On Thursday 7th November, inspired by the Rugby World Cup 2019, The Harlequins Foundation invited 30 local schools to Staines Rugby Club to take part in a ‘Celebration of Rugby’ festival that saw in excess of 400 young people take to the rugby field and represent their school, many of whom did so for the very first time.
The participants had already been introduced to the sport this season, thanks to taking part in one of The Foundation’s schools programmes such as ‘Project Rugby, ‘METTLE’ and ‘SWITCH’. On the day, they were joined at Staines by members of both Harlequins’ men’s and women’s squads including, fresh from the World Cup in Japan, Paul Lasike, Vereniki Goneva and Tevita Cuvabati, as well as Jade Konkel and Rebecca Rowe who were also on hand to offer advice to those taking part on the day.
So far this season, the Foundation’s dedicated and inspiring team of coaches have been busy introducing hundreds of brand-new players to the game through a range of programmes that include Gallagher and Premiership Rugby’s ‘Project Rugby’ initiative. Over the course of this season, over 1000 disadvantaged local young people will take part in Project Rugby with The Harlequins Foundation, as they seek to overcome a number of social, economic and cultural barriers that often prevent some young people from accessing the sport in the first place. At first, participants are introduced to the sport as part of their school PE lessons, following which they are encouraged to further develop their skills at one of The Foundations Rugby HUBs which take place weekly at local grassroots clubs throughout the season.
Head of PE at Kingsley Academy, Hounslow, Anita Fiddes-Kapadia said “We’ve been hugely impressed by how James & The Harlequins Foundation have been able to encourage so many of our students to give Rugby a go. At first, we weren’t so sure how as to how well they’d take to the game as it’s pretty alien for most of them. It’s been great to see different groups of students mixing together and forming our first ever school team, we hope it will last for years to come. Thanks Harlequins!”
Since the beginning of the school term, close to 400 young girls aged 11-13 have taken part in The Harlequins Foundation’s ‘SWITCH’ programme, a female-focussed grassroots rugby development programme aimed at encouraging more women and girls into the grassroots game locally. Following a similar model to Project Rugby, this programme also targets the need to encourage greater numbers of female coaches into the game in order to facilitate and sustain growing numbers of young girls playing at grassroots level.
Lucy Boiling, Head of PE at Tiffin Girls School, Kingston commented “Over the past two seasons, The Harlequins Foundation have been amazing with our girls. This is the 6th festival we’ve attended now, and they keep getting better and better. By getting the chance to take up Rugby as a school, it has meant that even more of our girls have been able to represent their school and find a sport that they’re passionate about. As a PE department we have also been able to develop ourselves as Rugby coaches, something I’d never have thought possible without the support of Kirsty, Anna and The Harlequins Foundation.”
To find out how your school or club could support The Harlequins Foundation to encourage more young people into the grassroots game, email firstname.lastname@example.org and search for ‘The Harlequins Foundation’ on social media.