Club School Links award 2008/09
Winner: Hull RUFC (Yorkshire RFU)
Over the past two seasons, Hull RUFC recruited two full time Rugby Development officers with the remit of spreading the gospel of rugby union in the rugby league hotbed that is inner city Hull, a somewhat daunting prospect to say the least. This was initially possible thanks to a Sportsmatch award, with the club managing to raise £50,000 through various fundraising activities which was then matched by sponsors and put into Sportsmatch.
The club’s aim was to try to recruit players of all ages to the Mini and Youth section, which then consisted of around 10 players. Working in conjunction with the RFU Community Rugby Coaches, the club managed to forge relationships with a number of local junior and high schools and began recruiting players through those avenues. Continuity was the key as links with local junior schools were developed. The development team have delivered sessions into around 50 local schools, including special needs schools, and have managed to increase the size of the Mini and Youth section dramatically to now approaching 200 with teams at Under 9s, 10s, 12s, 14s and 19s.
The club runs after school and lunchtime rugby clubs, deliver coaching sessions to all year groups and have travelled across Yorkshire to tournaments with school teams. Teacher support has been key to the continuation of rugby union with Hull RUFC providing various resources including equipment, literature and details of coaching and refereeing courses. The club’s highlight last season was having a team play Tag rugby at Twickenham prior to the England vs. Wales game. Many interschool tournaments have been held including a ‘World Cup’ Tag tournament involving 16 primary schools with Tag rugby sets and balls as prizes.
Although the club has had a continuous battle trying to recruit and retain youngsters in a city with two teams in Super League (Hull K.R. and Hull F.C.) and a newly promoted Premiership football team (Hull City), there has being real progress made. The club are determined to not stop here as they have now created a club that the whole community is starting to enjoy.
Runner Up: Basildon RFC (Essex RFU)
Throughout the 2008-2009 season, Basildon RFC ran three major projects with local schools, applying for, and receiving, funding to the value of almost £13,000.
The first was an ‘Awards for All’ project taking Tag rugby coaching for Year 3 & 4 children into 20 Basildon based primary schools. Each school took part in around 11 sessions, with the total number of participants in the order of 400 children and the number of ‘attendances’ around 4000. Each primary school then took part in mini-tournaments at the secondary schools with which they were associated.
Second was an Active Sport programme that delivered coaching to Year 7, 8 & 9 students and developed twelve Student Leaders as Tag rugby coaches in two senior schools in Billericay. The standard of the rugby in the secondary schools improved so much that one of the teams reached the County Quarter Final for the first time ever.
While the Year 7 to 9 students were receiving coaching at the secondary schools, volunteer Sports Leaders from Year 12 were given formal RFU training and allocated in pairs to one of the primary schools in their own ‘cluster group’. The students were provided with clothing identifying them as coaches and equipment to deliver weekly Tag sessions. The programme ran in all selected schools throughout the September term, and is still running at certain schools as both the primary school children and secondary school students enjoyed it so much. This project became the pilot scheme for what will be a district wide initiative in the 2009/10 season, involving 90 student leaders from nine secondary schools and up to 50 primary schools.
Third was a ‘Sport Unlimited’ after-schools project that delivered full contact rugby coaching to eight secondary schools across Basildon, Wickford and Billericay. Each school received up to ten sessions delivered between January and March 2009.
Both the club and the schools involved have benefitted from all the projects. In many cases, for a majority of the children, it has been their first introduction to the game of rugby for some of the teachers, they have been exposed to new coaching techniques, and the club has increased their membership with 59 new members this season.
Runner Up: Eccleshall RFC (Staffordshire RFU)
Set in the heart of rural Staffordshire and in competition with three large, local clubs for Junior members, Eccleshall has, against the odds, managed to carve its own individual character into the community, providing a superb rugby experience for all age groups. The club’s ability to achieve this is based solely on its ethos of taking part and having fun.
The senior club players, both men and women, past and present, provide a strong, committed coaching team and injecting this energy and motivation into the children’s weekends has helped the club’s message spread into the schools via their players. The club were approached by local schools to provide rugby coaching as part of the PE curriculum and with just three dedicated coaches, they managed to offer a weekly programme to three junior schools. No easy task when full time jobs are involved!
The programme consisted of Tag rugby training to Years 4, 5 & 6 during the school day and then revisiting the schools to provide an 'after school' club. The after school clubs were hugely popular and went a long way to securing further members in Eccleshall’s Junior ranks.
The coaches devoted extra time to providing assessments for the players and reports for the teachers and all players were presented with achievement certificates at the end of the programme. The coaches also provided further information about playing rugby and Eccleshall RFC at the schools’ assemblies.
A schools tournament held by the club brought all the kids together to show off their skills, introducing even more members to Eccleshall.
With match and tournament experience behind them, the coaches then accompanied the school teams to the Staffordshire schools Tag Rugby tournament organised by the local authority, an immense achievement for such a small club to achieve this level of responsibility. Such was the popularity of the courses within the schools, that one of the club’s coaches was nominated for a Staffordshire Sports Coach Award and went on to win the accolade on the night.
The club’s reputation for its talent in this sphere of school/club relations has led to further requests for their services. The Eccleshall Junior section, as a result of the time devoted to their local schools, has enjoyed phenomenal success in generating a huge increase in membership and volunteers. This together with a successful management team has grown this once small, one team group, into a Mini/Junior section that now boasts age groups from Mini to U17s with over 100 members, all achieved in just two seasons!