Wood Green isn’t the most likely place to find a rugby league player, but that’s where London Skolars man Dion Chapman hails from.  He went to Broomfield School in Arnos Grove and like many he started out with football.

A school tournament put on by the Skolars brought him to their attention, he was with his Uncle, a man who’s been a great influence for Dion, he was asked if Dion wanted to come to the club; the answer was a prompt yes!

His Uncle took him down to training,  in a area that held many temptations he felt it was a way to keep Dion out of trouble.  Dion, who isn’t a small man now, was big at 11, that stood him in good stead, he was playing games for Skolars at 11.  Alex Smith was the Community Coach at that time, another man who was a positive influence for Dion.  The games meant a lot of travelling even at that time, that was more time not to spend on the streets.

Dion enjoyed school, but realistically struggled with the learning, it’s no surprise to hear he excelled at sport, enter another male role model in Martin Lynch his PE Teacher.  So often it’s the PE teachers who show that belief in a student, they help pull them through the system.

Dion stayed in school through to 16 before joining the Barnet and Southgate College Rugby Education Academy – at this point I’ve gone to the college website to explain the course –

The partnership aims to support the development of the best young rugby talent in the north London area.

The separate Categories form part of the RFL’s new Player Performance Pathway development and seeks to offer students a pathway to professional Rugby League in an education setting.

The BSC Rugby League Education Academy operates just below the Super League and Professional Clubs Tier 1 and Tier 2 Academy programmes. It offers aspiring 16-19 year old Rugby League players the following:

  • • 6 hours a week of expert, high quality Rugby League coaching Monday-Friday during the day
  • • All training and Rugby League development built into a full-time Academic study programme, alongside their educational qualification at Barnet and Southgate College.
  • • Free Physiotherapy Clinic Support led By England National Setup Physio
  • • Individual Strength and Conditioning programming and free gym membership

In addition, players represent BSC Bears in the RFL FE U19 competitions on Wednesday afternoons in fixtures against other Tier 3 academies, allowing an extremely high standard of competitive Rugby League player development, whilst still being available to represent parent clubs at weekends and throughout the summer season.

Students can study an array of full-time academic FE qualifications, although it is very strongly preferred and advised they study a sports course in order to get the maximum from the package. If they do study a sports qualification, then the players will also be put through coaching qualifications (RFL Level 1 Coach Award, possibly also Level 2 if committed enough) and official’s qualifications. They will also be offered the chance to do other NGB Qualifications and be expected to complete 36 hours of applied, targeted, compulsory work experience in the sports industry, much of which could be done assisting Junior Teams within the London Junior League clubs.

This is an exceptional opportunity for any 16-19 year old to be able to combine a quality education with first class Rugby League playing in a crucial development age for players. The College has a proud and longstanding track record of successful accomplishments in Rugby League throughout the last 10 years. Many graduates have gone on to earn contracts with London Broncos and London Skolars, whist there are a number of International and Regional representative caps and team successes in this time.

Barnet and Southgate College is the only Category 3 setup in London and the immediate vicinity and therefore represents a unique opportunity for players to access this player performance pathway setup.

The partnership aims to support the development of the best young rugby talent in the north London area.

Dion became a qualified carpenter while on the course, before going to University at the age of 21, he studied Sports development and coaching for 2 years & then strength and conditioning

 

Along with all this studying Dion also became a fully qualified personal trainer – taking Level 1 at Southgate and Level 2 & 3 at university, he was certainly making sure he had many strings to his bow.  He had a spell at the Quins Rugby League Academy, but the travel was too far for the return, so he stuck with London Skolars and has played for them all the way through.

4 months ago Dion was offered a role with Skolars, working in their community department, that involves him in working in schools every day,  this term Park View, Woodside, Alyward and St Thomas Moore.  The work involves 6 weeks coaching in school time, some go the time involves the teachers so they’re aware.  at the end of the 6 weeks they put on a Coaches v Kids match, the groups tend to be mixed, with some girls, but mostly boys, Dion finds that the girls in particular love tackling.

On the day we  met Dion had been out recruiting for Barnet & Southgate college in the form of a trial,  that consisted of a fitness tests,  a skill tests and then a game

 

In addition to his playing commitments Dion coaches the U16’s, at the time of this interview they had unbeaten record, they train once a week and play at weekends.  Dion has seen a lot of promising young players coming through the system  and personally the game has opened his eyes to possibilities, given him aspirations he feels he might not have had .

Rugby League is a popular game in universities, Dion Played for England Students in 2012 in the 4 Nations, he scored a 60m try against Ireland and got Man Of The Match against, that remains one of the highlights of his career.

Dion is a perfect poster boy for both London Skolars and the game of rugby league, what better role model for aspiring rugby players!

 

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