Rugby training began in earnest for the first time at Droylsden Academy in September, lead by Mr Teasdale and myself. Attendance at first was mixed, but a core group of year 10s boys soon established themselves. Initially progress was slow, developing key skills such as handling, passing and self-discipline. Many students were unfamiliar with the game, leading to hilarity and confusion as students pulled off impressive throws down the pitch… only to learn there was no forward passing. American Football, this isn’t.
Unsurprisingly the boys were keen to get onto the contact aspect of the game, and this was slowly built up through the use of tackle bags and structured drills. One particular memory I have was in a 3vs2 contact situation, which saw year 10s Dylan Higgins, Bradley Iveson and Charles Jackson-Goyea pitted against myself and Mr Teasdale. It stands out for me as a particular highlight of the season, as they persisted at the challenge, and in turn saw their skills improve. To their credit, eventually they were executing the manoeuvre with such confidence and flair that even we struggled to challenge them.
Some students do have prior experience of the game, through (for example) external Rugby clubs. One of these students stands out – our Year 7 star, Sam Farrell. Sam was one of the most consistent attenders all season, and despite being towered over by students from years 9, 10 and 11, consistently one of our best. This was of huge benefit to all the team, as Sam could showcase skills and develop other members himself. Equally supportive was Year 10 Owen Lewis, a budding talent in his own right (if he can avoid injury for long enough…).
As the season progressed, students of a range of abilities joined the group, most notably Year 9s Ryan Edwards and Callum Holmes. Both boys became one of our most consistent attenders and provided a good element of competition with some of the more established Year 10s. Further credit is due to a group of girls - Jessica Holden, Bethan Barlow, Natasha Holmes, and Tia Nash – who bravely got involved late in the season, quickly showed their potential, and were soon putting the boys to shame in many of the drills (even if it took a while for them to get stuck into the mud!).
Over the year, we have both been thankful for the immense support we have received. This has been financial, from both the school and the RFU, equipping us with the basics like balls, bags and bibs that we need to train. We are also thankful for the time the PE department has given in lessons to Rugby, which many students thoroughly enjoyed so then sought us out. Both these lessons and afterschool training were supported by Ms Veal, a fully qualified Rugby coach from the RFU, who has been crucial to the smooth running of this first full season.
It’s been a pleasure to work with the enthusiastic boys and girls this year, and I look forward to working with them and hopefully many more next year as we seek to establish ourselves in Tameside as a place of excellence for Rugby Football.
Congratulations on a fantastic year to all involved!