With around 400 youngsters across 16 teams, West Park Leeds RUFC must boast one of the most formidable junior set-ups on the Yorkshire sporting scene.
From the under-6 Hurricanes to the under-18 Colts for the boys and Kites for the girls, West Park describe themselves as a place where everybody is welcome to play, watch, or volunteer.
And director of rugby, Myles Rutherford, says that West Park is more than just a rugby union club, it is a fully-fledged community.
“I’ve been involved in rugby for about 25 years,” Myles says.
“If I’m speaking to a parent I say I’m quite fortunate because rugby has made me the way I am, who I am, because it’s a large part of my life.
“I’ve met a lot of good people playing rugby and I’ve been very well looked after at the rugby club – not just from the playing side of things where you’re learning new skills, you’re building social relationships, but there’s a massive network around rugby.
“Whether it might be needing work or needing help from someone to do something, I think that’s the biggest thing with this sport, that there’s always someone willing to help you if you need it.
“That’s something we’re trying to look at at West Park Leeds; helping people get work, making sure they’re looked after so they’re not just coming to play rugby, they’re coming to be a part of a community.”
Situated just outside Leeds in Bramhope, West Park start fostering this sense of community in their players at a very young age. The youth set-up is split into mini and junior, with split boys’ and girls’ teams from 13 and up.
The youngest, in the mini section, feature teams as varied as the Tornadoes, Knights and Wolverines, with the training sessions for the smallest groups focused largely on general motor skills and having fun rather than the actual rough and tumble of rugby union.
“It’s more in regards to functional movement skills, rather than any sort of structure,” Myles adds.
“The aim is to be as fun as possible so it might not particularly look like rugby.
“It starts off non-contact and then they go to tag a little bit later on.
“There will be some individual coaching but the main philosophy is behind more of a games-based philosophy, or a ‘whole-part-whole’ philosophy where it’s games-based, drill-based, games-based to try and build the knowledge of the players.”
Where some clubs prefer to focus on either the competitive, participation, or social side of sport, West Park don’t feel there is a need to choose; the size of the club means they can focus on all the positive influences that junior sport can bring to their kids.
“Across the board we cover everything, I feel,” Myles says.
“We try to be as flexible as possible depending on what people’s lifestyle allows.
“From working with anyone in development stages, we try to look at more fun and enjoyment.
“The club has a policy that every person will get at least half a game. We follow that through to the seniors as well, so everybody will get to play.”
And parents can be assured that their children will be getting some of the best youth coaching in the region, with an extensive list of passionate, experienced coaches and some impressive club facilities.
West Park’s all-weather pitch at the Sycamores was redeveloped in 2008, and the clubhouse has been used as a training camp by Yorkshire Carnegie and England since then.
While the club has come a long way since its foundation in 1959, its commitment to junior development is part of a long tradition, having been first formed by masters and parents of West Park School.
The club still suffers from the Achilles heel of any junior sports club – its players going off to university – but the pathway from the youth system to one of the men’s or women’s senior teams is there for any who stay in the area.
Given the prestige of the club and the quality of coaching on offer, it is hard to imagine why any players would want to leave.
Name: West Park Leeds RUFC
Based: Clubhouse, The Sycamores, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS16 9JR
Kids catered for: 350-450
Get involved: Contact Myles Rutherford, 07533248336
Training: Wednesday evenings 6-9pm.