Winning Promotion in Grassroots Rugby; Is it a Catch 22?

September 8, 2017

Ambition is no bad thing; that’s for sure. There’s no reason why a grassroots club or rugby player cannot, or should not, be ambitious. I’d have loved to be a British & Irish Lion's second row, but I just wasn’t ambitious enough! (I get that it takes a little more than ambition to make it to those heights of the sport however, there will be those who had the potential but lacked the ambition).  

Grassroots clubs in 2017 are far more ambitious than in previous years. There are a lot of clubs that are run incredibly professionally and treat their players in as professional a capacity as possible. Aspects such as training 2 or 3 nights a week, as well as gym and nutrition plans are now considered the minimum and in some cases, the norm. Players also enjoy more access to physios and doctors.

There are also more sponsors in grassroots rugby than ever before. This is brilliant but is it creating too much pressure for grassroots players to perform, and is the allure of the big leagues increasing the strain on players? In most cases grassroots rugby should be about the fun shared with friends; that’s why I play these days, and the pressures of success may eradicate the fun element…

Promotion is an ambition for all clubs at all levels. We all dream of playing at a higher level but with that comes the extra commitment needed to make those dreams become a reality. More training sessions, strength & conditioning sessions and even video analysis sessions are taking place to make sure clubs reach their goals. It’s not always easy to commit players to this; families, full-time jobs and other commitments can mean that it’s harder to make every session. Promotion from any league is only a realistic aim when you have a squad who are all committed to the cause.

I really can’t use my club, Racal Decca, as an example. We play in the Surrey Reserve Leagues and promotion or relegation is purely based on the competitiveness of the games we play over the 'league season'. We could have ambitions of playing at a higher level, but that would need a bigger squad, a better infrastructure and more commitment from ourselves – it would negate the real reason we play. f we were to play in a higher-level league, we would be beaten handsomely every week, and what would that do for

If we were to play in a higher-level league, we would be beaten handsomely every week, and what would that do for morale? I don't think we would exist if this was the case. We have a great bunch of lads, but committing them to training once a week is hard enough!

As a player, I would love to have played at a much higher level, aiming for the big time and promotions year on year, but I am not committed enough to eating right and staying fit. I have a young family that requires my attention more than my rugby club does! 

I envy those players who can commit and the team around them. My advice for the individual would be, find a club that matches your own ambitions & goals. 

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Comments (2)

  1. darren Sep 13, 2017 at 04:47 PM

    Nice article I do tend to agree with your comments however the term "Grass Roots" seems to encompass a wide range. For me grass roots is about the little people, those who start out at the age of 6 and spend many years developing not only there rugby skills but also their interpersonal skills and respect for each other and officials.

    I fully agree that finding the right club so it is still a game of enjoyment for each individual is the most important thing. When you stop enjoying it then its time to move on.

    For me some clubs do focus to much on promotion and do not look far enough ahead and to decide exactly what it is as a club they are trying to achieve. At some point you move from the amateur game to the semi pro to the pro at which point nearly all your players have left the club and you no longer stand for what you did. Very few clubs ever reach the top flight and some that progress through the lower leagues regret the position they find themselves because of the traveling distances training commitments that you highlighted and intern start to decline. Most clubs run on volunteers and commitment is key to the running of these sometimes it goes wrong. Being involved in a club that has recently had a harsh punishment dealt to them by the RFU for incorrect paperwork filing. It becomes clear that the RFU has no real understanding that the people doing these rolls actually need the support as these types of jobs are not their primary function. My point is there's a lot of other things that go with these ambitions to achieve at a higher standard and sometimes its not the right choice for the individual player, coach or other volunteer.

  2. Chris MEffingham & Leatherhead RFC Sep 11, 2017 at 09:27 PM

    Good article Sean. Totally agree with your point of view.