Grant McKelvey and Neil Graham met up with Fasttrack and HSBC. A grassroots coaching clinic was held at New World Private School, Dubai, for 25 Emirati students (9 -11 years), with assistance from HSBC Ambassadors, Gavin Hastings and George Gregan.
The sessions started off with a game-related warm up, followed quickly by 3 v 3 small sided games, and then into larger 6 v 6 games. All the coaches were on hand to help these very enthusiastic, first generation rugby players get into their stride. The session concluded with some excellent feedback from the teachers, who, after seeing how well their charges engaged in the session, were wondering if the Penguins could spend some more time with the class, but this time in a maths lesson! Grant and Neil beat a hasty retreat from this kind offer, and stole an early look at the form of the Scotland and New Zealand teams, which were training on the adjacent pitches.
After a travelling lunch, our now expanding posse moved onto our friends at the British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi. We visited this school a year ago, and were looking forward to meeting old, and making new, acquaintances. The session started with a first class Q&A session with Gavin and George fielding some excellent questions from both students and parents. After some very interesting and motivating stories, the players were split into four groups, and were joined by two classes of players from the UAE Rugby Player Pathway Programme.
We then held a 5 x station rotation session under the guidance of BSAK Head of Rugby, Ed Lewsey. The Penguin Coaches were again joined on the park by the UAE Rugby Development Officers, senior pupils from the school itself, and volunteer coaches from HSBC. This session was welcomed very enthusiastically by staff, players, and parents, and time was called for the now customary signing of everything by Gavin and George, and the seemingly endless taking of photos. The Penguins agreed to watch the BSAK fixtures in the U18 7s over the weekend, and it was great to see their progress through to the semi-finals.
Over the 7s weekend itself, the Penguins coaching role changed. We now supported the volunteers and local staff engaged in the HSBC World of Sport, as part of their “Premier Hospitality” stand. There were three rugby-based activities within the event, with players measured on the “Bosh Test”, as well as a more subtle, skill-based, passing test.
What really stood out for this trip was the involvement of the HSBC volunteers, who gave their time at the UAE grassroots and Penguin Academy sessions. This demonstrates that the skills and values of rugby are well recognised as key components in a lifelong involvement in sport, whether in playing, coaching, or administration. A huge thank you from the Penguins to our partners at HSBC and Fasttrack, who again helped to facilitate and support a very enjoyable and productive week of coaching, and to promote the game of rugby, especially within the Emerati population in the region.
Grant McKelvey & Neil Graham (HSBC Penguin Academy Coaches)