Beacon Academy staff were delighted to be invited to Crowborough Rugby Football Club’s exclusive virtual event this term with Beacon alumnus and former England rugby captain, Dylan Hartley.
Dylan grew up in New Zealand and moved to Crowborough at the age of 16, keen to realise his ambition of becoming a professional rugby player. Supported by his family who live locally, Dylan attended Beacon Sixth Form, joining the school’s rugby academy and representing Beacon in interschool games. Within a day of his arrival in the UK, Dylan had joined Crowborough RFC U16s, coached by Beacon teacher, Dave Pass, and received the support and opportunities to which he attributes his success.
Internationally recognised as one of England’s most successful rugby captains, Dylan Hartley has won 97 caps, the most by any England hooker, and led England to two Six Nations titles, one of which was a Grand Slam, as well as an historic 3-0 series win against Australia over the course of his professional career.
Although he retired from the pitch as a result of injury in 2019, Dylan remains passionate about grassroots rugby and the opportunities available to young people through sport. Ahead of the much-anticipated return to rugby from the end of March 2021, CRFC’s virtual event offered a chance to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the club’s players and volunteers and its role as a hub of the community, particularly through their work with schools and young people.
In a special presentation, former school friends and players reminisced about Dylan’s time in Crowborough, even looking back to his first days at Beacon. Dylan thanked everyone for bringing those early memories back, describing the move as a journey to “a home from home” and admitting that looking back on his time in U18 rugby at CRFC brought back some of his fondest memories.
A question from Beacon Academy
During the live event, second in Charge of PE at Beacon Academy, Paul Cottrell, asked a question on behalf of all Beacon Academy students, enquiring, “How did grassroots rugby help you to develop your skills and achieve your goals and what advice would you give a young person looking to succeed?” Dylan Hartley’s response is below. Click here to view a recorded clip of the event via our YouTube channel.
“I always dreamt of being a professional rugby player. Growing up in New Zealand, that is what I wanted to be. But the reality of it was that I played in a team, a very successful high school team and there were players way better than me, not getting picked. I actually played with guys that were playing professionally, while still at school and it was demoralising so I kind of looked at it and I thought, ‘how can I change things up?’ because what’s happening here is not working for me. So I believe, the only reason I turned into a professional rugby player is through making a decision to find a different route. Find a way that worked for me.
The coaching and opportunity I received in England is what made me a professional rugby player. It’s not like I turned up here at 16 and signed a professional rugby contract. It took years and it took opportunity and I think opportunity is a big thing, and you can miss it unless you’re willing to mix things up. And I think the other thing for kids, and for everyone in life, when you’ve got lofty ambitions or goals, whether it be life, business, fitness, whatever it may be, when you say you want to be there, it can look a million miles away. But when you can structure something and break it down, and I learnt this through playing, you know, because I got banned so much, I always had to goal set and you know getting injured is a part of playing as well. So you always break it down into what can I do tomorrow, and then in a week’s time, what does that look like, and then in a month’s time, you’re coming back from a knee injury or shoulder injury or a suspension. How are you going to be in two months’ time? So I think when you’re talking to kids, it’s like, What do you want to achieve? How are you going to get there? Helping kids with that framework. Making it not look like such a big task. But just focus on the here and now and the big thing can take care of itself.”
Dylan was keen to emphasise the importance of hard work, continually striving to improve and understanding that determination, organisation and preparation are the keys to success. When asked about how he prepared for a game, Dylan responded:
“I worked this out towards the end. If I wanted to play well on Saturday, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, Thursday, day off even, had to be good, for me to be confident to go on Saturday, ‘I’ve done the work, just go and play now’. That came with time and with maturity - just understanding that you can’t just rock up on Saturday and perform. You know, it’s what you do Monday to Friday. So, no superstitions, just a good routine of preparing properly in the week.”
Memories of Dylan at Beacon
Karen Carney, Head of PE at Beacon Academy, commented:
“As Head of PE at Beacon, I have very fond memories of Dylan at Beacon and seeing that particular rugby academy thrive. The group as a whole were extremely talented and achieved great things. Dylan’s legacy is still going strong. Being able to associate a high performing International Rugby performer with your school and PE department is priceless. We are all very proud of what he has achieved and knowing that he started his Rugby in England at our school, is wonderful. We wish Dylan all the best for his retirement and all his future projects. We very much hope he is able to find the time for a visit back to where it all began.”
CRFC and Beacon
The close relationship with Beacon Academy has always been important to the success of Crowborough RFC with many of its senior players starting their playing career at Beacon, and as the sport evolves with the growth of girls rugby (recently established and including a number of Beacon students) and various adaptations of the game including the massively popular (non contact) touch rugby played over the summer months, it is important that this relationship continues to grow and more boys and girls of all fitness levels try the sport. The club plans to continue to support the schools sports department in every way it can to ensure the opportunities are there for all students to enjoy the game.
Students interested in finding out more can ask Mr Cottrell for more information or pop down to the club on a Sunday and join in a few coaching sessions for free. (Training restarts on Sunday 11th April and the club will also be running free Sunday morning sport, fun and fitness sessions for young people in June and July). Further information and coach details can be found by visiting www.crowboroughrugby.com.
Image below: Crowborough RFC U18s 2002/2003