by Rob Baxter, Head Coach of the Exeter Chiefs
What is the role and importance of your academy?
It’s one of the questions I get asked the most when people want to understand the structure and culture at Exeter Chiefs.
Really, there is no one simple answer but in my view there are some key areas.
Firstly, from a strictly business perspective developing our own players is important for several reasons. We invest a lot of money and time into our academy so getting a return on this investment is important and bringing through our own players shows that there is a real value in working hard to provide a quality pathway into the Premiership.
Alongside this Premiership regulations make it financially beneficial to have a squad made up largely from English Qualified Players (EQP’s) and our homegrown players, that develop into senior players, are also viewed positively under the salary cap regulations.
Although the financial and squad management issue is an important role of the academy it is, in my opinion, not as important as the emotional part our academy plays in the success of the club. To me, seeing young men who have lived locally and grown up with Exeter Chiefs as their Premiership Club, training and playing with our various academy teams and striving to be the best they can be is really what our academy brings to the club.
These young men have an emotional bound to the club that cannot be underestimated, having a dream plays a huge part in the career of a professional sportsman, and our academy system does everything it can to make the dream a possibility for anyone who is prepared to work hard enough.
All of our academy coaches and support staff understand the qualities we want our players to possess and because of the time that they spend with our young players developing these qualities it means that when they enter our senior programme they are not only good players, they are also good men.
I always like to think that a really good rugby club is there first and foremost to provide an opportunity for people to play rugby to the best of their abilities and then to provide a meeting place and entertainment for the people who choose to come to support them.
Our academy is the start of the opportunity process for local players, and how good is it when their families, friends and the people from the area they represent can be there to support them.