Canterbury Touch have developed very dynamically over a short time, turning itself from a social 6 weeks a year ‘off season Rugby club’, to a 3 times a week, all year round, Touch club competing in National Touch Series. Within 3 years they have managed to achieve and produce the following:
• 16 England representative players including 8 X Open & 6 X 18s players
- Over 500 registered social players
- 150 league players
- Over 1400 school players
- 2 Secondary schools have placed it into their curriculum
- 24 Level 1 coaches
- 22 Level 1 Referees
- A winning under 18 mixed National schools team
- NTS and DTS squads
‘My aim was to develop a competitive NTS team made up from home grown players through expanding the player base in the area’. Although a small social summer league had been running for several years, 4 Years ago Touch was still pretty novel in Kent and had never had the coverage that local Rugby clubs needed to see the benefits of the game for their off season fitness and skill sets. Southern hemisphere contact players grow up playing Touch and then often play in their off season and without a doubt become much smarter and tactical players in doing so. I was tired of hearing ex-contact players saying they play ‘Touch Rugby’: ‘yeah we always warm up with Touch before a training session’, then watching them hit crash balls, slow the game down and burn out after 5 minutes of being on the pitch when placed into a properly refereed and run Touch game.
Actually NO they had never played the game, similar concept but a totally different experience once played properly. So I thought to myself instead of trying to teach old dogs new tricks I need to start afresh and find enthusiastic open minded players not corrupted by other disciplines who had the simplistic mentality of ‘I’m big so I can smash through that space.’ The answer to this was I looked to schools to start my plan…
I set about looking for some funding focused at school aged players. I found this in the form of Sportivate funding. With many thanks to the ‘Kent sport team’ I put an application in to receive funding to send coaches into Simon Langton Boys School who, luckily, had some forward thinking PE teachers who could foresee the development of skills their rugby players would gain from Touch. Little did they know 8 of their pupils were good enough to represent England!
I also developed some teacher resources and ran training for the PE staff at the school, sharing knowledge is the best way to develop this sport. I used the Sportivate funding to put any promising pupils on a level 1 coaching course, this meant the school was set up to introduce and deliver Touch in their curriculum time for the whole of the school. They soon found many pupils wanted to do this as an after school club so we started one for mixed year groups. This had over 100 players each week and the teachers even clubbed together to put a team in which just develop their knowledge even more. I also ensured Sportivate participants received a Canterbury Touch T-shirt which helped to promote the club and gave them a little incentive. After piloting this we are now rolling it out into other local school both secondary and primary. We have future plans to help schools asses players in Touch for GCSE PE; for example we plan to produce a Touch booklet which helps players learn rules, specific plays, and refereeing enables mapping of fitness and individual progression.
A few areas I have found very beneficial are as follows:
- Sportivate funding, which allowed me to find and develop a coach who could deliver Touch sessions into local schools.
- Canterbury RFC, Simon Langton Boys and St Anselm’s School have all been very open to change and now see the benefits of their players, pupils and members being engaged in Touch and provide great support for further development. It’s been so beneficial for all parties since Canterbury RFC have fully integrated Touch into the club as part of their OneClub philosophy.
- Engage key volunteers who have helped to develop the game and ensure they pass on what they have learnt from others. As a coach I ensure my players coach others with less knowledge, as this increase the development in such a progressive way.
- All of this hard work and dedication has resulted in a successful touch club which is at the heart of the local community and continuing to grow in membership. Follow the NTS series results to see how Canterbury and all the other teams get on!
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