Article posted on: September 05, 2016
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Superb venue with everything that a rugby team would require to prepare for a new season. Brighton College, Hagetmau, 2016
Those first few fixtures at the start of the school year are vital in securing the rest of the season and, ultimately, deciding where your school finishes at the end of the season.
Most schools have their first fixture during the first week back at school, meaning players have very little time to practise and come together as a team after the long summer break.
And it isn’t really until 3 or 4 games into the season that most teams have the time to train together and hit their stride.
However, forward-thinking rugby teams can plan for this. At the end of the school holidays they can come together to spend an intensive four to five days living, eating and training together, so that by the time their first fixture comes along they are a well-oiled machine of sporting dominance.
Brighton College are among these forward planners and, for the last few seasons, we have been honoured to arrange their preseason camp for them. This year took them back to one of their favourite locations - the South of France.
Brighton elected to maximise team bonding and keep costs low by taking a mighty 85 seat coach down to their training camp. In fact, the coach was so impressive that when it arrived locals took trips down with their kids just to marvel at its size!
While the bulk of players travelled this way, some of the students had very busy schedules meaning that during the training camp we had various people coming and going from and to England, Geneva, Sardinia and elsewhere in France. However, our super operations department were on top of everything with taxis and transfers, meaning that all students were where they needed to be, when they needed to be there - which for over 80 people is quite a feat of organisation.
Someone once said that “an army marches on its stomach” and a sports team is no different. Anyone who has taken a sports tour can tell you that it doesn’t matter how good the other elements of the tour are - if the food isn’t tasty and isn’t plentiful then the tour will be a flop.
To be honest, most places just don’t get, or don’t understand the needs of 80+ ravenous rugby lads who are training for over 8 hours a day. But our team at Halsbury Sport is made up of specialists who understand a sports tour just isn’t like any other tour and that the needs of the tourists are different.
I’m happy to report that the Brighton College rugby machine was well fuelled at each and every meal, with a couple of starters and desserts each from a choice of 4 or 5, a meaty main course with mountains of veg and carbs and for anyone who was still hungry truckloads of tasty French bread, cheese, fruits and yogurts .
The facility we use in the South of France is absolutely immense and is used by the French Olympic Squad and several other elite athletes. You eat on site, train on site and sleep on site in ground level beach-style huts that house 6 multi-bed rooms, all with private facilities and all grouped together to make it easier to supervise students.
Because everything is on site you don’t have to waste any time on a coach travelling from one place to another – it’s all there for you to just focus on training.
There’s a weights gym with Olympic lifting facilities, as well as machines and functional movement apparatus like medicine balls and kettlebells. Right next to that is a fitness studio which is perfect for working on lifting form, yoga and stretches.
You can cool off, stretch out and work on some rehab in the Olympic-sized pool, with its water slide and glass roof, which allows the glorious summer sunshine in.
Facilities are rounded off with a dojo with specialist flooring to let you work on take downs and grappling in a safe and controlled environment. There’s also a 400m Mondo running track which is brilliant for working on speed and agility, as well as perfecting your running technique.
There’s even a 9-hole golf course, if you fancy bringing your clubs!
Brighton College had two of the four on-site rugby pitches reserved for their own private use and took full advantage of these every day. They worked on phase play, passing drills, fitness, tag rugby and games similar to rugby, like Kabaddi.
Frankly it was exhausting just watching them but, looking at the team’s progress from the start to the end of the tour, it was easy to see the value in having these pitches available “24/7”. It allowed them to bring the team together and turn them in to a well-oiled machine, ready for their week one fixtures.
While Brighton College brought plenty of kit down with them they were able to take full advantage of our fantastic local links too. We arranged for them to borrow additional kit from the local semi-pro rugby team in the form of tackle shields and equipment. We were even able to source a scrum machine for them to use to create a ferocious force among the forwards.
The Day Off
Brighton College are veterans of preseason training camps and they know that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” - so they’re always keen to build in an off-site activity for the boys. The criteria are normally something physical, something fun and something that will get them to bond further as a team.
This year we arranged white water rafting in the beautiful city of Pau. We took over the white water rafting centre and, despite initially planning to base ourselves outside, some freak rain showers scuppered our plans.
Anyone who has toured before can tell you that finding shelter for nearly 90 people at the drop of a hat isn’t easy. However, Brighton College had elected to be accompanied by not one but two tour reps.
So my French counterpart and I headed off to the rafting centre ahead of Brighton College. By the time the team arrived we had already sourced a beautiful sheltered area, looking out over the white water course. We’d also managed to have a bunch of tables and chairs set up for the squad’s comfort.
The rafting itself was phenomenal with a lot of fun had by all. The boys were thrilled to have an hour going around the course and, after a few times around with the instructors, once the centre staff felt confident in the boys they “abandoned ship” and let the boys really come together as a team whilst they traversed the course by themselves. Of course, the centre’s large safety team watched them like hawks the whole time!
We finished off the rafting with races down the course before everyone abandoned the rafts and jumped in feet first for a couple of circuits around the course just floating/hurtling down the course in the water themselves in what was the ultimate water slide – this was a real highlight for most of the boys.
In the end I think it’s safe to say an absolutely fantastic preseason camp was had by all! It was clear to see how the boys had improved between the beginning and the end of the tour, and how ready they now were for their first fixture.
It was a genuine pleasure to watch them in action and humbling to see so much skill in people so young. The Brighton College boys were a joy to work with - monsters in the gym and on the pitch but polite and respectful gentleman off of it.
They were a real credit to their school, and everyone we came across in France commented on how fantastic the boys were – there’s surely no higher accolade to Brighton College and the indefatigable staff who made it all possible.
Thank you for letting me come along, and your week 1 opponents better watch out!
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