Outdoor Adventure programme provides perfect breath of fresh air for junior players after tough year

Last week more than 50 junior players from Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Ambassador community clubs were given the opportunity to take part in the charity’s Outdoor Adventure programme during October half-term, an action-packed three-day residential trip to Herd Farm Activity Centre.

The programme, which is kindly sponsored by the Caplan Family, gives each club the opportunity to nominate players to attend aged 11-14 who will benefit most from the experience, such as players with low self-esteem, those that could benefit from role modelling, players who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to experience outdoor activities or simply as a reward for their efforts throughout the past season.

Over the course of their three days spent at the centre, the 54 boys and girls were given the chance to gain a taste of independent living whilst experiencing a range of exciting on-site activities, including assault courses, the giant swing, zipwire, orienteering and mountain-boarding, as well as a night walk and karaoke led by staff from Leeds Rhinos Foundation and Herd Farm.

There was also a day trip to nearby Yeadon Tarn where the junior players could enjoy taking part in a Kayaking session at Leeds Sailing and Activity Centre, with Foundation’s Community Clubs Development Officer Sam Horner delighted at this latest development to a programme that has enjoyed more than a decade of success under his leadership.

“We have run this residential trip for more than a decade now with the generous support from the Caplan family, providing a really valuable experience for young players at our Ambassador clubs who have been selected to receive this reward,” said Sam.

“After an incredibly difficulty year for us all, not least our young people who have been forced to cope with all the stress and uncertainty they have faced throughout the global pandemic, it was fantastic to be able to run the Outdoor Adventure programme again with 54 players able to join us on residential and take the chance to enjoy new challenges and activities they may never otherwise have the opportunity to experience.

“As ever, we were looking for ways to adapt and improve our programme and the decision to take the groups out to Yeadon Tarn to take part in a kayaking session proved a huge hit with both the young people and staff. This perfectly complimented the exciting activities we had on offer at Herd Farm, who are always wonderful hosts and provide the perfect environment for the children to enjoy this residential trip with us.

“Many of the children attending our Outdoor Adventure programme will never have stayed away from home or have handled the responsibilities of washing up, making their beds or serving their own food which they receive here, so as well as providing them with some amazing experiences the programme also has a real development purpose by teaching the children key life skills and supporting their personal growth as they begin the transition into adolescence.

“All in all we had a fantastic week away with both the boys and girls groups, and the Outdoor Adventure programme continues to be one of the highlights of the year for Leeds Rhinos Foundation heading into its 15th year. I will never get tired of running this programme and long may it last for the children of our local community rugby league clubs.

“Thank you to all of our wonderful staff who make running this fantastic programme possible, from Helen Schofield who helped carry out all the vital registration tasks and created our complex timetables, to our coaches Harvey, Joe, Ellis, Dane, plus this year Amy and Beth from Leeds Rhinos Women- who all provided perfect leadership and supported the children with their daily activities.”

The groups were also paid a special visit by the programme’s long-term funders Gill and Geoff Caplan, who are always keen to speak with the players participating in the scheme to see first-hand the impact that their support has on the lives of young people from across the city.

Explaining why his family have developed such an affinity for the Outdoor Adventure programme over the years, Geoff said: “We came from humble beginnings ourselves, and so when it was put to us that we had the opportunity to enrich the lives of young people from across the city who may not have the same opportunities to go on holiday or enjoy these outdoor activities away from their home lives, it was something that we felt was a very worthwhile operation which we wanted to support as much as we could.”

“To give these children a look at what they can achieve in life if they put their mind to it is really important, and we are always impressed with how well the boys and girls handle the responsibilities that are given to them and it is clear that they take a lot away from this programme that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

“There was a fantastic example this year of a girl was too scared to go down the zipwire and started crying. The Herd Farm staff were fantastic at reassuring her about it, but another little girl stepped forward to agree to go down with her, and eventually she did it and really enjoyed it. That was obviously a marvellous experience for that girl and it was something that we were delighted to see.”

For more information on the Foundation’s Outdoor Adventure programme, please contact sam.horner@leedsrhinosfoundation.org