Shetland Rugby Club will shortly be advertising for a full-time development officer after successfully gaining grant funding for the post.
The project is aimed at developing the sport in the isles at grassroots level through partnership working with SIC sport and leisure and the Scottish Rugby Union.
While the development officer will be employed directly by Shetland RFC it is intended that they will be based with the SIC active schools team at Hayfield House and work closely with them to provide rugby coaching to primary and secondary schools throughout Shetland.
James Johnston, active schools manager at the SIC, said: “We are delighted to be part of the team that will manage the rugby development officer over the next two years and would like to congratulate Shetland Rugby Club for all the hard work they have undertaken to secure the funding for this post. This is the first time that a sports club in Shetland has created a full-time development officer post and we are excited about the opportunities this appointment will bring to Shetland for primary and secondary school participation, coaching, refereeing and club development.”
As well as providing coaching in schools it is also intended to run “summer schools” and “rugby camps” during the holidays to continue the growth rugby has enjoyed in Shetland over the last few years.
Forbes Hogg, president of Shetland RFC, said: “The ideal scenario is that we can create enough interest in rugby to be able to have a Shetland team competing in the Scottish Schools Cup on a regular basis. Kirkwall Grammar from Orkney and the Nicolson Institute in the Western Isles both take part and I see no reason why Shetland can’t also be competing at this level.”
As part of the agreement with the SRU the development officer will also be asked to provide the Hygiene, Healthy Eating and Activity in Primary Schools (HHEAPS) programme. The HHEAPS initiative has been developed by FSA Scotland as a resource for schools to raise children’s awareness of the benefits of food hygiene, healthy eating and physical activity.
Brian Bell of SRU said: “Scottish Rugby is delighted to support Shetland Rugby Club with their ground-breaking initiative to have a rugby development officer in Shetland. The youth across the islands will benefit greatly from the post, with extra opportunities to participate in all forms of the sport from non-contact TAG rugby to full contact games. With this increased activity exciting times lie ahead for the club itself which will become stronger with the players of the future being developed for years to come.”
Shetland RFC will be advertising the post shortly with the aim of having the development officer in post before the end of the year.
The employment of a sport specific development officer is seen as a critical step in Shetland Rugby Club developing and growing. Bryan Leask, coach of Shetland RFC, said: “When you see the impact that the development officers have had across Scotland I think this is a fantastic step forward for the club. We owe a great deal of thanks to the SIC and SRU for their help in putting together the funding packages as well as E&H Building Contractors for their generous sponsorship for the post.”
Shetland Rugby Club is one of the oldest clubs in Shetland having been originally formed in 1878. It currently competes in the RBS Caledonia Division 3 and has started strongly with four wins out of four in the league as well as a convincing 45-5 victory away to Inverness Craig Dunain in the RBS Regional Bowl where the average age of the team was only 21.
The project will be part-financed by the Scottish government and the European Community Shetland LEADER 2008-2013 Programme as well as the Scottish Rugby Union and private sponsors.