Girl Power award 2008/09
Winner: Morpeth RFC (Northumberland RFU)
Morpeth RFC have long been established in Girls rugby in the North East of England, with a good success rate, but with dwindling numbers involved at U15 level. Without girls coming into the sport at this level, the prospect of U18 and ladies rugby drying up was becoming apparent at the club. With key members of the U15 team moving up to U18, there were only six U15s attending regularly, it was decided at the end of last season to set up club/school links with local schools.
The role of U15 Team Manager was created to support the two coaches at this level; U18 and Ladies already having their own coaches. As a result, a rugby taster day was held in early September, with around 250 girls from years 7, 8, 9 and 10 attending. The day was spent teaching basic rugby skills and introducing the sport and club, supported by Northumberland County. From this taster day 67 girls left details, of which 34 came along to the next three training sessions.
Six months on from this, the club now have 30 U15 girls training regularly on Thursday and Sunday. Regular emails and text messages to the girls and parents are used to maintain interest, along with training that is deliberately fun and enjoyable run by two dedicated coaches. The club are now able to field two teams at U15 level, a senior team and developmental team; both teams remain unbeaten this season and the U15 seniors have supplied ten players to this season’s Northumberland County squad. Morpeth RFC are now actively setting up further links with local schools who want to join the scheme, encouraging new girls to join the club, and in the long term, to strengthen ladies rugby both at Morpeth and North East Regional rugby as a whole.
Runner Up: Hinckley Vixens (Leicestershire RFU)
Helen Parkin, who nominated Hinckley Vixens, said “Having stood on the sidelines watching my daughter play tag rugby and my son go from tag through to U15s, I became interested in promoting a girl’s side this time last year. The main club were keen as it was part of their development plan and had tried and failed several times before. The club promised training facilities, to waive registration fees for our first year and since the Youth Chairman’s son (recently graduated in Sports Science) was keen to coach, Monday evenings have never been the same since.
We started training with half a dozen U18s from the sixth form at our local school. Throughout the summer keenness grew through leaflets and word of mouth, and with high school interest and the support of England ladies player Vicky Masserella, we decided to organise training and playing for both U15s and U18s. I attended a number of regional forums to meet other clubs and find out how to establish ourselves and as a result we joined forces with Market Harborough girls to play under the Hinckley banner in the North Leicestershire cluster league.
The camaraderie is fantastic. Volunteers have applied for funding for free local gym membership through Back to the Future 200, and we are proud to have six girls undertaking the County training programme this year, from which two U15s have been successful in joining the Regional squad.
We have our own section on the club website and two sponsors who provide shirts and players jackets. We have a development plan, are affiliated and are currently training at least twelve girls every Monday evening with further fundraising and social events planned. We were a local spectacle back in August at the Hinckley carnival, walking in new kit to promote awareness of the girls game.
This project provides a fantastic opportunity for girls to play a fun sport following on from mixed tag. We have developed strong playing links with Market Harborough RFC and other local teams such as Aylestone St James offer our girls the opportunity to play by making up the numbers in local friendlies. We play regular ‘pitch up and play’ friendlies and are proud to provide a great social atmosphere and safe environment for girls aged twelve and upwards to gain fitness and have fun”.
Runner Up: Ilkley RUFC (Yorkshire RFU)
Ilkley RUFC appointed a Development Officer in 2004 with the plan to increase participation in the game at all levels; a post fully funded by the club, something quite unique for a small Level 6 club. In 2005, the club’s local Rugby Development Officer helped them gain an ‘Award for All’ grant to coach girls' rugby at the local grammar school. This grant followed a successful season of primary school coaching and Tag festivals which captivated the interest of both local boys and girls in rugby union.
Coaching was delivered to both junior and senior girls at Ilkley Grammar School both in curriculum time and out of school hours. Coaching was delivered by the club’s Development Officer and an enthusiastic group of qualified coaches with significant input from the local CRC and RFUW Development Officer.
As a result, Ilkley RUFC now have an active under 15s girls team and in the 2008/09 season fielded their first ever ladies' senior side. All are very keen on rugby with their only struggle being a shortage of teams to play against. There are regular and well attended training sessions held at the club on the floodlit pitch.
One U18 player is in the Yorkshire elite group and a number of the ladies team have played representative rugby.
Sets of shirts, shorts and socks have been sponsored for each age group and the ladies side boasts a very becoming feminine pink flash to set-off against the club's traditional colours of black and red. The club has invested in a series of posters and contact cards that are prominently displayed in local schools, FEs and universities and provide the facilities for Bradford University men and women to do their rugby coaching.
All the ladies have joined the club in the appropriate membership category and have shown enthusiasm to join committees, something that will be addressed in the spring. The club’s ambitious development plan which is currently moving towards a start date includes ladies changing facilities.