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HSBC Youth Rugby Series Finals Day
Dubai, 18th October 2013

The HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy once again geared up to support HSBC and the local rugby community in Dubai, by providing coaching support at the finals day of the HSBC Youth rugby series. The overall series involved over 5000 young rugby players from Doha, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with the winners in each of the divisions invited to the Series Final day. The age groups contested were U9, U11, U15 and U17. The four Penguins coaches, Gary Townsend, Vicky Townsend, Richard Hicks and Alan Moses, had work to do before heading to Dubai, which mainly involving planning appropriate sessions for the teams they would look after. As well as the Penguin coaches, HSBC Ambassador, and former captain, Rory Lawson, lead activities during the day.

Upon landing, the first thing that struck the Penguin coaches was the intense heat, and it was still only 7am! By stepping out from the air-conditioned airport, the four fully understood the issue of wide brimmed hats by the Penguins. Bright blue in colour, Gary looked rather fetching in his. With coaching planned on the Friday, the HSBC Penguin coaches had a day to acclimatise and prepare for the festival. With a few hours free time, the famous four went exploring. Vicky confirmed the architecture to be impressive - some buildings seeming to defy gravity. The scale of the Atlantis resort beggars belief, and is like an epic Hollywood movie scene from the 1950s. It would not have come as any surprise to see some oiled Adonis thwacking a gong, a chariot race, and a chair emblazoned with “Cecil B DeMille” From there the coaches went to a shopping mall which housed a skiing resort at one end – a very big one - and moved on to the largest shopping mall in the world. This not only had a huge aquarium in the centre, but a waterfall with bronze divers, and, most stunning of all, water fountains that danced to music, with a totally different show every 15 minutes. Breath-taking stuff.

Friday duly arrived with the objective of coaching the children. The session started at 2pm, which is when the weather becomes a little cooler, that is, very hot rather than exceptionally hot. The Penguin coaches were assigned to the age groups as follows:

U9 – Vicky
U11 – Gary
U15 – Alan
U17 - Richard

Vicky worked hard with her group on fundamental movements within a rugby context and got rave reviews, plus an invitation to do more coaching at the club – hopefully another trip! She also managed to pull in siblings from the side-lines and the inclusive nature and content of the session was very much appreciated. Penguin coach Gary commented that the U11s were a great bunch of boys. Gary’s pre-work included understanding what the U11 team coaches wanted to work on – to up-skill in coaching style. With receptive children and coaches, the session was really productive. The children coped well with the heat (with regular water breaks). The session was game-based, with the focus on support, handling and depth. It was great to see the boys growing in confidence and ability, with some quite outstanding running lines. Alan's U15, and Richard’s U17 sessions, also went down well, with both also providing opportunities for the coaches to engage and learn. The boys responded well to the sessions, and Alan also demonstrated the coaching through games approach, with an emphasis on some of the more technical areas of the game. Richard focused more on plays from set-piece and breakdowns. At the end of the two-hour session, all of the boys were presented with bags, t-shirts and balls from HSBC and Penguins, and the general feeling was that it had been a very positive and rewarding experience. The parents who were able to stay around afterwards were very complimentary about the whole programme and experience, which was great to hear.

Dubai - an amazing place, well worth a visit.
The children – very attentive, positive and receptive; quick to learn and very pleasant to coach.
The coaches – keen to learn and receptive to new approaches.
The programme – really worthwhile, well organised and flexible.
The company – good to reacquaint with old friends, and become acquainted with new ones.

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