Whilst our partnerships are relatively young, our commitment to develop our people and home-grown players relies heavily on our investment in them, alongside our wider player pathway and relationships with clubs and schools across our region.
Our partnerships maximise our influence over the training and competition environments of many of our best young players. We ensure that there are progressive approaches to coaching, athletic preparation and individual development to underpin the development of home-grown players.
Bath Rugby deliver the rugby development programme and an evidence-based approach to coaching and athletic preparation at Beechen Cliff. The Club also deliver a focused talent development environment for potential elite players through the AASE programme (Achieving Academic and Sporting Excellence). Beechen Cliff provide the academic programme for Bath Rugby Pathway players. The programme is challenging both on and off field and exposes high potential players to the demands and expectations of the senior game.
This week BBC Radio Bristol’s Geoff Twentyman featured our AASE Programme at Beechen Cliff School on his drivetime show, The Scrum.
We share a transcript of the interview which featured Academy Manager Craig Lilley, home grown utility back, Tom de Glanville and Andrew Davies, Head of Beechen Cliff School.
GT: Over the years, many former Beechen Cliff students have gone on to play for Bath since 2014. The Club and the school have developed a more formal partnership with Club’s academy now based at the school, continuing to develop first team players Tom de Glanville, Miles Reid, Gabe Hamer-Webb.
Joining us live today is Craig Lilley (Bath Rugby Academy Manager), Tom de Glanville Beechan Cliff graduate and first-team player and Beechen Cliff’s Head Teacher Andrew Davies.
Good afternoon to all three of you, thanks for joining me. Let’s start with Craig, the Academy Manager. Please tell us about the partnership, the association with Beechen Cliff and how does it work?
CL: Yes sure, so as you mentioned the partnership was formed in 2014. AASE stands for the Achieving Academic and Sporting Excellence programme. Each Premiership Club has an AASE school or college and for us it’s a partnership that has developed and progressed over the last few years and it’s an opportunity for state schoolboys, to come through and really develop their rugby alongside their education. For us it’s a great opportunity to deploy our staff, so we have a number of academy staff that would work there pretty much full time, coaches, physios and medical support who will work with the boys alongside their academic timetable. For us, it offers a brilliant competition framework where the boys play Wednesday in a traditional season and we would develop them around that competition framework and then that moves on into the Under 18 academy league. So, it’s a brilliant partnership for us and something that’s going really well.
Good snapshot. Andrew welcome to the scrum great to have you with on board. From your perspective as Head Teacher at Beechen Cliff just tell us what are the benefits of this collaboration?
AD: Well, I think Craig outlined the key three things there. One, it is about creating a state school pathway to the highest levels of rugby. I think also that we are in a position where having the staff around who can help support the players and help them commit above and beyond their A Level commitments is also very important. And obviously on a broader level for a school to have this level of rugby, to have this support is exceptional for the community because so many people within the school and connected with the school are linked to Bath Rugby as well. You know its part of the culture, its part of the community.
And I guess the big things like your facilities for example are pristine, aren’t they?
AD: I’d like to say they’re pristine, but I think Craig would probably disagree with that, sometime a little bit of a quagmire, but it is rugby as you would imagine it at grassroot level, it is so fantastic to have such professional support and such commitment from Bath Rugby,
Do you ever have any problems getting the balance right between focus, the students focus on rugby and education or maybe too much rugby and not enough education?
AD: It’s a constant search to get the balance right but I think everyone would agree that within the school and within the rugby club, there is a huge desire to make sure that that balance is right and each of the boys is supported individually and there is a good academic mentoring programme to make sure that they are able to commit to their studies as well as obviously achieve the aspirations of the rugby.
Living proof of this system and that it works joins us, Tom de Glanville, evening to you Tom. Tell us your story, tell us your journey through Beechen Cliff.
TdG: Yes, so I’m a local boy, grew up literally just down the road from Beechen, so I went there in Year 7 and stayed the whole way through. This was way before any AASE programme came about. And then in my year 10 / 11 Bath made a partnership with Beechen and I was a pretty keen rugby player by then so it sort of took my eye and I just stuck in the system and worked hard with all my mates and just made sure I kept my academics going and at the end of it got a senior academy contract and progressed into the squad.
