b'Sport - The AcademiesTHE ELLESMERIAN Rugby 163A large number of pupils made use of the time to work hard at honing their skills and keeping fit. Academy fitness sessions continued and were managed in their year group bubbles. One of the highlights to come out of this was Harvey Cuckson. Harvey, a member of Worcester Warriors Academy, was selected to attend England Under 18 training camps, which culminated in him achieving an England International Cap against Italy Under 19s. The game took place when rugby had been allowed to return and resulted in yet another International Cap for Ellesmere College. Meanwhile, several other players continued to be selected for regional academies such as Worcester and Sale. Eighteen months without any competitive rugby would always be a test for Ellesmeres rugby players. The sports governing body, World Rugby, had put strict rules in place for training, limiting elements such as team-based games, contact, and strict hygiene. Yet out of this restrictive environment Rugby at Ellesmere seemed to thrive.Perhaps it was a form of escapism from lockdown and online learning, but numbers of pupils to training seemed to grow as the season progressed. In the early stages the emphasis was on fun and individual skill development, but as certain restrictions were lifted we were able to incorporate a new format of rugbyRugby Ready. This proved massively popular with the pupils and became the staple of training sessions for the season. This non-contact form of rugbyFor rugby to continue to thrive under such testing circumstances only allowed players to put their skill development work into practice in agoes to show that there is still a huge demand for the sport. The competitive environment. Soon, Rugby Ready had become thegame continues to be attacked at the professional level with worries format for schools Inter-House Rugby competitions. This fun gameof concussions and injuries but this pause in the sport would have proved so popular, it attracted a number of players to the game thatbeen the ideal time for people to turn away. However, the spirit had previously shown little interest prior to Covid-19. shown by the College during this tumultuous period highlights the This rise in popularity led to the introduction of the senior Rugbyneed for this outlet amongst our young people. It has been well-Ready League. Players were equally spread across three teams anddocumented that the number of mental health issues rose would do battle on a Friday afternoon. The spirit shown in thesesignificantly during lockdown, but one of the best ways to combat this sessions was a welcome relief from gloomy news of Covid-19.has proven to be physical exercise. Like many other sports, rugby can Ellesmere College is lucky to have such a tradition of Rugby Unionprovide the usual health benefits associated with cardiovascular within its DNA to fall back on. Interest in the game could have quiteexercise, but its deep routed values and traditions seem to deliver easily waned but this plucky and defiant spirit ensured that the gameanother element of support. Values such as teamwork, respect, not only continued but actually grew in popularity. discipline, and enjoyment appear to provide young players with a level of connection to a community. It is this belonging that allows our pupils to develop so many qualities such as confidence, resilience and self-awareness. I am aware that Covid-19 has provided us all with some huge challenges but I strongly believe that rugby at the College has been a great source of support for so many of our young people. AJM'