How to become a professional rugby player.
I am often asked “how can I become a professional rugby player?” or hear “I want my son to play for England/Wales etc”. It is great to see people with such passionate goals and enthusiasm. To achieve such an exciting goal it takes both commitment and intelligence.
I personally never made it as a professional rugby player, in fact, I was nowhere near making it. But then I am 100 times a better coach than player. There are three main pathways to get into the professional ranks and / or to play for your country. If you are over 18 years of age then the only way to play for England, Wales or any other major rugby playing country is to become a professional rugby player. If you are under 18 years of age then there are other options. The pathways are outlined below:
Gain selection through your country’s grade system – Every union will have an age structure system where you can win a international cap for your current group, e.g. Under 13’s, under 15’s etc
From this position you can gain good exposure to scouts and thus it becomes more likely you will be signed up by a professional club when you are at the appropriate age (This option is viable until you are about 18 years old)
Join a professional club’s junior academy – Almost all the big clubs have academies these days. If you can be signed up by them you are in an ideal position to go on and be noticed and win a professional contract. (This option is viable until you are about 20 years old).
Get noticed playing for semi-professional or amateur clubs – Once you are over 20 years old then the only way to become a professional rugby player is to excel at the lower levels and then to be invited to train with the professional teams and thus go on to win a contract.
Most big clubs that are not already full time allow you to join them whoever you are and thus you can work yourself into the first team and impress in the leagues. The higher the league you play in the more likely you will gain exposure.
Becoming good enough to achieve this goal
These days the players that are already within the academies or play full time have a huge advantage over the rest. This is because they are able to work on their fitness levels under the guide of strength and conditioning coaches.
Therefore, if you harbour any hopes of getting in the shop window and beyond you must develop your fitness levels to be able to match if not excel those who are already where you want to be.
If you fitness is not in a ball park there in no possibility you will ever win a professional contract. This is something that has to be in place. You can be skillful and have a great rugby mind but with modern rugby as it is you need to be at a certain standard even to come under consideration. Conversely being all fitness without the rest will not guarantee selection but it will almost ensure you have at least had the chance to be seen. The solution of course is to develop both.
Fitness for everyone
The amazing thing about fitness is that it is not exclusive to the professionals. Amateurs can develop the same abilities IF they know how to train and have a barrel full of commitment. When you are outside the professional circle breaking in is much much harder. You have to be significantly better because you are unknown.
Commitment is another facet that is important, commitment is not smashing out two extra bench press sets, it is not about taking 2 hours in the gym pumping the arms, or staying 10 minutes after practice to do some kicking.
True commitment is about doing the very things you are weak at, the things you find tough. It is about cutting out junk food and not letting drink get in the way. It is going for a run and not doing body building weights for the fourth time that week, it is about going to the track, it is about seeking advice when you do not know something, it is about testing your current abilities, training when you do not feel like in the mood, or it is cold outside.
In short, true commitment is about doing everything you should be doing, including the things that most people shy away from. Then it is about persistence by staying focused whether you are successful or not. If you resolve your weaknesses you will go a long way but it may well be some ups and downs.
Intelligence is about knowing what you should be doing, being sensible enough to know when to hold off increasing the weights, stopping before you hurt yourself on the track. It is about being able to cut through the majority of awful advice that floats around, it is not listening to people who are talking rubbish. Intelligence is what will separate you from the rest. Being smart means finding the right system that works for you even if this is against what all your friends are doing…….remember……most people do not succeed, so you have to not be right, not one of the crowds.