“I don’t want to be goalie” my 7-year-old said as we pulled up for his first day at rugby camp…
To be fair, he didn’t have the first clue about rugby and I didn’t know that much more. On a sunny morning under the blue skies of southern Portugal, I did think how lucky he was to have a first introduction to the sport with non other than Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll. Then again, Brian was pretty lucky to be getting some time in with this little boy too… Even though he might be clueless about rugby.
Despite having spent time with Lawrence Dallaglio when I was knee high to a grasshopper, and once having caught England vs Tonga in Twickenham, I can’t say I know much about the game either, so the knowledge didn’t quite flow down to the next generation at home. And, Daddy is more of a skier. Luckily, this week, Lennox was about to change all that in the best of surroundings.
Playing on the pristine pitch at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, my son was about to spend 10 punishing hours learning the ins and outs of the sport, while I silently prayed he wouldn’t get hurt. He took to it like a fish to water, enjoying the game playing, the two-hour exercise runs, fitness training, general sportsmanship and good atmosphere. I worried a little when they asked us to go pick up mouth-guards – were things about to get dirty? I needn’t have worried, even the wobbly tooth stayed put.
Split into age groups, the 30 odd kids who showed up to mingle with Ireland’s finest were given black outfits with their names printed on the back – pretty swish (but I do believe rugby tops have collars or perhaps I really need to brush up on my sports kit knowledge too?) and very handy for Brian and colleagues to remember their names by.
Although the sessions ran at the end of the day – presumably to avoid the hottest scorching sunshine – the kids were still bubbling with enthusiasm and the passion for the sport definitely transferred.
To be honest, it was a little surreal. Sitting in the sunshine, ordering an early dinner from the Campus’ eatery – Dano’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, to feed a hungry little rugby newbie, I couldn’t quite get used to my son casually calling out to Brian, the icon, over his plate of chips. It may well have been even stranger for his part Irish step-grandad who had watched this sporting hero on screen for years and was now casually introduced to him by his grandson.
I see Quinta do Lago a little like a parallel universe. A place where everything is beautiful and manicured to perfection – ladies and lawns alike – so it’s no surprise that this is the place to come to if you want your offspring to learn from the best. Tennis with Judy Murray? Check. Football with Rio Ferdinand? Of course. The Campus offers these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities during each school holiday.
So, what’s next for Lennox I wonder? Growing up in the Algarve is definitely going to have a few perks for him. We’re already tweeting with surfing legend Andrew Cotton about coming to see him tackle those huge waves in Nazare next fall, or perhaps we’ll stick around Quinta and see what sporting sensation is on the cards next half term?
For those who don’t live around the corner, book a family cottage at the nearby Magnolia Hotel, a few minutes away where the theme is ‘Miami Boutique’ meets ‘Sporty Chic’. It’s just the place to hideaway for a family friendly, fun yet fit holiday with a lovely pool, spa and the best burgers in Quinta.
To find about more about holiday camps in Quinta do Lago check
Stay at the Magnolia Hotel themagnoliahotelqdl.com ; (+351) 289 390 705) offers a Standard Double Room from €92/£80 on a B&B basis or €108/£94 on a half-board basis.