Grassroots rugby clubs – the “meat and bones” of the game for many. It’s the starting point for the majority of us, whether you’re a rugby player (social, youth, touch or semi-pro), volunteer or spectator...most of us gravitate towards our local club to begin a journey, which for many, continues throughout our entire lives. Grassroots rugby clubs are there to offer something to any age, ability and gender.
With sport, (especially rugby) somewhat dwindling at school, due to cuts etc. it’s left to local sports clubs to step up their game. The RFU do recognise their role in this, and reward volunteers for their dedication and commitment to their clubs but does more need to be done to keep them afloat?
Many small businesses offering rugby type activities for the youngest age groups, have spotted a gap in the market, and have targeted children, even as young as 18 months old. They provide rugby fun, with the correct sized balls, blow up indoor posts, and rugby themed games. Mum and/or Dad can attend and due top them being held within a local rugby club, they get the whole rugby club feel from a young age, with the natural progression for them to feed into the club and join the minis.
So, fast forward a few years, and they’re at U6s. An age group where they're now outside and enjoying their own kit, just like the older rugby players.
A safe environment for our younger players to thrive in, feel safe, have fun and tell their mates about.
Word of mouth about how much fun can be had on the pitch, soon gets around at school, and coupled with the success of a local 1st XV, the clubs can build on this by providing their own qualified coaches in after school clubs to keep endorsing the game. Thus links between rugby clubs and schools are essential for the game to grow in local areas.
Another link from the grassroots rugby clubs, is to offer those who are prepared to volunteer, a starting point and a basic educations of the game.
Some sheepishly put their hands up to offer support for the team, whether it be a small help with the admin, or taking on the role of first-aider. The club offers many different job specs for those who are willing and it doesn’t take long to get involved and learn about the running of a grassroots club.
Volunteers offer vital support through difficulties like vandalism, where the members pull together and find a way to protect their other “home,” or when much needed equipment is required for the teams to progress. Everyone chips in, to help raise the required funds.
It’s a community, the heart of the club, the nucleus, call it what you will.
It beats within us, and we worship there every Sunday morning, clasping our bacon baguettes to our hearts, and using piping hot coffee to warm our chilly hands, as we watch our kids get their weekly fix of mud, games, friendship and fun.
The grassroot rugby club at the heart of every community has earned its rightful place. It's where dreams are first thought up, and where friendships begin, for all ages. It's where the bug for getting muddy is found by so many, and it's a hub for fundraising.
It unites; by belonging to the same club, wearing the same crest and supporting those who play the game well, as well as those not so well.
So, to answer the question... it is imperative for the future of the game that grassroots rugby gets the attention that it deserves.