saw forty youngsters through the programme in 2015/16, led by academy director Stuart Fenwick, his fellow development officer Frazier Climo, strength and conditioning coach Danny McCluskey and Robbie Fergusson before his departure to London Scottish to begin his professional playing career.
Players had three sessions a week over the season looking at skill development, conditioning and specialist skills. The academy also focuses on various aspects of nutrition, recovery and decision-making. Players range from S2 to U18 and are selected on their attitude to development, work ethic and rugby performances throughout the season. The coaches were very happy with the efforts of the players last season and look forward to working with them again over this year.
The benefits of the academy are beginning to show with many current and previous players gaining national and regional honours. The coaching team has also been delighted to see the positives of being part of the academy pay dividends off-field, as these young people develop their interpersonal, social and leadership skills that help them in school and beyond.
The selection process for the academy in 2016/17 has taken place with the assistance of the individual age group coaches, and this year there are forty-six players taking part in academy programmes. As well as Stuart, Frazier and Danny, the coaching team now features Scottish Rugby modern apprentices Paddy Dewhirst, Tony Hall and Harry Lynch, as well as Ayr club captain Pete McCallum.