2020 Scholarship Feedback

Posted: Wednesday 6th May 2020 - 1:00 PM


An introductory message from Darren Higgins, Head of Youth Development: "Prior to the recent lockdown, the Tigers' Youth Development department wrote to parents/guardians of our Under-15’s and Under-16’s Scholarship players to get feedback on their experience of the club and our Scholarship programme.

This feedback will be utilised as part of the recruitment process with this year’s Scholarship intake. We thought it would be useful to share this information and give people an insight into the work going on behind the scenes as the club looks to develop our next generation of players."

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As parents, our journey with Castleford started back in 2017. Our 14-year-old son at the time was lucky in that he had interest shown by 3 clubs. If we’re being honest, at the time we never really imagined him anywhere other than his hometown club at the time, it just felt like he would naturally follow the family path. Consequently, we had no expectations of what to expect when we first met Darren and the Castleford team. We think deep down we all felt he would be going elsewhere so didn’t put too much thought into his Castleford option. However, we will never forget the night we met the Castleford team, we hadn’t even got back to the car when my son said to us “I’m coming here”. Anyone that knows him will know once his mind is set there’s no challenging his decision, and the call was made to Darren fairly soon after to confirm he would be joining them.

Fast forward to now, he’s 17, in his first year of Academy but has recently been invited to join the First Team on a full-time basis. In the summer of 2019, he was selected for England and was recently included within the First Team squad for some Super League fixtures. It is quite phenomenal how far he has come in such a short space of time. Castleford will praise our son for his achievements, but we strongly believe that anything is possible when everyone is moving forward together aiming for the same goal, and at Castleford we have always felt they were/are fully invested in accomplishing his goal of being a professional rugby player.

You hear a lot of times it being said “if you’re good enough you’ll make it anywhere”, maybe this is the case, but we’re not too sure he would have enjoyed himself these past two years as much elsewhere. We’d never quite understood the meaning when people say, “we’re a family club”, but we do now.  As parents, all we wanted was honesty and a mutual level of commitment and dedication, and we got this in abundance from Castleford.

In September 2019 our youngest son also joined Castleford Tigers as a Scholar. He too had an offer from our hometown club, again we went to speak to them, and admit to being impressed with the opportunities they offered however, having witnessed first-hand as a family what Castleford Tigers deliver to a young aspiring rugby player, he never considered going elsewhere.

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My son joined Castleford Tigers in September 2019. Since then he has grown in confidence and matured both on the field and as an individual. 

The training is hard - it requires a full commitment from your son and from you as a parent. Our working week and weekends do revolve around his training. However, the gains have more than made this a worthwhile sacrifice. 

He is really well supported, and I feel that Castleford Tigers have delivered on their promise to both improve him as a player and to increase his knowledge and love of the game. Darren has been honest and not made any false promises about the future. However, the Scholarship is more than just rugby. The holistic approach to health, diet and lifestyle have given a valuable insight into the lifestyle required to sustain a professional sports career but also a healthy life. The physios provide excellent support in terms of injury management. The communication from them and the coaching staff keeps parents informed but also encourages the lads to be independent and take control themselves. 

My main concern when my son started the scholarship was that his schoolwork would suffer. Scholarship coincides with the most important school years.  However, he is definitely more focused as he has to manage his limited time more effectively. There has been no drop in his school performance, and he is more organised than before. 

The club encourages the lads to focus on their non-professional rugby future as much as their potential rugby future. I think this realistic approach means that the boys are well aware that they need a Plan B should Super League not come knocking!

I am so grateful that my boy has been given this opportunity to work with the professional coaching staff and to spend so much time doing what he loves. He has never complained or not wanted to train as he enjoys it so much. If you are considering other clubs for Scholarship, I doubt that your son could be better supported or developed as a player and a young person than they are at Castleford.

