As part of the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy was tasked with running a number of activities to as part of HSBC grass roots development and legacy to rugby in South Africa.
The main thrust of the academy endeavours was Coach Education but also to included running and supporting youth festivals.
The Academy split the 5 week programme into two shifts with 8 coaches used. The coaches, who each contributed at least two weeks of their time to the activities were
Gary Henderson - England
Tony Robinson - England
Lynn Evans - Wales
Richard Hicks - Wales
Sialosi Nawavu - Fiji
Ben Fisher - Scotland
Abby Wills – England
Craig Brown – New Zealand
The activities the Academy facilated consisted of IRB Rugby Ready and IRB level 1 coaching courses and youth festivals, which concentrated on games sense, skills, games and team play.
The Penguin team covered lots of ground as they moved around South Africa, visiting many provinces. The schedule follows.
|Brakpan||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||1st and 2nd June|
|Bloemfontein||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||4th and 5th June|
|Port Elizabeth||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||8th and 9th June|
|Durban||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||17th and 18th June|
|Drakenstein Correctional Centre||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||22nd and 23rd June|
|Neilspruit||IRB Level 1 and Rugby Ready||29th and 30th June|
|East London||IRB Level 1||2nd July|
|Simodium||12th June 2009|
|Port Elizabeth||15th June 2009|
|East London||19th June 2009|
After several days of travelling and some wonderful hospitality in Johannesburg with Director of Rugby Craig Brown, it was, I suppose a rude awakening on the Friday morning prior to the 1st Test. Greeted by our driver at 04:30 to be taken to the airport for a 06:30 flight we embarked on the first of many adventures with that classic team: “an Englishman, a Welshman, a Kiwi and a Fijian.”
Upon arrival at East London, our merry group of HSBC Penguins had at least woken up somewhat, and with a good intake of caffeine and African sunshine we were ready for action.
We were warmly greeted by development officer “Terror” and his colleagues at the Bulldogs Stadium in East London and started making preparations for some “game sense” delivery – letting the players discover and learn through playing the game and then extending that understanding by asking questions, which also helps check for understanding.
Several different types of non-contact rugby, and a basic introduction to contact was planned for early in the session and then progression to a Tag tournament that all schools would participate in.
When the first students arrived, I was immediately struck by how very smartly dresses they were; that they understood better than any western child what privilege meant. I was also a little disconcerted that on this beautiful crisp morning, that the students seemed less than impressed with the thought of a day off school and a day playing Tag rugby.
It was only upon meeting Mr. T Mpama, a teacher at Upper Mbulukwenza Junior School, that all became very clear. Mr. Mpama had need to wake at 02:00 this morning to drive to collect his learners at 03:00 so that they could leave home in the Transkei in order to get to the Festival on time. They had to drive 100 km, on a sand road, then a further 200 km to get to East London, without having had breakfast: They were very tired and very hungry.
As if as one the Penguins team (comprising Richard Hicks, Sailosi Nawavu (Fijian 7’s Rugby Legend), Tony Robinson and Ben Fisher were galvanised into action. We bought 30 loaves of bread and 6 enormous tins of jam. I am ashamed to admit that Rich Hicks had only one job which was to secure the services of a tin opener – FAILED. Luckily we had the iron hard hands of “Sai”, who made short work of the tins with a butter knife which he sawed through the tin to the promised land of sweet red nectar – JAM!
Teams fed – the sun came out and so did the smiles – we were ready!
More excitement, as we realised that this was the very first time the players had played any form of sport on a field covered in grass. “Teacher we are going to be very good at rugby today because we can play on a field with grass,” they exclaimed delightedly!
The rest of the day was spent playing lots of different types of conditioned games, with a very good amount of skill and natural athleticism, which certainly impressed the Penguin coaches.
Although many of the children did not understand the various English accents, they were like sponges absorbing all the hints and tips given by the coaches and then translated by the teachers for them.
None of the children had played TAG Rugby before and within 15 minutes were expert players of the game – passing, running, evading and pulling off tags left, right and centre.
As with all the HSBC Festivals the focus was on the children having fun. TAG rugby will hopefully become part of the curriculum in these schools. All teachers, coaches and development officers from the Border region were involved and assisted with the coaching and refereeing of the games. Hopefully this is the start of something big in the region!
Following the final tournament matches and armed with a HSBC Penguins tee-shirt the pupils left us their departing gift for the Penguin coaches of the most beautiful African singing.
The schools departed in the same good humour as they had arrived. We grumbled about our late flight to Durban. I hope the trip back to the Upper Mbulukwenza Junior School, although long, was full of happy memories.