Phil Dowson and Darren Barry gave some time on Monday evening to provide valuable advice to Warriors Under 18s, who are set to begin their Premiership Rugby Under 18 Academy League season later this month.
The next crop of Warriors talent, who make the trip to Sixways twice a week for training, were treated to a special talk from the two Warriors stars, who explained to the youngsters about the importance of studying while training to become a professional rugby player.
Not all players will make the grade into professional rugby, but as Dowson and Barry reiterated to the next generation of Warriors, they should never give up on what they want to achieve, and urged them to utilise all the excellent facilities and resources that surround them at Sixways while trying to balance their academics.
Barry, who was let go by Bristol Rugby Academy early in his career, didn’t give up his dream of playing Premiership Rugby, achieving his goal with Warriors in the top flight in the opening game of the 2015/16 season.
Speaking to the youngsters, Barry said: “It’s about making the right decisions. It’s hard when you’ve got other distractions that you don’t want to miss out on but you have to make sacrifices sometimes.
“It was my dream to play Premiership Rugby and even though I was dropped by Bristol Academy, I didn’t give up and I got my chance at Cornish Pirates before eventually being noticed by Warriors.”
England international Dowson said: “Players come through different pathways and have to overcome different adversities.
“For me, I was dealt a major blow when I had trials for England Under 16s and I didn’t make the grade. I was devastated but I worked hard and managed to get into the England Under 18 set-up a couple of years later before giving up rugby because I needed a job.
“I was playing part-time rugby while in Leeds but was given an opportunity up at Newcastle Falcons to play in their Under 21s and thankfully I managed to get a senior contract with them and things worked out.”
With Warriors Under 18 players still committed to full-time education, both Dowson and Barry stressed the importance of studying alongside rugby.
Barry explained: “I left college at 18 to do an Open University course but it just wasn’t for me. I’ve worked hard to become a rugby player but it’s always very important to have something else in life in case the rugby doesn’t work out – and also – for when you finish.
“Even now, I’m studying a plumbing course with fellow Warriors Perry Humphreys and Nick Schonert and I love it.
“It’s crucial to find something else career-wise that you want to do and so that you have something to fall back on once the rugby has finished.”
Dowson, who owns his own printer business, added: “As a young player there are lots of things around you that can lead you astray but you have to be able to commit to what you want to achieve and work hard.
“You have to channel things into the right areas, so instead of playing FIFA it’s about doing that extra bit of work on your course, doing weights in the gym or channelling that time into the right areas.
“Even guys at the very top of the game need something when they come to the end of their careers so you need a ‘Plan B’.
“Take a look at former Warrior Sam Smith. His career was cut short through injury, but he studied a degree and has now opened up his own coffee shop which is something he’s very passionate about.
“It’s important to find an interest in something that keeps you fresh alongside rugby so maintaining that work and rugby balance is crucial. You will have to find work at some point so you have to prepare yourself from a young age.”
Academy Manager Chim Gale added: “It’s great that the players were able to take some time out of their busy schedules to share their invaluable experiences and to give advice to our Under 18s, which will only be of benefit to their development.”
Warriors Under 16s were also given a special talk this week as Ludlow Church of England School Deputy Headteacher Paula Hearle visited Sixways.
She discussed the importance of time management for the Warriors youngsters who are about to undergo their GCSEs.
From organisation, deadlines and revision to setting targets and rewards, she explained: “Rugby and education go hand in hand. Warriors and the RFU make it clear that having an education and career plan in place is key for every player.”