The Importance of Community Rugby

wasps community rugby

Football has always been the superior sport throughout British society, dominating school PE lessons, attendance figures and annoyingly 90% of Sky Sports News coverage! Yet Rugby Union’s popularity is growing tremendously, with the RFU predicting participation rates to be tipping 200,000 in England alone. After successive Six Nations and Sevens Series, interest in the sport is soaring, and now English clubs are looking to really capture the imaginations of youngsters, begin to develop athletes and create an exciting array of talent for the future. Resultantly, Community Rugby, is making impressive strides into breaking down cultural perceptions of the sport and just highlighting what such a fun and beneficial game rugby really is.

Football has always been the superior sport throughout British society, dominating school PE lessons, attendance figures and annoyingly 90% of Sky Sports News coverage! Yet Rugby Union’s popularity is growing tremendously, with the RFU predicting participation rates to be tipping 200,000 in England alone. After successive Six Nations and Sevens Series, interest in the sport is soaring, and now English clubs are looking to really capture the imaginations of youngsters, begin to develop athletes and create an exciting array of talent for the future. Resultantly, Community Rugby, is making impressive strides into breaking down cultural perceptions of the sport and just highlighting what such a fun and beneficial game rugby really is.

Focusing on the youngest ages means that those who participate are incredibly enthusiastic to learn and not particularly influenced by any other sport. Using Tag Rugby as a way to develop fundamental and life skills with those of 4 years old up to mid-teens is so gratifying, for coach and player alike. Tag, a version of Touch for the fledgling Wilkinson wannabe’s or even Rooney understudies, is a great way to introduce basic dodging, handling and teamwork skills. More importantly, it cannot only contribute in producing adept rugby players, but possibly other elite sportsmen/women. Maximising the participation in Tag Rugby are Premiership clubs Community Team’s especially. For all clubs, I’m sure, trying to secure an extra few bums on seats is always an aim, and what’s wrong with that? But, for some the key to success remains in fashioning fun for all ages, with the likelihood that if you enjoy something, you will endeavour to carry on doing it. As my short time as a Community Rugby Coach, it’s been wonderful to see children who become fixated on little elements of the game, go from being introverts to extroverts and generally displaying beaming smiles. Working mainly with London Wasps, I thought this piece would be a little insight into how they go about their business, but most importantly, a quick guide for those budding Tag coaches out there.

London Wasps Community is by no means the biggest Community Team going, yet from an external perspective, it seems to have just as much of an effect on the clubs fan base as the 1st XV action. It really pushes its boundaries and provides Matchday, Coachclass, After-School Clubs and other experiences for clubs across several counties. Along with Sting, the well known Wasp Mascot who whips out the occasional dance move, the team never fail to create a great experience for youngsters (and big kids), wherever they go. Coaching Tag at clubs like Aylesbury, Windsor and even at Southampton, Wasps are one of the clubs at the forefront of the growing Tag movement.

When going out to schools especially, many children have had minimal experience of rugby and some, no knowledge around the game at all. First and foremost, Wasps coaches always encourage the ‘learning through games’ style, and that’s crucial for any coach to utilise, at any level. The whole idea is that kids naturally engage more if they are having fun at the same time, and as they do so, unknowingly are gaining beneficial skills and attitudes. Coaching through games also brings in lots of factors that affect a match situation, that training can’t always recreate, and naturally it helps youngsters develop, as well as gain a competitive edge.

There is only a certain amount that can be gained through RFU courses and I myself having enjoyably worked my way through Tag Rugby, Rugby Ready, Level 1, CPD’s and soon to be undertaking a Level 2, yet have gained just as much, if not more, through experiences with Wasps. There’s little key characteristics and things that can only be learnt from ‘on the job’ experience, and the Community section at Wasps has allowed for my own, other coaches, but most vitally, kids progression.

8 Top Tips for Tag Coaches-

  1. Always use games!
  2. Look to further your knowledge by undertaking RFU qualifications.
  3. Create a fun, fair and factual environment.
  4. Always engage with the kids, use lots of questions and try not to be prescriptive.
  5. Play lots of Tag Rugby and use other games to pinpoint skills that need some development.
  6. Enjoy yourself and put the effort in-you only take from it, what you put into it.
  7. Remember that you want to maintain a youngsters interest in the sport, don’t put them off Rugby!
  8. Have fun!

It’s sometimes hard to vary the games you use in Tag, however it’s never an issue re-visiting them, especially if it’s a favourite of the kids! Wasps are superb at inventing new games or tweeks on oldies that really centre in on key skills!

Community Rugby is such a vital part of the English game, and I encourage everyone to play a role. Wasps have demonstrated that Tag Rugby can really be played by anyone of all ages, whether you come from a footballing, cricketing or non-sporting background. My experiences have definitely driven me to do even more coaching, whether that be Tag or 15-a-side. Really, that’s potentially what Tag is for both coach and player, a stepping stone to the next level.  Yet, I wouldn’t complain if Tag coaching remained my focus for years to come!

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