At the age of 15, rugby starts to really resemble the adult game; there are 8-man competitive scrums, full lineouts with lifting and players really begin to specialise in their position. Instead of short matches in mini tournaments, there are single 60 minute + matches in a league format. Due to the specialisation and increased physical demands, mid-week sessions are introduced at this level and possibly at U15 level from next season.
An unfortunate quirk of the Belgian youth system is that players graduating from one age group inherit the league position of their predecessors. Relatively young clubs like BBRFC Celtic therefore have to battle their way up the divisions over the years. For the U-17s we've made a promising start, winning Division 4 in 2010/11 and finishing the season strongly in Division 3 last year. When this golden generation graduated to U19s, we joined forces with the Div 3 winners, BSB who faced a similar situation to form a joint BSB-Celtic U17s who currently play in Division 2. This year we launched our first ever U19s team who are having another strong season.
Of course a primary goal is to develop talent for our Senior team and those who are physically ready are already beginning to make impressive debuts.
At BBRFC Celtic, motivation comes not from a screaming coach (although we're not immune from getting over-excited, sorry refs!) but rather from a team ethic, knowing that the players around you are giving everything and inspiring you to do the same. The coaching philosophy is pragmatic, not dogmatic with players being encouraged to play 'heads up rugby' based on reacting to the situation as it unfolds and not so many pre-emptive set plays. Top players do the basics well and under pressure, so at BBRFC Celtic there is a strong focus on skills and decision making in game situations. Players are encouraged to learn different styles of play which can be deployed as the need arises.
As we move up the divisions we remain committed to individual development. We strongly support the representative teams as part of coaching team of the provincial Vlaamse Brabant U17s (Zwarte Panters) which has a strong BBRFC Celtic contingent. From there players progress to the regional Flemish team before the Belgian national teams. At least for now, players ready for national team tend to transfer to Div 1 teams, not least to ensure regular exposure to high quality opposition. At BBRFC Celtic we are not afraid of this and encourage players to be ambititous. BBRFC Celtic is a great place to start your rugby journey, which can take you wherever you want it to.
Our recruitment of players is diverse ranging from the local belgian schools, our neighbouring european school and the other 4 EEBs, BICS, ISB. BBRFC Celtic is a social, friendly club and players mix regardless of their school background. The highlight of our social calendar is our annual end of season tour. Unlike the senior tour where players from a strong rugby culture descend on a rugby backwater and still get beaten (in fairness often with a somewhat impaired prowess), our goal beyond team bonding is to go to a rugby heartland to immerse the group in a rugby tradition. Our inaugural tour was to the East Midlands, UK in 2011 and last year to South West, France. Not to be missed!
As is the nature of an international city, all too often players move on to pastures new. However, we like to think that is not an excuse to avoid putting down roots, because wherever you are in the world, rugby has given you a passport to fun and friendship... and you'll always be a BC!