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When our son was being approached by clubs, we were very intent on hearing all clubs out, and selecting the club we believed would look after him and develop him not only as a player but also as a young man. Our decision has so far proven to be the right one as his skill set has improved from the excellent coaching as has his fitness and strength. The second-year scholarship lads have been welcoming, and though he’s the only player here from his community club side, that’s never been a problem. The line you often hear about this being “one club”, and “like a family” is 100% true, we wouldn’t change a thing!

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After joining Lock Lane after his team in Leeds folded our son has never looked back, he was advised to join the ETP sessions at Castleford Tigers in July 2019 and had an opportunity to play against Wakefield, Featherstone and York which was fantastic for any child interested in rugby league who might not have got an opportunity for a Scholarship.  He was selected on a one-year contract and from day one all the coaching staff including Darren Higgins have been amazing, the communication has been outstanding, it’s not just been about training in and out of the gym they’ve invested time in the kids by doing educational workshops, these have been very formative and really useful which both Alfie and myself have learnt a lot from. They are fast and efficient if anyone has an injury and really take care of the players' welfare reporting their progress. My son is more confident as a person he’s made some great friends at Castleford Tigers and his progress has been unbelievable and this is down to the organisation of the club and the great coaching staff they have there.

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My lad was given the opportunity of a few scholarships, we chose Cas for the way they coached and educated the players. The sessions are inclusive of all and each session ends with team bonding. My lad has improved both in his active skills (rugby, strength, speed, skills etc) and inactive skills (cooking, attitude, understanding of independence). I would recommend Castleford Tigers.

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My son joined the Castleford Tigers scholarship team in October ‘19. On meeting Darren and the other coaching staff we were made to feel welcome and instantly got the feeling that it is a well-run programme.

Unfortunately, my lad suffered a horrendous injury only 3 weeks into the Scholarship playing for his junior club, this put him out of action for 4 months. After informing Darren of his injury the response and support from the coaching staff, players, parents and First Team coaches and players was incredible. The physio team took over his rehabilitation and even attended hospital appointments to make sure they knew everything what was going on! The media team even arranged get well soon messages from Daryl Powell and the First Team, which really helped him mentally.

He is now back to full strength and back training, although a few months behind the rest of the lads, all the lads and coaches have helped him. This is a true testament to everyone involved at Castleford Tigers of how they nurture the young talent and I’m so pleased and proud he’s part of their program and getting the best coaching, support and advice. I cannot praise and thank them enough, great club!

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I would like to say that we have found Castleford Tigers to be a very supportive club. Everyone is welcoming and friendly. We have felt at ease when we have had problems as the staff make you feel that you can speak to them at any time.

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2018/2019 was a very exciting time for me.  Not only was I hoping my son could earn himself a Scholarship I was also hoping some of my players from Lock Lane could do the same as I have been coaching some of the lads since they were 7 years old. I met Darren Higgins a few years ago when he introduced himself at one of our under-12s games my first impression of Darren was very positive he was polite and after the game he gave me good feedback about the team and told me he would be dropping down to watch more games over the next couple of years. With Lock Lane only being around the corner from Castleford Tigers all the players would go to the ETP sessions and all of them loved it.

During the under-13s season, many scouts came to watch us play and all of them would talk and ask about players but what I liked about Castleford was they asked about players but also spoke about the team which I thought was good. I received an email asking for the whole team to go for a training session down at Castleford High. That session I got to meet Danny Evans who was going to be Head Coach for the upcoming Scholarship side. After the session, I got to have a quick talk with Darren and Danny and that's when I really got a good feeling for the club they were really enthusiastic about what they were going to do and spoke about several players (one being my own) which was brilliant. Over the next few months, I took the team to other clubs for sessions.

At one of our games Darren spoke to me about my son so I got get some information as a parent which I enjoyed and what I liked is Darren told me to let my son experience every club not just Castleford, go and look everywhere that invites you so you know your options.  I found that really honest not only from Darren but the club as well because they wanted us to be happy. As it got further into the season other clubs started asking about him but also several players from his team, so as their coach I had parents asking my opinion. We went to these other clubs, about seven of us went to one and nine of the lads to another, and the lads enjoyed.

