The dragon awakes community development through rugby union in the south wales valleys

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Information about The dragon awakes community development through rugby union in the...

Published on February 26, 2014

Author: peopleandworkunit



Reviving youth rugby in Rhondda! Over 50 girls and boys are now training and playing rugby in one of Wales' most disadvantaged communities! Loads of volunteers, supporters, families and helpers have pitched in to support this new venture which is part of Wattstown RFC. The People and Work Unit's Dynamic Communities Project Leader, Mark Hutton, has been instrumental in helping to kick start this exciting development!

‘The dragon awakes’: Community development through Rugby Union in the South Wales Valleys Discussion paper Written by Mark Hutton and Rhodri Bowen February 2014 @Loudoun Butetown Cardiff CF10 5HW Tel: 029 2048 8536 Email: Website: Charity Registration No: 515211 Company Registration No: 1809654 1

Contents 1. Introduction ............................................................................................................... 3 2. What we did, and what happened............................................................................. 6 3. Reflections and the way forward ............................................................................... 9 Bibliography .................................................................................................................. 12 Appendix ....................................................................................................................... 13 2

1. Introduction Background 1.1 Dynamic Communities is a project that aims to learn how best to use sport and physical activity as a means of encouraging individuals and families to engage with the development of their own communities. This includes:  learning how to create an environment which encourages community members to organise community activities and to sustain them; and  helping people from disadvantaged areas to take ownership of local events, clubs and activities. 1.2. This report focuses on the part of the project which used Rugby Union as a vehicle for ‘community development’. Although the project worked mainly with young people, it also included adults and the aim was to create opportunities for people to participate in rugby and to benefit from all the positive values that it brings such as honesty, teamwork, fair play, self respect, respect for others, and adherence to rules. 1.3. The project is funded by Comic Relief, and is delivered by the People and Work Unit (PWU). Mark Hutton is the Project Leader and James Hall manages the project. The PWU is a not-for-profit company and a registered charity that aims to make a real difference to people’s lives through its dual approach of quality research and innovative projects. 1.4. The project has also benefited from support by Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) County Borough Council’s 5 X 60 sports scheme which works with young people in RCT to encourage them to exercise at least an hour per day five times a week. 3

Policies and implementation 1.5. There have been national (WAG, 2008) and local policies and strategies (RCT, 2008a; RCT, 2008b) that highlight:  the importance of improving levels of physical activity, especially amongst girls and women; and  that the public, voluntary and private sectors need to work together in order to implement successfully health and well being strategies which include physical activity and social interaction. 1.6. Despite this, in terms of actually working with young people and adults who need to engage in greater physical activity and social interaction (i.e. implementation), evidence from a recent study (Hutton & Bowen, 2013) highlighted that not enough was being done in many areas of the South Wales Valleys. For example, the survey study (Ibid) identified:  low membership of physical activity/sports groups with two thirds of the survey respondents not being members of any activity groups or sports clubs.; and  “women [were] far less likely to do over two hours exercise a week than men” (p.6). ‘The sleeping dragon’ 1.7. Rugby Union is the national sport of Wales and a large part of the national culture. Rugby Union in Wales has traditionally been particularly strong in the ‘working class’ communities of South Wales, many of which over recent decades have experienced high unemployment and associated problems due to the closure of heavy industries. Although support for the national rugby team has remained strong, actual participation in rugby (as highlighted in the report (Ibid.)) 4

amongst boys and especially girls is very low in many parts of the South Wales Valleys. ‘Awakening the dragon’ 1.8. In response to the lack of participation in sport, particularly amongst girls in rugby, the Dynamic Communities project sought to use Rugby Union as a vehicle for community development in the Wattstown and Ynyshir area of the Rhondda Valley. 1.9. The success of the project means that the PWU is keen to learn how and why this approach has worked and then to replicate the model in areas of the South Wales Valleys where there is an identified need. What this report tells you 1.10. It outlines how the project was implemented, areas of success and how this can be taken forward. . 5

2. What we did, and what happened 2.1. Figure 1 below summarises the approach of the project and key outcomes. Identify need Actions / Approaches Key outcomes (so far)  Project leader identified there had not been youth rugby provision (16-19 year olds) in Wattstown RFC for approx 12 years.  Taster Youth Rugby sessions organised separately for girls and boys in Wattstown and Ynyshir which were well attended (approx 25 each session). These demonstrated that the survey evidence for need was correct.  Establishment for the first time ever of the girls’ youth team (‘Team Pink’). Their first match was in November 2013 and the team continues to thrive.  The project’s online survey and mapping of voluntary groups (face to face interviews) highlighted a lack of engagement in activity and sports clubs and a lack of exercising, especially amongst girls and women in different areas of Rhondda Cynon Taf (which included Wattstown and Ynyshir).  New forms of media (Facebook and Twitter) were used to recruit players, retain interest and help organise activities.  Securing an indoor facility at least once a week for training, thus avoiding cancellations due to inclement weather (using ‘tag’ and ‘touch’ forms of training).  Flexibility and a willingness to change: a) Initially data suggested girls would be less interested in ‘full contact’ rugby. Further consultation showed they were more interested in ‘full contact’; hence the provision was changed accordingly b) players were often late to practice (and some still are): coaches need to be patient and fit in with their behaviour until changes occur.  Establishment of Wattstown male youth provision. Their first match was in September 2013 (after a 12 year gap) and the team continues to thrive.  34 female players and 26 male players have been registered by the Welsh Rugby Union (December 2013).  Forming of the Wattstown Young People’s Rugby constituted group (January 2014).  5 youth players attended district trials and another 5 attended Cardiff Blues trials and two made the Blues team (by January 2014).  2 coaches achieved the WRU level 1 course and another the WRU level 1 referee course (by January 2014). 6

