Twenty aspiring rugby league players have enrolled on the pioneering Education Course being offered by the Vikings. These young men have signed-up to continue their education under the guidance of expert staff, in pursuit of a BTEC Extended Diploma in Performance and Excellence.
Students will study the 19 modules across two years in the confines of The Select Security Stadium, utilising the exceptional facilities used by Denis Betts’ first team squad, with the aim of further increasing their opportunity to succeed in their quest to secure a full-time career in the game.
Alongside studying, students including the Vikings’ AASE cohort will train up to 12 hours per week under the tutelage of the club’s Performance Staff, making this a truly unique educational offer.
To ensure the best possible experience and provision is achieved, the Vikings have bolstered their resource with the appointment of Julian Haigh, as Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Youth set-up at the club.
Julian is currently completing his Master’s Thesis, having spent the last two seasons working within the Vikings’ Strength & Conditioning team, which has seen him gain experience in an elite sporting environment with both first grade and junior players. This is part of a partnership between the club and Liverpool John Moore's University which sees the students gather and analyse data for Masters Degrees by research, under the supervision of both Clive Brewer and Dr Graeme Close from the University. Prior to joining the Vikings, Julian had a season long internship at Everton FC.
Key responsibilities for Julian include, assisting in the development and delivery of strength and conditioning and sports science to players at all levels, with a particular focus on the academy programme.
Delighted to be joining the Vikings in a full-time capacity, Julian Haigh commented: “This is a great opportunity, not only for me but also all the young lads coming through. It’s been a great two years, and I've learnt so much. We have been on a journey to what we all expect to be a bright future for the club.
“Being full-time will enable me to really focus on the athletic development of the young players, and the work with the first team squad will help transfer learning back through the clubs development system.
“I owe a big thanks to Clive (Brewer) and all the other staff for their help and for providing me with the opportunity to take this a step further and into a full time capacity. Also to Dr Graeme Close, my Director of Studies at LJMU for his guidance throughout my studies.”
Vikings CEO James Rule, added: “This is a fantastic step in the evolution of the youth structure at the Club. I am excited by the potential it has to develop the enrolees, not just as players but also as young men, as we seek to develop their physical and mental abilities.
“It is also pleasing that we have been able to inject more investment into our performance environment, with the employment of Julian who will support both the youth structure and first team players. In addition, we will shortly be employing another Physiotherapist, who again will be working across all age grades within the Club. Investments such as these are invaluable for the long-term development of our player pathway.”
Commenting on the continued progression of the Education Course, Widnes Vikings’ Head of Youth Performance Phil Finney said: “I am really pleased that the recruitment drive for this new programme has been so successful. I believe that integrating education and performance will significantly help these young players to realise their potential.
“Accessing the excellent facilities and having increased input from the staff at the club, including staff from the first team, will greatly enhance the number of players progressing from the youth set-up and into the first team squad.”