BEARS HAVE HIGH EDUCATION
Higher Education at the Bears
Michael Shires takes a look at how the Bears have some deep roots in the Student game and how it has featured in the development of the club this season.
One real area of success for Rugby League in the last fifty years has been the phenomenal growth of Student Rugby League. The first University to be allowed a team - yes you read correctly "allowed", by its student union fearing it may impact on rugby union - was Leeds University in the 1960's. They played in the local Leeds and District leagues for a number of years until a team was formed at Liverpool University and the first higher education student fixture took place.
From this small acorn higher education institutions across the land now have proud Rugby League sections. Check them out at http://www.universityrl.co.uk/
The beauty of Student Rugby League is that people who would not ordinarily become involved in Rugby League have the chance to do so. This was certainly true of Coventry Bears founder and owner, Alan Robinson who first played the game whilst at Coventry University.
Alan is not alone in a number of former students setting up clubs e.g. London Skolars, as the name suggests, was formed by Hector McNeil specifically for former students in North London and eventually became the professional club it is now. The deliberate mis-spelling being linked to a sponsorship deal with 'Skol' lager.
The Student Rugby League is also a great source of players for clubs in Kingstone Press League 1. A look at the Coventry Bears' playing ranks shows this to be true. There are no less than 16 former and current Student Rugby League players who have played League 1 for the Bears this season e.g. Chris Barratt (Coventry University), Dan Parker (Leeds Beckett), Richie Hughes (Liverpool John Moores), Morgan Evans (Bath University), Jason Bass (Northumbria University), Jack Francis (Leeds Beckett), Alex Brown (Coventry University), Tom Hall (Leeds Beckett), Liam Thompson (Leeds Beckett), Cameron Boulter (Runshaw College), Dylan Bale (Coventry University), Elliott Holton (Loughborough College), Andy Winfield (Cambridge University), Alex Calvert and Callum Wishart (Loughborough University) John Aldred (Coventry University). A large number of other players also played for Coventry Bears Reserves.
Student Rugby League has produced and been responsible for producing Super League players e.g. Brian Carney, John Wells, Andy Raleigh and current St Helens player Alex Walmsley, having all played at student level. The Bears also enjoy a good working relationship with Coventry University and can offer Rugby League scholarships to aspiring players with an academic ambition. If you are free on Wednesday afternoons during term time I can heartily recommend you go along and watch Coventry University for yourself. You will be pleasantly surprised at the standard.
In some ways at the Bears we perhaps have the most educated team in the league. Our head coach, Tom Tsang, is also a university graduate. As we all know, learning is life long, and at present we are being taught some difficult lessons on the pitch in how to play Rugby League at this standard and indeed operate as a club. However, with such pedigree we are learning quickly and will hopefully move up the league table on our way towards the goal of being top of the class.
You can read more HERE on the Coventry University Scholarship scheme.