KEIGHLEY College has teamed-up with the town’s professional rugby league club to inspire the next generation of players.

The partnership will see the Bradford Road campus – part of the Luminate Education Group – support Keighley Cougars’ pioneering new England Talent Pathway, a performance programme aimed at young males aged 11 to 16.

Youngsters will get the chance to train with professional support, learning and improving skills which they can then take back to their community clubs.

As part of the initiative, it is intended to operate three development squads – U12s, U14s and U16s – and each will have the opportunity to play matches against other teams from professional clubs.

Focused on supporting the development of young players, the programme will – in addition to providing access to professional coaching –offer skills assessments, progress reports and education centred around nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Claire Fitzgerald, head of stakeholder engagement and growth at Keighley College, said the scheme presented a “phenomenal opportunity”.

She said: “We pride ourselves on being a community-led college, so partnering with a historically renowned club which inspires many local young people is a phenomenal opportunity. We’ll be working collaboratively on community projects, whilst proudly sponsoring the playing and training kits.

Keighley is a town bursting with talented young individuals, and we’re determined to help fuel their ambitions to become skilled rugby players. In the coming years we also hope to work closely with Keighley Cougars on setting-up a development academy, whereby young people aged 16 to 19 can develop their rugby skills.”

Andrew Henderson, head of rugby at Keighley Cougars, welcomed the partnership.

He said: “Keighley College shares our vision for providing better opportunities for young people in the town, which is why we’re thrilled to have it on board as our major sponsor. We hope to not only support players in their journey to becoming professional players, but also provide them with the best educational opportunities alongside this.

“We’re determined to inspire the wider community through this initiative, as our players will take a wealth of knowledge and performance skills back to their local teams. Next year, our goal is to extend the programme to girls in the area too.”

The programme will be officially launched this spring.

By Joshua Chapman