Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme making a big impact

Wasps hosted an inspirational day as the latest group of Premiership Rugby Scholarships winners gave something back to the sport at grassroots level on Tuesday.

Taking in Ricoh Arena, Broadstreet RFC and Banbury RUFC, the touring cohort of 26 coaches from 19 different US states were taught by a selection of Wasps coaches on how best to run sessions for all abilities, took in a first team training session and toured the club’s famous stadium in Coventry.

At the end of the day, the theory was put into practice as the Scholarship winners, who have spearheaded pioneering work in their own communities, delivered training sessions to players at Banbury RUFC.

Wasps community manager Ian Isham, who was on hand to guide the American coaches, was delighted to see the impact of the programme first-hand.

“In the community Wasps go to local primary schools, secondary schools, local clubs and everything in between,” Isham said.

“The Scholarships programme is another project and it is a great way to help grow the game. With the Rugby World Cup on at the moment you’re seeing a lot of developing nations making big strides and this initiative is a key way of developing the next generation of coaches.”

“Having them over here for the week is a great way to upskill them, expose them to new coaching environments and hopefully give them new things to take back to America.

“The work that Wasps do in the community is absolutely key to the business. It makes sure we’re engaging with local people and local rugby clubs, schools and on a wider level we help grow the game with Premiership Rugby to new audiences.”

This week the programme, which works in partnership with the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby, sees the participants receive an extensive insight into high-quality rugby coaching on a journey which will see them also visit Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.

In addition, they will complete a Level 300 training course co-delivered by Premiership Rugby and USA Rugby – empowering the coaches and providing them with the skills to support of the development of the game across the pond.

Timaris Montano, a member of the Navajo Native American tribe from Gallup, New Mexico was just one of the lucky group who enjoyed a thrilling time at Wasps.

The 48-year-old, who coaches an all-Native American rugby team called the Indigenous Warriors largely made up of impoverished young people, said all the effort she has put into coaching the side has been made worth it when seeing the pride on their faces.

She said: “My success hasn’t come with national titles or tournaments, mine comes in a different form.

“We recently had a match where afterwards a young man came off with more pride because they carried their tribal facts, they were able to sing their tribal songs, they were able to have pride in their culture and for me that was worth all the effort.

“It is more than I can ever express being here, it’s got such a peaceful feeling because I’m around people who have similar interests.

“I would never have experienced this without the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme. I’ve learned there’s so much more to rugby than just a coaching or playing aspect, it’s a community that’s hard to understand unless you’ve been in it.”

The Scholarships programme began in 2018 and to date has seen 69 coaches from 32 states visit the UK and get unprecedented access to some of the best minds in the game.

Marcus Wood, a Washington DC native, is a coach at grassroots organisation Washington DC Youth Rugby which spreads the core values of rugby to marginalised communities.

At Archbishop Carroll High School Wood kickstarted a life-long love for the sport which has seen him fulfil multiple roles to support the development of youth rugby, something he believes is crucial in supporting the young people he works with.

He said: “The job of a rugby coach is an Uber driver, someone who buys dinners, an adviser, a parent, a sibling.

“We fill all these roles for some of these kids who may not have the support system at home and we provide the means for them to get to practices and games.

“Today has been great, sharing ideas with others and seeing just how simple it can be to deliver a very complex game.

“The intensity and the attention to detail and how all the players are dialled into everything on the field is great to see.”

Meanwhile Louisiana native Boyd LeJeune, who coaches a regional system in the state, is establishing a programme which uses rugby to help at risk kids.

He added: “I’ve talked to many people on this trip and we have such similar stories in that we can have a hard day but you come to the pitch and it clears it for that 80 minutes and I wish everybody had a chance to do that.

“We’re very blessed to be able to do this opportunity. It’s provided a cohort of people who have similar values at varying levels and we’ve been able to discuss our shared experiences.

“I find it that people will possibly be uncomfortable and uncomfortable is good. It allows you to grow, if you stay comfortable for too long you’re not growing so we’re here to grow but also network and build a community.”

Applications for the 2020 Scholarship visit will open in January, 2020. To be in with a chance of winning, you will need to submit a video outlining how the experience will positively impact your coach delivery and you must have completed your USA Rugby Level 200 coaching qualification prior to the trip.

In addition to the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby the following partners have been instrumental in the Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme: Austin Huns Rugby Club, Austin Valkyries Women’s Rugby Club, Carolina’s Geographic Rugby Union, Glendale Raptors, Rugby ATL, Rugby United New York, Rugby New Jersey, Saint Thomas Aquinas Rugby, Southern California Rugby Football Union and the United States Rugby Foundation.