WIGAN rugby star Chris Ashton has spoken movingly about the battle his parents faced to get him to study at school.
Chris, a former Warriors’ player, remembers throwing his A-level results on the back seat of his car, driving straight to Wigan Warriors training and forgetting all about college.
The 26-year-old cannot quite believe how disinterested he was back then, and winces when admitting his mum and dad, who were both teachers, had to convince him to stay the course at Wigan’s St John Rigby College.
The Saracens and England wing has now employed that hindsight benefit to launch a two-year rugby union and education scholarship for 16 to 18-year-olds which will start across the country next year.
Chris, whose dad Kevin died several years ago, said: “I didn’t really attend college by the end of it, it was just something you fobbed off because you wanted to go and play rugby.
“My parents were pretty realistic, they knew what I wanted. I was extremely fortunate to make the grade at Wigan, but for a lot of my friends in the academy it didn’t happen.
“So when they were let go they had to either go back to school and start again, or seek to learn a trade. That is an extremely tough situation to handle. So this is the perfect chance to combine both, and hopefully allow young people to keep their options open.”
Ashton admits it was his deputy head teacher mum Angela who twisted his arm not to give up school altogether as his rugby career took flight.
“I studied business, PE and IT, I think I got two Ds and an E, but I don’t know how. My attendance was something like 23 per cent! Now I am pleased I finished it. I think you need to have those A-levels to be able to do something at university, even though those grades aren’t great. So I am glad I finished it all - and a lot of that was down to my mum to be honest.
“She was forcing me to go to exams and things. At the time I just got them and threw them in the back of the car. But now looking back I’m pleased I did it.”
Ashton will host coaching sessions and workshops throughout the courses, and hopes he can act as mentor to young people facing big decisions about their future.
He said: “Sometimes parents aren’t the people you want to hear it from are they? You need to hear it from someone else, and maybe hopefully I can have that influence on people, hearing it from a different person and perspective.
“My parents have been great, but as soon as the rugby kicked in that was it.
“Hopefully I can channel my experience and status perhaps for the right reasons, to help other people come through.
“People have a chance to be coached to a good standard, and maybe get into full-time rugby, and if not taking that forward, then hopefully go to university.”
The Chris Ashton Academy will run two-year courses combining top-level rugby coaching and a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Sport.
Applicants must have five GCSE grades A to C including maths and English, while there are no specific selective rugby criteria. The free courses will be set up at a host of centres nationwide depending on demand, with applications open at www.vluk.org/rugbyunionandeducation/