It’s Friday night, there’s less than 24 hours to kick off and you’ve only 10 players confirmed (12 at a push) on the starting sheet…If ever there was a time not to be a team manager/captain of a small grassroots rugby club, it’s most definitely then.
It's time to perfect your saddest, most desperate voice, pull out the list of ‘retired, injured or lost and never returned,’ pick up the phone and prepare for a long night of hitting voicemails.
After what feels like hundreds of calls later, you’ve convinced Billy to dust off his boots for the third time since ‘retirement,’ turned a few “only if you’re desperate,” into yes’s and got Harry’s second cousin, once removed, best friend to agree to play, with a whopping 14 hours to spare – it almost feels like a success!
The thing some people don’t realise, is that although you may have a starting XV on paper, when your side’s pack has an average age of 45 and your full back and fly half are the only ones without some sort of niggle giving them jip, you need several subs to cover the inevitable injuries.
Question is, what can rugby clubs really do about it?
Well the obvious answer is recruit more players; And preferably ones that bring your average age down to at least 35! But let’s be honest, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that it’s a lot easier said than done!
So, how can a club attract new recruits?
One element of the game that has never ceased to exist is our love for a pint after a hard graft on the rugby pitch. So why not transform a £4 subs fee into a £2-3 pint in the clubhouse? Suddenly your list of regulars may experience a spike.
Return to Rugby BBQ
Why not re-entice the lost souls of summer with a little ‘return to rugby,’ BBQ evening. This will likely attract both old and new faces along and promote a welcoming atmosphere at the club - plus who doesn’t love a BBQ? Subsequently, the bar will make a killing as beers flow.
Age Vs Beauty
Bring out the competitive edge in your players and their friends by hosting a fun-fuelled, dads Vs Lads style fixture! The only prize needed is bragging rights. Turn this into a trial match and invite anyone who's interested from the local community, to come in and join a team - One fun match may be all that's needed to persuade them to return.
Family Orientated Days
If there's one thing that grassroots clubs all over the globe offer, it’s a ‘rugby family,’ and a sense of unity. Welcome the old, the youthful, the novices and the experienced to your club and endorse a positive and inclusive club culture. Win the parents over and there kids will follow...or vice versa!
Make yourselves known
All of the above may work wonders but they’re no use if people aren’t aware of your club or events. Social media is a great tool to interact with anyone and everyone so make sure your club is using it frequently and effectively!
It’s the first and last thing we check each day (as sad as that makes us) so ensure your events, posters, offers and more, are splattered across your social pages.
Good luck with summer recruitment; I hope you don't find yourself glued to the phone the first Friday of the season!