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Beyond Rugby Bermuda is the model programme

Lately we have seen an influx of our youth playing the game of rugby. Their interest has turned away from our traditional sports of football and cricket, and after some investigation of why, one reason stands out, and that is, the programme Beyond Rugby Bermuda.

Stephanie Guthman, Ph.D. who is the director of specialised training and assessment and registered psychologist at the Family Centre, along with some of the rugby players were keen to share about the after school programme they have in place for our young Bermudian boys and girls.

Personally, I took a strong interest in this because for many years cricket enthusiasts have tried to create a love for the sport of cricket in the schools, but continuously the Bermuda Cricket Board in conjunction with the Ministry of Education could never seem to find a way to make it work. Rugby on the other hand has successfully found a way to create interest and is making a massive impact. Could this be the pilot youth sporting programme for the rest to follow?

Beyond Rugby Bermuda was inspired by a global organisation known as Beyond Sport. Beyond Sport is a remarkable group that is led by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as chairman and has Bishop Desmond Tutu as its lead patron. Former NFL player and world champion professional wrestler John Layfield approached the Family Centre and the Bermuda Rugby Football Union when he became a resident of Bermuda. The Bermuda Rugby Union and Family Centre in partnership with school leadership decided to prioritise Dellwood Middle School and CedarBridge Academy for the programme because these schools have the greatest number of students who have been directly impacted by community violence and gang culture. Beyond Rugby Bermuda has been piloting their initiative in these two schools since November 2011.

The Beyond Rugby Bermuda programme combines the disciplined game of rugby with the social-emotional and academic support of the Family Centre. The result is an all-around improvement in well-being and an inspiring new array of possibilities for Bermuda.

Sounds like something you may be interested in getting your son or daughter into? Well, first let me share with you who runs the programme and what else it details. The management of Beyond Rugby Bermuda is a collaborative structure. The rugby aspect of the programme is coordinated by the Bermuda Rugby Football Union with a dedicated coach and volunteers. The social support, overseeing of finances, project implementation, outcomes and reporting are all coordinated by the Family Centre. This isn’t just any after school programme as you can see. It is well planned and well supported, which in return provides a high quality service for our young boys. The following are the goals of the programme, what the programme is looking to achieve now, and where they want to go with it in the future:

- Develop a high-quality programme using a part-time portion of Family Centre and Bermuda Rugby Union's resources, supplemented by community and school volunteers

- Present a consistent climate of fairness, positive support, and accountability that promotes healthy physical and mental development of youth

- Use the alternative sport of rugby to engage youth who may not otherwise be willing or able to be athletically active

- Attract young people to the rugby programme and expose them to the responsibilities of academic engagement, fair play, and co-operative teamwork at the same time

- Gradually grow and then expand and replicate the programme to reach more schools and students as the model is refined and proved successful

This after school programme is unlike any other, being derived from the best elements of the Beyond Sport programme advisers who volunteered to come to Bermuda for a programme design summit. They shared expertise and strategies that have been effective in their programmes in New York City, Chicago, London, and Brazil. All advisers agreed that the ability for coaches and other involved adults to be models of co-operative behaviour, supportive communication, and positive reinforcement was more important than the specific sport and academic curriculum.

To give you the parent a clearer view of what a typical after school day would look like here is a sample of a typical day:

Students arrive at Homework Academy between 3.30—4.45pm and are met by the coaching staff, Family Centre staff, and volunteers.

Before starting their work, students receive a healthy snack and then work on their homework and study assignments until 4.45pm.

At 4.45pm students begin to transition to the bus waiting at the school to take them to National Sports Centre.

When students arrive at the stadium, they change their clothes and begin practicing at 5pm until 6.30pm.

A typical rugby session includes: Catching and passing, decision-making skills, and team play.

From 6.30pm to 7pm students head to the pavilion at National Sports Centre for a team dinner and group debriefing with the coaching staff and volunteers.

At 7pm players get dropped off at home by Suburban Transit

I don’t know about you, the reader, but when I saw this I was speechless. This programme should be the model programme for all other sports to emulate. The following are a few comments made from some of the students and parents.

Students

- “I have learned never to give up and never let anyone discourage you.”

- “I have learned self-control and how to get along with my peers.”

Parents - “He absolutely loves rugby and it has made him more confident.”

- “I love the positive focus on this programme.”

One young man who is about to travel with the Bermuda under 19s as a cricketer, has made great strides in rugby too and that is Kamal Easton. When asking Coach Patrick Calow (who is a fully qualified Rugby Youth Development Officer from Northern Ireland) about Kamel he said: “Kamal is clearly an extremely talented athlete who has represented Bermuda both in rugby and cricket as well. Alongside his ability, he helps to create a positive culture which makes other players around him better. He is a pleasure to coach and I believe he can continue to be successful in either sport."

With the school year ended the one important ingredient to any successful programme is having and analysing your data which Beyond Rugby Bermuda was proud to share from the school year 2012.

Rugby Exit Evaluations Data:

- 98% of both Dellwood and CedarBridge students report that they enjoy rugby

- 90% of both Dellwood and CedarBridge students believe they are now making better choices

- 94% of Dellwood students believe they are now better at listening and following instructions

- 91% of CedarBridge students report they have become better at being a leader in the group

Homework Academy (HWA) Exit Evaluations Data:- 91% of youth, on average, report that they feel safe and cared for at HWA and that this programme has helped them to improve their grades

- 90% report enjoying working with community volunteers

- 80% of students say HWA is helping them to do better at school

The Beyond Rugby Bermuda initiative at Dellwood Middle and CedarBridge Academy saw the potential value of hosting a structured league, thus allowing teams to play against one another regularly. Currently, the Middle School Rugby League comprises six middle school teams from the following schools: Dellwood Middle School, Warwick Academy, TN Tatem Middle School, Saltus Grammar School, Sandys Secondary Middle School, Whitney Institute Middle School, and Somersfield Academy.

The Family Centre and beyond Rugby have achieved quality partly by going slow enough to give youth individual attention so they aren’t taking on large numbers of youth at a time, but they will be enrolling a small cadre of new players in September.

As you can see this programme is one of a kind with the potential to grow and reach other schools. It just goes to show what can be accomplished when people work together with innovative ideas. I encourage other sports to piggy back off of this model and set up similar if not strive for even better programmes to assist our young boys and girls. The more sports we have doing something positive like this in our school system can only help benefit us and our lovely country Bermuda.

Thank you Beyond Rugby Bermuda, the players/volunteers and a special thank you to Stephanie Guthman, for sharing this fabulous programme with us. It has been enlightening, encouraging and motivating and I wish you all the success going forward.

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Published July 05, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated July 04, 2013 at 5:43 pm)

Beyond Rugby Bermuda is the model programme

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