Exmouth RFC chosen to trail blaze new RFU initiative

09:33 13 February 2014

Exmouth Under-11s rugby team

Exmouth Under-11s rugby team

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Exmouth Rugby Club are celebrating after being selected by the RFU as one of only four clubs in the south west region to pilot the new ‘Kids First’ rugby scheme.

Recognised as a leader in Junior Rugby, Exmouth RFC will be adopting the philosophy of ‘Kids First’ as the core of the junior training scheme for the future. It will provide a structure and cohesive training program for all the junior coaches from under six level up to and including under twelve’s.

The long term objectives of the trial are to; provide a progressive player pathway that will enhance the way in which our players are developed in a more incremental manner; provide a game which is in line with the principles of Child Development based on extensive research and expertise; increase involvement of all players; place the emphasis on competitive performance not competitive outcome; encourage less structure (encourage skills and discourage fear of failure); make the game easier to understand and referee, put less emphasis on contact and more on continuity in early years and, last but not least, reward the intention to tackle in early years as much as ability to tackle.

The trial is based on the recommendations from research, commissioned by the RFU in 2007, by Exeter University. The research had a brief to examine the Age Grade Regulations and make recommendations on changes that should be made to the mini and youth game, with the express aim being to develop an improvement in young players’ skills and higher levels of retention into the adult game.

Exmouth’s Junior coaching team were introduced to the scheme last weekend by Alan (Hubbs) Hubbleday, RFU South West Area Player Development Officer.

Hubbs put across the RFU vision that this project is about ‘developing children through rugby union’.

The scheme moves to create a ‘positive environment” where all children can expect an equal playing time. Rugby is a sport which requires all sorts of skills which can be delivered from players of all shapes and sizes.

Profound inequalities in body size during seven to 18 years of age mean that a game heavily focused on contact and set-pieces encourages a ‘bigger is better’ mentality from a very young age, rather than skilled play and decision-making.

In order to provide emphasis on ball handling, evasion and support at younger ages, contact will need to be de-emphasized. It is not suggested that contact should be eliminated, but that children should be looking for spaces and not contact.

Hubbs says: “The scheme should ensure a level of consistency through the junior set up and provide coaches with a framework to assist in their role. Winning is the aim but not so important at junior level. Young players need to learn the game and learn by their mistakes without the pressure often seen and heard from the touchline which inhibits creative play and makes them afraid to try something new. If a young player is scolded because the pass was the wrong option, then next time when it is the right option he or she will not make that choice. Remove the pressure and players stand a better chance of learning and will enjoy the game so much more”.

One of the initiatives which has been introduced is sticker books with rewards for good play, doing something outstanding or achieving personal goals which can be recognised, not just scoring tries.

The pilot scheme is being introduced with the help of Ruckley the new mascott for English Junior Rugby. He is the latest recruit to the England Rugby team – an English bulldog with boundless energy, bucket loads of enthusiasm and an endless love of rugby.

A short cartoon type film has been produced by the RFU featuring Ruckley, demonstrating the importance of inclusion and what can be achieved when all are given a fair crack of the whip.

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