Head of Youth, Garreth Carvell, Explains To David Clegg, The Significance and Impact Of The Recent Re-Accreditation Of Our Academy
Nothing inspires and motivates as much as does success, and after inheriting a Youth Setup, which had been assessed, twelve months previously, as Category 2, everyone connected with the Salford Academy is celebrating the outcome of the RFL’s recent return visit, which strongly recognised the progress which has been made in the interim.  Understandably, no-one is more delighted than Head of Youth, Garreth Carvell.
“It was a mixture of relief and satisfaction that the RFL could see the progress we have made,” he admits.  “It has been a huge team effort from the coaching staff, the medical staff, and the Salford Red Devils Foundation, so the RFL could see that everyone was working as a team, and with clear evidence of the improvements they were looking for.”
During his year in charge, Garreth has addressed a quite wide range of issues which have shown improvement.  These include, developing stronger links with parents, regular reviews with players, setting up a leadership group, and having a totally transparent approach.
“Training kit had been a big issue, at the outset, but we eventually got that sorted,” he recalls.  “Our prime focus, though, must always be ensuring that the boys are looked after.  It is all about how they feel here, and how they feel they can progress.  The RFL held meetings with each of them, and I am glad to say that it all came out positive; the boys are really enjoying themselves, and this, in itself will have a huge bearing on their development and performance.”
With our close proximity to other Super League clubs, Garreth believes that all this is absolutely crucial as we could easily lose players should they become disenchanted with the setup, here.
“We are also in the process of making a clear pathway between the Academy and the first team,” he explains.  “This hasn’t happened often yet as we would like, mainly because our fixtures, each week, are usually before the first team’s game – something we intend to address for next season.”
Nevertheless, he fully acknowledges the value of now having a number of former U19s players firmly ensconced in the first team environment.  Indeed, Jake Bibby, Ryan Lannon, Josh Wood, and Matty Wilkinson were among those interviewed by the RFL towards the re-assessment.  On a more regular basis, these players provide living examples of the possible successful outcome from the all the dedication and hard work required of them.  Not only that, on occasions, they have been prepared to give words of advice and encouragement, in respect of all  of this, to their younger counterparts.
Garreth very much appreciates these lads’ contributions, as he firmly believes that his charges will take particular notice of this message when delivered by one of their own kind.
“The lads are used to hearing things like that from their coaches, but to hear it from people, who have come through the Academy system, carries a lot more impact,” he admits.
Having now appointed a fulltime physio, with prior experience of running an academy setup, solely to our Academy, he claims, has also paid dividends.
“It’s all about being professional, as this rubs off on the players,” he insists.
Having been downgraded last year to Category 2 means that, dependent on the weather, our U16s get a maximum of only six games per season, in late January and early February, and at the end of this time they return to their amateur clubs.  Category 1 clubs, meanwhile, keep their players for the full season, which means that they cannot go to any other club.  There is a category 3 designed primarily for college teams, into which, given a worst case scenario, we could actually have dropped.
Accreditation is for four years, which means that we cannot be upgraded to Category 1 until the end of that period, but Garreth is determined to overtake some of the teams at the lower end of that elite group, before then, in order to make the RFL stand up and take notice of us.
“Fortunately our U19s’ fixtures are not affected,” he reflects, “but being in Category 2 does have a considerable effect on other issues, not least on the quality of player we can entice to join us.  Players of the highest calibre are disinclined to sign for a Category 2 club, at U16 level, so, therefore, they are not going to be coming through to our U19s and first team levels, in future years.
“It is not that we shall see a big impact now, so much as in the future, with the likes of Wigan, Warrington, and St Helens already signing the cream of the crop.”
All is not lost, however, for Garreth is already exploiting a variety of alternative ways of attracting top class players, and these ideas seem to be bearing fruit already, with the likes of Ben Calland, Lewis Fairhurst, Lewis Hatton, and Chris Worrall all having moved to join the Red Devils over the past twelve months.