Education the focus of Rookie Camp

From November 6 to 8 the brightest junior rugby league stars from Canberra and the surrounding regions gathered for the Canberra Raiders inaugural Rookie Camp. The camp was attended by 30 U16’s and 30 U18’s players with a focus on not only producing good athletes, but turning youth into good people, a particular area of focus given these players make up the future for the Raiders.

In previous years the camp’s numerous education sessions were held over multiple weekends, with 2015 the first time it has been combined into a single weekend. With many of the attendees coming from regional areas this helped logistically in cutting down multiple trips and weekend commitments. Parents of players were invited to Friday night’s dinner given how important they are to a junior player’s development.

The focus for many of the talks was on improving the professionalism and wellbeing of attendees. The Australian Federal Police held a social media information session, with all attendees having their social media profiles analysed for anything that was potentially offensive or outside of what is acceptable on social media. This was a particularly important session given the heavy use of social media by youth and the potential issues arising from this.

Former club captain and legend of the game Alan Tongue spoke to the teams about making better choices and educating players about their personal brand. Tongue is heavily involved in community work since his retirement and is an ideal role model for youth. Raiders’ junior club doctor Wilson Lo and nutritionist Lee Woodbridge also provided talks to the players about staying safe when taking supplements and proper nutrition for optimal performance.

It wouldn’t be a camp without time spent on the training field and players were also tested physically with a series of testing fitness and skills sessions. With many new players in the teams the weekend was a great way for players to get to know each other on and off the field.

The presentation with the most impact came from Hugh van Cuylenburg of the Resilience Project, who delivered a talk aimed at teaching youth how to increase mental wellbeing and positivity. Hugh has worked with many high profile teams in the past including the Melbourne Storm and is currently contracted by the NRL to deliver his talk across Australia. The presentation was confronting in parts with Hugh’s experiences in poverty stricken areas of India showing the players how grateful they should be for what they have. Sports Life IQ also gave a talk to the teams about health and wellbeing in order for them to achieve their personal and sporting goals.

The weekend’s highlight for many was the dinner on Saturday night, with Raiders head coach Ricky Stuart joined by current players Paul Vaughan and Luke Bateman for an open question and answer session which could have continued on all night. Having both come through the Raiders junior system, Vaughan and Bateman were excellent examples of where hard work and commitment may lead.

The weekend was extremely well received by all participants, with the change to a single weekend being viewed as positive by all. Both squads will now continue pre-season training that will hopefully turn them into better players and even better people.