This is my first season as chair of the youth section and it has certainly been a busy one and 2015/16 has been another huge success for our section.
The season began back in September and we were hoping for a long dry spell over the Autumn and Winter to ensure training and fixtures at the club every weekend. Unfortunately we were to be disappointed (again) and our decision to increase subs the previous season, to cover the cost of the 3G hire, proved to be a good one once more. Whilst we were unable to train at the club for most of November through to February we did manage to get a least 6 age groups running sessions throughout. I would also like to thank the first team players that came down to training on a number of weekends. This made a big difference to the kids and really motivates and inspires them to improve. It also gives them a break from the slightly more dull and older regular coaches!
Membership remained fairly stable throughout the season and we saw just under 550 kids join or renew their membership with the club. Together with the ladies section, it meant we were pushing towards 600 in the youth section in total and I hope to expand on this in years to come. We did have a bit of a struggle early in the season with our U15s and U16s but the team turned that around and ended up having very successful seasons. I would like to thank Toby Osborne at this point who took on the membership secretary role for the youth section this year. It is a largely invisible and thankless task but absolutely essential for the club both financially and developmentally. Toby is standing down this year and we are currently seeking a replacement in this role.
Another area that has been successful again is in our sponsorship, with all of the age groups covered. We have seen investment from some new sponsors this season as well as continued support from our longer standing sponsors. We still need to ensure this area of our work is optimised as I am convinced there are many people in the club who would be willing to give up time or money to help move the club forward. I am in negotiation with some bigger sponsors for next season already.
The ladies section continues to flourish and Simon and his team continue to do a fantastic job. I won’t steal Simon’s thunder other than to say they have seen their numbers increase across all three age groups and have seen representative success at county and divisional level.
The academy has continued to run effectively under the guidance of Fran and Clinton. Together with Fat Pants we now have plans for the Colts section of the club and ambitions to improve the flow of players through the academy and into senior rugby. This is a really positive step and forms part of our strategic plan over the next five years to ensure the retention of players in the older age groups.
Pete Walker has once again done a brilliant job as our coaching coordinator and we have a strong coaching commitment for all of our age groups. We are vacant an U6 and U8 coach for next season though and I am keen to fill these roles quickly. Pete has run RFU courses at the club and development sessions for the coaching team. Next season it is our ambition to begin to develop a ‘one club’ coaching philosophy from the seniors through to our U6’s. We have maintained our skills as a coaching team with 80 having completed the RFUs Rugby Ready course, 30 the Scrum Factory Course, 26 the RFU Level 1 coaching course and 14 the RFU Level 2.
Another very exciting development this year has been the start of two satellite clubs, funded through Kent Sport, at Skinners Kent Acadamy and Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. Thanks to Fat Pants and Dom for their work in delivering these. We have had interest from several other schools in the area and we have secured funding for next season to expand this further. We are also looking at the opportunity to have a Community Coach role within the youth section and take rugby more widely to schools in the area.
As well as all the hard work behind the scenes, and I am extremely grateful to all those who commit their time and energy to the club, we have had some real highs on the pitch. We have organised another successful B festival at the end of the season for which we have received very positive praise, run a Primary Schools Tag festival with over 35 teams from Primary Schools across the area taking part. I would like to make a special mention to Rene Doubell at this point who took on the Primary School Liaison role this year and organised it. We have run a Secondary School Girls Tag Festival and hosted two boys secondary school festivals. I am keen to work with schools in the area, particularly following our success at Twickenham, to promote rugby and encourage new blood to the club. There are even plans for a trophy tour!
As well as the events we have organised and hosted we have had considerable success on the pitch. The U13s and U10s won the Kent Cup this season and seven of the U13 squad were selected to train with the Kent Player Development Programme. In the Kent Festival, the U8s and U9s got teams into the cup finals and TWRFC saw teams in the plate and shield at every age group up to U11. We also competed in the development cup, delivering our ambition to ensure all children, whatever their ability, are able to play competitive rugby and develop their game. I would like to thank Toby and Mike for sorting out al the fixtures and again, with Toby stepping down, we have a fixture secretary post for the juniors that needs filling.
Then, to top it all off, we were visited by the French side Pontaq for a wonderful day at the club. Sponsored by Core Law, now sponsoring one of our age groups, the day was very successful with Tim laying on a wonderful French spread for the visitors (burgers for the English!) and first team players coming along and playing touch with the boys. We have built a good bond with the French side and we are hoping for a return visit to them next season.
Going forward I am looking to increase the membership across the youth section and expand our work in schools in the area. I want to ensure that our communications are as effective as possible and that we become the club of choice for young players in the area. It feels like a really exciting time at the club with enormous opportunity and I am delighted that our thriving youth section will be a part of that.
It has been an incredible season for TWRFC – winning the league and Intermmediate Cup at Twickenham. The support for the latter was outstanding and the hundreds of youth section members and families that turned out that day made a real difference to the team and I know they hugely appreciated it. I see exciting times ahead for the club and our flourishing youth section form the bedrock of this and I am really looking forward to next season where I am confident we will continue to thrive and bring more success to the club.
Thank you to everyone that has been involved this season – there are too many to mention by name. Let’s get more people involved next season and build on the successes of this year. COYW!!!
Laurence Taylor (Youth Chairman)
Having finished 2014-2015 on a high there, were concerns that this season would be hard, but, thanks to some excellent word of mouth and recruitment by the girls, we doubled our numbers and retained a large number of those who came to give rugby a try, finishing on 50 junior players aged between 11 & 17. This enabled us to put out 3 full teams at U13’s, U15’s and U18’s.
With new teams and girls moving up to new age groups our initial matches were a learning experience, but once we found our level we pushed forward with great success finishing with the:-
• U18’s Winning the Area 3 Bowl,
• U15’s coming Runners Up in the Area 3 Spoon Final,
• U13’s coming Runners Up in the Area 3 Spoon Final.
A solid finish to their first competitive seasons, with lots of room to move up and progress.
On top of the above we had two girls represent Kent - U18 Ellie Miles at U18 and U15 Lotte Van Der Zander, with both playing well. Ellie was also chosen to represent London South East U18’s in both their matches (starting in the second) and in the represent LSE in Divisional Sevens. A Great Achievement In Our First Competitive Year.
Coaching wise, we grew to seven coaches cross the section with 1x LVL 2 Coach, 3x LVL 1 Coaches, and 3x Rugby Ready, and 2 coaches passing their LVL 2 Refereeing course. We got 4 girls through Rugby Ready – 2 of which also passed their Coaching TAG CPD, which will assist them in the work they do running the Rugby Club at TWGGS. We will look to build in this at Coaching and Player level.
The End of Season Dinner was a huge success and a lot of fun. Thank you to Alex for his support & comments on behalf of the senior section.
THANK YOU to the entire club for their support and assistance this season – We look forward to continuing to be part of the TWRFC brand and supporting the club right back!
Simon Parsons (Director of Ladies Rugby)