At the start of August we were out with friends, and happened completely by chance on a free children’s rugby training session, being run by the fantastic social enterprise Give it a Try!
They use rugby to develop character, resilience and confidence in young people in state schools in South London’s Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
Everyone and anyone was welcome at the session, and the two coaches running it had an incredible way with the kids, who instantly warmed to them. Neither my girls, nor my friends girls, had ever played rugby before, but they got straight into it, and couldn’t wait to go back afterwards. We managed to squeeze another session in at the end of August, and we all had another brilliant afternoon.
Rugby came at a good time for us. It was wonderful watching Polly and Clara working together as a team, something I’d not seen them do in a while. Huge thanks to Rory and Jacques, for making such a lasting impression on them. These ‘rugby days’ ended up being two of our favourites from the entire summer. Plenty of happy memories were made, and it’s put rugby on our radar, which would never have happened otherwise.
I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Give it a Try! founder, Ian ‘Spike’ Kenny today.
Tell us your concept in a tweet
How long did it take from conception of idea to launching?
I had the idea in April 2014, when I was made redundant. I was up and running with eight schools for the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, so it took me four months to scope out the programme, however it is evolving almost on a daily basis.
Not only are we now delivering rugby coaching and mentoring in schools, we are also providing personal development for teachers wanting to coach rugby, offering placements to students at The London South Bank University, delivering structured rugby camps and about to deliver confidence building residential adventure activity/rugby camps to further build character, resilience, teamwork and confidence.
Can you share a particularly inspiring story for us?
I have one student, who we engaged with at one of our secondary school after school clubs in early 2015. He was extremely keen on rugby from the start, but was approximately 20kg over weight and had never played the game before. He came regularly, started to attend our summer touch rugby sessions and took advice on exercise and nutrition, working really hard over the summer. In September 2015 he signed up to our U18s Academy squad and worked really hard at pre-season, becoming a valued member of the squad and playing in all our league fixtures. By Easter 2016 he was also playing for one of our senior, adult sides and has since played regularly at adult level until he went up to university this September. He is still playing rugby now.
However the inspirational element of the story is not that we got him fit, he lost his 20kg and more, and became extremely fit. It’s not that he went from a complete beginner to a technically strong rugby player, with a real understanding of the game, in a year. It’s not because he has found a sport that has engaged him and will give him experiences and friendships that he will never lose.
It’s that while he was playing for the Academy, his parents eventually turned up to watch him play. His mum was wearing a headscarf, I thought nothing of it as he is half Egyptian. Then one day he told me that his mother had recently recovered from cancer. At the end of season Academy awards, the U18s gave me a book which they’d all written in. This young man wrote this:
“Dear Spike, I don’t think I could ever truly explain on one page what the Academy means to me. But to attempt to explain, I think I could say it was the best escape from the real world ever imaginable.”
It was then that I realised that the rugby, the training, the fitness and the camaraderie he had experienced, and the family he was now part of at the rugby club, had got him through one of the most difficult periods of his life.
My proudest achievement happens every day. Every time I see one child in one session, do something right, realise themselves that they have mastered a skill and realise they have developed as an individual. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Tell us your top three daddy hacks
I only really had three pieces of guidance that underpinned my daughter’s growing up:
1) Don’t let me down (which morphed in to don’t let yourself down when they were old enough to understand and take full responsibility for themselves).
2) Don’t lie to me.
3) Do what you have to do, before you do what you want to do.
Not very 21st century I’m afraid, but I suppose I’m a bit old school.
Please check out the awesome work Give it a Try! do for yourself, and give them a follow on social media.
About Give it a Try!
“We are a social enterprise that uses rugby to develop character, resilience and confidence in young people in state schools in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.
We use rugby as a tool to develop individual and collective responsibility, promote health, wellbeing and positive nutritional choices, provide opportunities for young people to improve their attainment and attendance at school, whilst also mentoring and supporting them to be the best that they can be.
We work closely with local community rugby clubs to provide pathways for further rugby development, linking clubs, schools and the local community together to forge links that strengthen connections and foster community cohesion. Where appropriate we also provide additional support to disadvantaged children to maintain the inclusive nature of our programme.”