December 20, 2007
A NEW generation of rugby leaders is being developed in Hertfordshire by an innovative scheme run by the Rugby Football Union and Guinness Premiership side Saracens.
A programme of six courses at the Saracens training base at the University of Hertfordshire has taught 180 teenagers the theory and practice of rugby coaching and refereeing that they will take into the county's Primary Schools in 2008.
The first group of students came from Hitchin Boys School, Queen Elizabeth's Barnet, St James Boys Barnet, Rickmansworth School and Parmiters School.
They and the graduates from the five other training days will go on to help develop the game in around 150 Primary Schools taking part in a dozen Tag Rugby tournaments run by Saracens and qualify for the national Community Sports Leadership Award (CSLA).
The spin-offs for the students are huge; enhancing their coaching, communication and leadership skills while volunteering their time to the community.
Sam Fulling, the community development officer at the Saracens foundation, said: "This course is about adding our rugby expertise to the CSLA programme.
"It teaches how to coach and coach well, how to referee and specifically how to take Tag Rugby into Primary Schools, who they will follow through to the 12 Tag Festivals we run in the county.
"We can give them a basic coaching and refereeing qualification, then provide them with a Start Rugby course that deepens their knowledge and the best can go on to take the RFU Level One coaching course.
"It's great for this age group of 16-18 year-olds and great for their CVs too to show that they've been volunteering, that they have a qualification and that they've developed communication skills. It's all added value."
Saracens worked with the RFU's Hertfordshire Rugby Development Officer Peter Engledow and Community Rugby Coaches Paul Freestone and Neil Hunter.
Together they were able to call upon some rugby experts to inspire the teenagers. One group held an enlightening question and answer session with Saracens conditioning coach Craig McFarlane followed, while another was visited by international referee Chris White.
"The impact these students can have in their local community is huge," said Engledow.
"We need more volunteers in this beautiful game and these young volunteers are the future."