2.2. In addition to the key outcomes outlined in Figure 1 other benefits include: Health and Well-being: Wider family engagement. For example, families following ‘healthy eating plans’ and establishing ‘gyms’ within their household;  Increased exercise via other activities such as gym work and swimming; and  Loss of weight. For example, two female participants reported losing half a stone in weight since taking part. Social benefits:  Volunteering by community members (not including rugby players). For example, arranging food, transport, first aid and building maintenance for the rugby teams;  The female rugby team’s increased sense of belonging and pride in the ‘Team Pink’ brand which it helped create and a sense of greater belonging through their membership with the club; and  Rugby players from the same communities who attend different schools (i.e. Porth County and Ysgol Gyfun Cymer) and who didn’t used to mix - now socialise. Economic benefits: Increased income to local businesses such as the rugby clubs, gyms, and businesses which sell kit;  The female rugby team has raised money via commission on their ‘Team Pink’ shirts and other merchandise;  The female rugby team raised £135 for the Breast Cancer Awareness charity; and 7

 Increased understanding amongst rugby players of how to run a club. For example, how to structure a meeting and arrange activities. Raised profile of rugby and sport: Increased local and national awareness of sport through various media outlets including social media sites (e.g. Facebook), Comic Relief publications, television (BBC Wales’ Scrum V - pending), and newspapers (Western Mail and Rhondda Leader – see articles in the appendix). Challenges 2.3. The project highlighted that potential volunteers were held back by the fear of structural factors such as needing checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service (Police check) and of being part of a governance system (which was vital for accessing funding streams). This was often down to misunderstandings and, with the aid of project staff and community members explaining or helping administer the processes, this challenge was overcome. 2.4. Another challenge has been the lack of good time keeping by the rugby team members. This is a challenge which has remained and needs to be overcome during future provision as such skills are important for participants to develop. Sustainability 2.5. Although systems have been set in place for the rugby teams and associated activities to continue it’s still too early to tell whether the teams will continue in the long run and this is something which the PWU will continue to monitor. The Project Leader plans to stay engaged with the teams until the end of the summer (2014 - before the new rugby season starts) by which point he is confident the project will be able to sustain itself fully. Moreover, the signs are promising, with as many as 40 girls actively engaging in training up to three times a week and volunteers taking on more responsibilities, it is unlikely to lose momentum over the next year or so. 8

3. Reflections and the way forward Reflections 3.1. The key outcomes achieved by the project indicate it has been a success. The most notable indicator is the establishment of youth rugby teams for girls and boys. Data collected by the project leader has highlighted reasons why it has been success. In short, three factors were identified, all of which complement each other (see also figure 2 p.11):- 1) Good communication systems  A mix of ‘face to face’ interviews (i.e. qualitative data) and a survey (i.e. quantitative data) to understand the needs of the community and to also help make links within those communities;  Use of popular social media sites (especially amongst young people), including young people from disadvantaged communities, making it easy to communicate with the target audience; and  Demystifying structural elements of participation which can act as a barrier to volunteering and participation such as the Disclosure and Barring Service. 2) Opportunities  Initial taster sessions for young people;  Facilities. For example, having access to an indoor training room to cover training during bad weather; and  Making the best of the advantages of rugby as a sport. For example, the level of training to be a rugby coach is less demanding than the level of training required for other popular sports, such as dancing; 9

3) Responsiveness  Staff and volunteers need to be responsive to the needs and behaviour of community members. On the one hand, this would include initial acceptance of behaviour not deemed as good, such as poor timekeeping. On the other hand, it includes the encouragement of positive behaviour, such as letting players take responsibility for delivering their own ideas (i.e. encourage selfempowerment). Figure 2 below illustrates the three factors identified as contributing to the success of the project. Communication Opportunities Responsiveness The way forward 3.2. Initial investigations have shown that youth rugby teams have folded in the Porth and Treherbert areas of RCT and there is anecdotal evidence of this happening in many other areas within the South Wales Valleys. Given the success and lessons learned from the project, a similar approach could be applied in these areas, subject to identified need. The PWU is interested in having discussions 10

with other organisations within all sectors in order to expand this model within the South Wales Valleys. 3.3. As previously highlighted, the long term sustainability of the project has yet to be proven and the PWU aims to continue monitoring progress and any further lessons to be learned. 11

Bibliography Hutton, M. and Bowen, R. (2013) Mapping provision and exploring motivations of voluntary groups in Rhondda Cynon Taf. People and Work Unit: Cardiff. Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) Health, Social Care and Well-being (2008a) - Health Social Care and Well-being Strategy 2008-2014. RCT. Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) Health, Social Care and Well-being (2008b) - Health Social Care and Well-being Strategy 2008-2014. It’s all about you. RCT. Welsh Assembly Government, (2008), Creating an Active Wales, Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government 12

Appendix From The Western Mail February 6th 2014:- 13

From the Rhondda Leader, January 30th 2014:- 14

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