Highland trying to future-proof club
Highland RFC have set an aim of having 75 per cent of its first team coming through the club’s youth academy by 2025.
To do that, it is working with the University of the Highlands and Islands and businesses about education and employment opportunities to persuade youngsters to stay in the area.
Highland have had major recent success on and off the park, gaining promotion to National One and the creation of Canal Park.
But club development officer Iain Chisholm says the biggest challenge the club faces is how to keep Highland Academy players in Inverness.
“We work closely with UHI and are in the early stages of a strategic partnership and performance course which can be linked with businesses and subjects,” he said.
“To offer our players an opportunity to play rugby for Highland RFC while staying in the area learning their degree will be huge for us.
“We are also working with our sponsors to offer employment opportunities.
“If we can’t keep the players here, we have to look at ways of keeping them engaged playing rugby and if there is an opportunity for them to come back, we have to look at ways of helping them when they do.
“For us it is not just about rugby, it is about what we can offer them away from rugby and is it possible to keep them in the area.”
Last season the Highland first team averaged between 50 and 60 per cent of players who came through the club’s youth system.
But Chisholm believes more work needs to be done to boost the standard of junior rugby as the club aims to reach greater heights.
“The Highland Academy was initially about identifying the best talent and letting them develop as a group.
“We wanted the first years to be all about participation, but as we start to think about our strategic plan and where we want to be by 2025, we want to future-proof high level rugby in the north.”