And bravo to you, what’s the kind of split percentage wise when you were at Beechen Cliff growing up between education and rugby? What kind of balance was there?
TdG: I think it was really well-balanced actually because often there was obviously going to be inevitable clashes between gym or training sessions and essays etc that had to be done and I think the communication between students and teachers is important in terms of you know I’ve got this space free now can I do my work afterwards etc. As long as the coaches are on board with that and they understand that there may be times when students have to put their academics first, I think that is the most important thing and that’s what they do really well.
Craig going back, I mean I was a bit tongue in cheek with Andrew about the balance between education and playing rugby, but education is key to this as well isn’t it because we all know as much as everyone wants to be a Tom de Glanville and make the grade, some of them don’t and the educational aspect is crucial isn’t it?
CL: It’s massive and it probably underpins everything that we do at Beechen. I think the reason it works so well at Beechen is there are a variety of courses the boys can choose going from A Level to BTec so depending on their needs and wants from an educational purpose they can select what option suits them. And then obviously we work around that timetable, some have freer timetables than others, but we make it work towards the individual’s needs.
And Andrew the subjects that Craig mentioned there, are they mostly sport related or is it all types of academia?
AD: We’re predominantly an A Level school but we do have a very good sports level three BTec programme that’s run by the teacher who’s also the key leader and driver of the rugby within the school, and that’s Sean Turner. So, there’s really something for everyone and that’s pretty critical.
Yes, I’ve spoken to Sean before when your age groups have got to Twickenham for national finals and the likes. So, what did you study then Tom?
TdG: I studied Biology, Geography and Maths.
TdG: Yes, that was a tricky one to fit it all in, but I just made sure I stayed on top of it and worked hard.
And did you get to the conclusion of your studies because you were at Uni up North – is that right?
TdG: Yes, I then went up to Leeds University post being at Beechen for a year to study Biology and that was fantastic. Again, for the Club to let me do that and follow my academic desires alongside finding places for me to play my rugby and develop as a player too.
Brilliant. Andrew, when you see your former pupils pulling on the blue, black and white of Bath, playing in the first team in the Premiership, playing European rugby, you must get a wonderful feeling?
AD: Oh, it’s a huge pride when I’m at the Rec on a normal Saturday afternoon, or Sunday afternoon, and sat there having lunch while the scrums are on it’s always something that’s really very, very special because people will turn around and say wasn’t he with you and there’s an awful lot of them. And I think again, that broader sort of sense of pride that we all share is fantastic. Same as we do, of course, when we see Max O’Leary or Zac Vider playing. Its just one of those things that brings it home to you how special it all is. And you know, they haven’t got there by accident it’s about the commitment about the determination of developing those skills. But for us and the Bath community it is so very important.
Craig, you said about your coaches working at the school, so is it the ethos from the first team group that goes up all the way through and cascades down into all the age groups is that ultimately what you are trying to achieve?
CL: Yeah, sure. Within then Club we have something that we call a game model. The game model has the principles we like to play in the game. So we don’t mirror completely to the first team because obviously the needs of an under 18 player are slightly different to what you need to produce at first team level. But we call it a spiral curriculum so these guys will come through certain principles and themes all the way through their journey from under 14 all the way through senior academy and hopefully to senior squad and the hope is that by the time they get to senior squad they’ve kind of the language, the common language, the principles, the tactics, the themes of what we do by the time they get to the senior squad, they have been through that for a number of years and obviously the only thing that the changes they go through is the level of challenge making it increasingly difficult as they come through. So that meets the demands of the senior squad.
Yes, get that. I’m not sure whether Andrew or Craig wants to answer this one but one of you will give me the answer, the female game is going on at a beautiful rate of knots, the evolution of the female game, where are you in relation to females playing rugby Andrew?
AD: It’s probably one better for Craig but we are definitely determined to develop that area because there is that enthusiasm and determination to see that take place.
CL: Yeah, I know there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. A friend of mine John Gould who I played rugby within the area, I know he’s doing a lot of work with that. In lockdown, I had a couple of conversations with him around how he can lean on the academy and ideas and at times resources to help from the game in that area. I often drive past Lambridge and see that there are a lot of activity down there so we are really keen to support that as much as we can.