My son started to get stressed for the last month before he decided to sign at Castleford as I know some of his teammates did they were all talking at training all the time about who's going to want to sign them and to be fair it was awful. One club got in touch with me and said they wanted to sign a couple of the lads from Lock Lane which I was excited as it was a first real offer knowing he would get a Scholarship. I told that club that we needed to think and see what happens. Within the next week another club and Darren from Castleford got in touch. Darren asked us to come in for a meeting to talk about my son.

During the meeting, I was sold on Darren because he spoke about what he loved about him and what he had seen him achieve in the last couple of seasons. He spoke about where they see him and what he could achieve as a Castleford Tiger. At the end of the meeting there was no pressure from Darren he just said have a good think and whatever you decide is fine with Castleford all he asked was if we didn't choose Cas could we let them know so they could give another player a chance. A week before the deadline some of the lads were at Lock Lane training who had been offered Scholarships from a number of clubs and when they asked where do you think we should go I just remembered what Darren had said to Taylor and I said where you feel you will be happy.

On the way home in the car, my lad said I want to sign for Castleford dad, I just said good I want you to as well. I rang Darren and said he would be signing he just said that's great news thanks. We got in touch with the other clubs that had offered Taylor a Scholarship and told them he wouldn't be signing. After he had made his decision it was brilliant a weight had been lifted and it was great as eight players in total signed from Lock Lane to Castleford Tigers. They have loved their start to the Scholarship and it also helps me at Lock Lane as they bring their scholarship training into our training.  Darren and his team have been brilliant throughout the scouting to the signing and now the training, I don’t think I would have wanted him to sign anywhere else.

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My son has thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cas Tigers, he has grown as a person and been given the skills he needed to not only turn into a better rugby player but also a more educated young man. He always wants to go to training and always leaves with a smile, I can’t thank Cas enough for this experience he has been participating in and can honestly say it’s been informative and a nice experience for the whole family! It is tough and it’s challenging but the hard work pays off.

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My son joined the Scholarship program last year having come from outside the Castleford area, and not knowing any of the other players.  The intensity of the training sessions was a big step up from what he’d been used to, but as we drove home afterwards I could see that he was really enjoying it, he was very positive about both the coaching and the other players and was clearly learning so much.

I’ve since asked him what in particular he finds good about the program and he mentions how for everything Cas does, its purpose is clearly explained and how all the different things you do fit together. That’s my impression as a parent too – a lot of thought and planning has gone into creating a really comprehensive program that will develop the lads as both players and people. 

I’m sure that any player with the right attitude will benefit so much and we are very happy to recommend the program to anyone.

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For any young lad that is looking at being offered a Scholarship from Castleford Tigers this coming season, I would say grab it with both hands. My boy is now in his second year with the Tigers and I can honestly say that he has enjoyed every minute of it. He says it is hard work but worth it. All the coaching staff are really friendly, helpful and approachable for players and parents. I would highly recommend the Castleford Tigers Scholarship Programme.

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From a Parent of a Castleford Tigers Scholarship Child perspective:
The week in week out, day in day out commitment and expectation that is put on the Parents of your child is huge and should not be underestimated.  However, the reward of watching your child play the sport that they love, seeing the enjoyment on their face, watching your son blossom, is worth every bit of effort on your part.

There is every opportunity to make new friends with other parents along the way as we have done. Family orientated atmosphere.

From a Childs point of view:
The guidance, coaching, encouragement, and discipline given by the coaching staff is second to none in the Rugby League arena in the UK. Our child has become a well-rounded adult, who has lots of friends and an excellent supporting network from Castleford Tigers. Should your child be unfortunate enough to become injured, the medical team is on hand any day of the week for advice and support.

The club teaches children how to become an adult; teaches them discipline; teaches them what is right and wrong, and how to conduct themselves in general life.

