Blackheath Rugby Community Project
An exciting new project has been launched in the local community during the current Autumn term by Blackheath Rugby Charitable Trust, which was founded to promote the development of rugby in the local community. Led by former Blackheath player, Habib Annous, the project is based on a programme of Tag Rugby coaching and development being delivered to local primary schools in the Blackheath area.
Over 1,000 children from 5 schools participated in the programme during the first half of the school term, most of them experiencing rugby for the first time. Delivered over 5 weeks, trained coaches including Nick Wilkinson, Sam Evans and Keith Forward introduced the children to Tag Rugby within the school curriculum time. As Project Director, Habib commented: “It is well known that the physical education of children was one of the main casualties in the Covid pandemic. Our programme is based on introducing children to a new physical activity that involves a lot of fun while teaching them the basics of rugby, at the same time as building their confidence and improving their health and well-being.”
Children across school Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 enjoyed the programme which included teaching them the 5 core values of rugby: Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship. The programme culminated in a Festival held at Hervey Road, with around 200 children from Years 5 and 6 representing their schools. Unfortunately, the planned festival for Years 3 and 4 had to be postponed because of bad weather. Trophies for the winning schools including the Spirit of Rugby Trophy for Sportsmanship and medals for all participants were awarded at the Festival, with a presentation from Club President, Dr Alan Thompson. The trophies and medals were engraved and provided by Club member, Martin Worrow of Supreme Trophies and Engraving and Nick Probert, Pete Gray, Ian Colley and Henry Paul also gave a great deal of volunteer support at the Festival.
The idea for the Project was born out of the recent Covid Pandemic and the desire to encourage children into physical activity at an early age and with the opportunity to learn a new sport, Rugby Union. The schools that participated in the first half-term programme were:
Habib has been grateful for the help from Stephanie Turner, Sports Director at the Royal Borough of Greenwich and from Ashleigh Bushnell at Lewisham Schools Games and he was delighted with the response received from the schools and Head Teachers. “Although it was initially a challenge to build the programme into the school curriculum and get it launched, the schools have been very supportive and appreciative of the project and word quickly spread around the local area about the opportunity and benefits”, he said.
The project has been supported by generous funding from private donors to date and much more is needed for the project to continue. As well as giving young children the chance to participate in a physical activity that will support their health and well-being, there is also the opportunity to introduce them to the game of rugby. Hopefully many of them will continue their interest after the programme by joining the Minis section of Blackheath Rugby. Who knows, there may well be a future international among them!
After the half-term holiday, a second programme started, and the following schools are currently participating:
Habib and team plan to host a second set of Festivals for participating schools at Hervey Road on 12th and 13th January.
A further development in the project is that an After School Club for secondary schools has also now been launched, which has been supported by funding from sports England and L&Q Together Fund. Leigh Academy was the first school to launch a club and John Roan has now also launched its own club. These After School Clubs are for girls and boys who want to experience rugby as well as improve their knowledge and understanding of the game. The plan is to deliver coaching and development for these clubs for the remainder of the Autumn term and for the Spring term as well. Habib advised that there is currently spare training capacity so there is still an opportunity for other secondary schools to participate if they are interested.
The longer term plan is to build partnerships with local schools to support them in delivering sports coaching to their students. Habib is always happy to talk to new schools who want to partner with the project. He is also keen to hear from new volunteers who would like to assist with the project and help run the Festivals. And, of course, if there are any local business owners who would like to offer funding to this project focused towards sport in the community then please do contact Habib (email@example.com)
The President of Blackheath Rugby, Dr Alan Thompson commented: “This is an exciting new project and Habib deserves full credit for initiating and launching the programme to schools in the local area. The immediate benefit to children in their physical health and well-being is very important and the introduction of rugby to a new group of participants is also an important opportunity for the long term future of our game. I was delighted to attend the recent Festival and see the joy and fun amongst the children and also the display of newly acquired skills. It is great to see Blackheath Rugby fully contributing to the local community”.