Instigating change is never easy but that is exactly what the University of St Andrews Rugby Club is trying to do with the launch of their new vision, designed to help them become the “best student rugby club in the world” by 2020. The vision, comprised of five major strands, is the brainchild of Director of Rugby, David Ross and the other coaching staff and aims to help guide the club’s development moving forward.
The first strand of this vision is, perhaps unsurprisingly, centred upon the University rugby programme. Performances on the field and the continued development of the teams fielded by the club are obviously important but this development aims to make the teams even more robust and provide an environment that enables further expansion.
Working with the University, in particular the development office, the admissions team, and other sports clubs, makes up the second strand of the vision, whilst the third strand focuses on the club’s work with the local community. With regards to this objective, club members will increasingly be involved in outreach programmes with local schools and will continue with current initiatives, such as that fostered by the women’s team who are currently volunteering at a local care home for the elderly.
Strand four of the new vision will see the club involved in more international work. Some of this will focus on recruitment but most of it will be catered towards tours – both for the club itself and in encouraging visiting teams to stop off in the Auld Grey Toon.
Finally, Strand five is focused on the club’s social side and the events that they put on throughout the year. Some work in this category is already evident, with the Varsity game earlier in the season and the St Andrews Sevens event on the horizon for April. This April will also be monumental for the club as they will be sending a side to play at the Melrose Sevens competition, the oldest sevens competition in world rugby. St Andrews will not be competing in the tournament itself but will play a glamour exhibition tie against a side from the University of Edinburgh immediately before the final, with the match broadcast on BBC Scotland and online.
The club did receive some backlash from fellow Scottish Universities after the launch of the vision a couple of weeks ago, with Edinburgh and Strathclyde particularly vocal in their criticism. Their qualms mainly focused on what they perceived to be a vision that lacked identifiable change and also from a clear misinterpretation of St Andrews’ aim to be “the best student rugby club in the world.”
Obviously, the on-field performances are key, but the aim of this vision is not to make St Andrews world beaters overnight; instead, it aims to make the club the best place to play student rugby in the world, not just in the UK, because of the extra work they do off the pitch and the camaraderie they are able to foster between players of all abilities and genders. Indeed, Edinburgh and Strathclyde’s comments come across as narrow-minded and as Mr Ross pointed out, “It is not always easy to lead, but I’d rather lead St Andrews forward than just sit back in the shadows.”
To some, their vision may sound far-fetched, but you only need take a good look at the work the club are doing to see that they have made progress and are working towards building something truly special here in north east Fife.
The continued incorporation of the men’s and women’s teams within the club is a real benchmark, whilst the organisation of the club is truly impressive. Mr Ross and his coaching staff have set out this vision, breaking it down into semesters and setting clear, achievable goals for each semester. In this way, progress is clearly measurable – if a goal set at the start of a semester has been achieved, then that can be considered a step forward on the way towards the ultimate goal in 2020.
One need look no further than the coach himself, David Ross, for another tangible sign of progress. There is a steely determination about the coach, who has been with the University since 2010, and it clearly resonates with the players. During his time at the University he has seen a lot of change and by comparing the gym facilities when he arrived in St Andrews to now, you can see that progress is achievable.
He will be heading out to New Zealand in April for a month to conduct the first ever recruitment work by St Andrews in the country by visiting two of the nation’s biggest private schools. St Andrews is a truly global university and if the rugby club’s vision means they can contribute to it, then we should be all for it. There is a really good sense of morale around the rugby club at the moment, with the players demonstrating a constant desire for improvement, both on the field and off it. With much still to play for in the remainder of the semester, things are looking very bright for the University of St Andrews Rugby Club.