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As parents of two Scholarship players at two different clubs, we can tell you that Castleford Tigers offer everything that will help your child to be a successful Scholarship Player.

The Scholarship pathway is equal across all teams but at Castleford you will benefit from a family-friendly ethos matched with exceptional coaching.  Regardless of a child’s age, their talent will be recognised, and he will be accelerated through the ranks to train with older players of the same capabilities ensuring they are constantly challenged, and their commitments recognised.

Darren Higgins, Head of Youth Performance is available for both player and parents in person, on the phone or via email at any time and is extremely supportive, is open with giving information regarding the Scholarship and your individual child and genuinely wants the best for each player and family.

The Club has an open-door policy allowing parents to convene inside the facilities whilst the players are training.  This is a fantastic opportunity for parents to meet and get to know one another, further strengthening the team bond. It is clear to see that there is a progression from Scholarship to the First Team and the pride of everyone involved in developing a player through the ranks is unmistakably evident.

We as a family are more than happy with everything that is on offer at Castleford. Our son is embracing every opportunity and is happier than he has ever been, and this is evident through his training commitments at Castleford, at his amateur club and away from rugby.  He is definitely enjoying the whole package which has made him grow as an individual.

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We have been involved with the Scholarship at Castleford for nearly two years now. The programme is excellent, with access to education, life skills, strength and conditioning, and rugby-related training. The programme is well rounded and has enabled my lad to develop in all areas. It feels very focused on rugby, but I have also been impressed with the focus on developing them as young men outside of rugby.

Although nothing is ever guaranteed, opportunities are given to the lads who work hard. There is a genuine feeling that all the coaches care about the lads and they are dedicated to ensuring they have everything they need to progress.

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My son had a couple of clubs interested in signing him and we went to look around them all. He knew quite a few more boys at the other clubs but he liked Castleford right from the beginning and once we had met Darren and been for a look around we all decided as a family that Castleford was the right choice.

As his mum, I was worried about him not knowing anyone as several of the signings came from Lock Lane, but he soon settled in. Although some of this is down my son himself, some of it is definitely because Castleford feels like a family club and they really look after the lads and get to know them all individually.

He unfortunately got injured not far into the Scholarship and Castleford was great, very supportive and understand of the situation.

To come to Castleford feels like an honour, you must work hard be committed and take it seriously but if you do those things I don’t think there is a better Scholarship set up to go to.

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Our son joined Castleford U16s last year and he felt it was an honour to be given such an opportunity to play for such a high-profile club. We are really pleased how much he has learnt in such a short time and it really shows when he plays for his community club and it has been mentioned by other coaches.  The professionalism of how the workshops run for both the lads and us parents is second to none and they are very interesting too.  Big thanks to the coaches and Darren for all your commitment, our lad has met friends for life I believe. 

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Our son has been loving every minute of being part of the Castleford Scholarship, the club, staff and coaches are very professional and have a great philosophy on what a pro sportsperson should be. In the time he’s been with the club, we have seen our son mature not only as a player but into a young man and he’s taking on the challenge well and we’re very proud of the young man and sportsperson he’s turning into with the help of the Tigers club. The training is hard no doubting that but the benefits and skill levels are now showing through and the improvements he’s been making whilst there are showing  and he seems to be thriving on all the challenges of making himself a better rugby player/sportsperson. With Castleford, it is not just the physical playing side they teach it’s also the mental side they address on the field and in the classroom and they really invest in the welfare and wellbeing of all the players. The club are doing a great job in getting all the lads ready for their next step in their rugby careers.

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We would like to say that we have found the whole process of Scholarship excellent.  From the first contact from scouts to the 1-2-1 meeting prior to Scholarship being offered.  Staff at Castleford have always been open and honest and very encouraging to our son and held an open-door policy for parents and players.  Our son always looks forward to training and enjoys all the different elements that come with this. We have found the education and nutrition parts brilliant! We really have nothing but praise for the club!

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