That’s brilliant to hear because those guys playing down at Lambridge I had them on a few weeks ago and they’re keen for their rugby and to be supported by you, that would be amazing.
Tom, there might be some aspiring first team players listening right now in the age groups 15,16 years of age at Beechen Cliff, you’ve made that journey, you’re at the top end of that journey now, what kind of advice and guidance would you give to anyone hoping to emulate what you and others have done in terms of getting the education right and getting the rugby right? How do they get the balance?
TdG: I think it’s a tough one really but probably the best piece of advice I could give is just to make sure you are enjoying it and doing it because you are enjoying it. If it becomes something that is a chore and stresses you out and you no longer enjoy it - then don’t do it. It needs to be something, with your mates especially at Beechen, its such good culture there I think the most important thing is enjoying it and the journey because school rugby is a special thing and you only get it for a few years of your life so that would definitely be my piece of advice.
That’s great advice. How do you equate this is working successfully? Is it as brutal as saying x number of players must make it to the first team? How do you gauge, how do you quantify that one?
CL: I think the Academy and the reason it exists is to produce 50% home grown payers by 2023 and that’s something I suppose I will always be measured on, producing international players, developing the players that go on and play for the Premiership. But being a local boy from Bath, I know that it means more than that, that only a small number of players will go on and achieve that. If we can give the guys shared experiences, making memories together as Tom talked about, we hope the boys will go off and play for their local clubs or go off to Uni and play a bit of rugby and give them a really good platform to go on and achieve and maximise their potential whether its at Premiership level or local club level and that’s really important for us.
I get that, and the thing I’m really gauging from all three if you, is how this is really part of the city of Bath, not just Bath Rugby Club, but the culture is for the whole city, I think you mentioned that earlier didn’t you Andrew?
AD: Oh I did and I think it’s particularly important and I know that Bath Rugby form the outset have wanted it to be a part of that as well because the city as we know it is buzzing on a matchday and I think that can’t be forgotten in all of this it’s all about developing that aspiration and that enthusiasm and people like Tom who have come out of this and Gabe and others who are such exceptional exponents of this are really very much part of that and it gives us that focus all the time because we are all looking for role models always aren’t we to show us the way and I think that Bath Rugby understand that and recognizes that and that’s part of how we hope this will develop in the future.
Craig, I saw that Ethan Staddon and Max Wright were graduates with the first team group a few weeks ago, probably a few months ago now actually, how many have you got in the first team group at the moment who have evolved and graduated through the process is number wise?
CL: Within our senior academy we’ve got 19 players, slightly smaller number than that have come through Beechen, they’ve come from other schools as well, obviously Beechen is a partnership we have but we also have strong relationships and partnerships with other schools as well within the region. There’s Millfield, Sherbourne, Marlborough, lots of other schools around the area that we lean on to produce players as well. And then there a number of boys that have come through the senior academy and now sit with the senior squad and Tom being one of them.
What’s it like then Tom when to make that quantum leap, when you go from being one of the little fellas to being in with the big boys? What’s it like?
TdG: Ah I don’t know about that! Its pretty seamless to be honest with you because its such a good family and obviously there’s the likes of Miles Reid above me who’ve made that jump as well and I think coming back to the whole Beechen thing its just like one big family coming through you’ve got Miles above me you’ve got boys down in years below me you’ve got Ethan Staddon and Orlando Bailey just coming up through so I think it’s really actually quite seamless you almost don’t even notice it because everyone makes you feel so welcome.
That must be music to your ears listening to that Craig. That kind of seamless evolution that Tom’s described?
CL: That’s good to hear, that’s really good to hear! Its nice to see particular local boys, I use to be teacher within Bath, and I remember Miles Reid and Tom and the likes being at local athletics tournaments at the University of Bath and seeing them go on and representing their club and pulling on the jersey is special. So, its amazing to see their journey and what they are doing now.
Brilliant! Listen it’s a fascinating insight and clearly by the names you mentioned is working successfully which is great news, keep up the great work and keep up the pride in the people of Bath. Craig, great to chat to you. Tom, thanks for your thoughts and good luck Saturday against Quins and Andrew thanks to you as well, great to hear the stuff you are doing at Beechen Cliff.