Article by Lead Coach Lee Adamson
In August 2016 the HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy made a player and coach development tour to India. This visit focused on promoting the game in schools, clubs and universities in the cities of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Working closely with the Indian Rugby Union, the HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy coaches ran sessions for more than 2000 players and coaches in nine days.
The trip to India began on Thursday 25th August 2016. Lead coach Lee Adamson met Katie Ball and Amanda Bennett at Heathrow. Katie and Amanda were on their first HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy trip. The three of us were flying direct to Delhi, where we were meeting up with the fourth HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy coach Deano Herewini, who was flying in from Hong Kong.
We were collected from the airport and made the short trip to our hotel where we had enough time to unpack and then off to our first coaching assignment at a local school mid morning.
As part of the trip, the HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy had purchased 1000 balls (size 4 and 5) to leave behind in the places coached. This was to ensure that the various schools and clubs had enough balls to continue training and playing rugby going forward as many of the places visited had minimal or no equipment, including balls.
Our first session was a real baptism of fire. 500+ students of various ages on a dusty school playground. The temperature was about 37°C. Working with 10 local coaches and a whole bag of new HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy rugby balls, it was a real challenge to get everyone running, passing and having fun during their first introduction to rugby. The pictures speak for themselves.
Saturday morning was an early start as we were coaching at a local club. They have to pre-book the pitch in a local park and demand is high, so ththe pitch booking was from 7am to 8am. We arrived at 6.45am and the place was buzzing with people playing all sorts of sports. The local rugby club had booked one football pitch for the entire Club - seniors, juniors, women and men. The cricket nets were packed away and we were queuing waiting for the footballers to finish so we could get on the pitch. We split up for the session with Katie and Amanda coached the women, I coached the juniors and Deano coached the seniors. We were well received and the women bonded instantly with their women coaches. They were keen to learn as much as possible, as they were about to play their first ever game later that week. In the afternoon we ran a session for local schools in another park, and a family having a picnic provided the players with snacks during a break in play.
Our coaching on Sunday was limited to a morning session at the same place and time as Saturday, but we coached two clubs; the Delhi Hurricanes RFC and the Lions RFC. Rugby in India is so different to anything I have ever experienced. It is a new game for so many players, so facilities and expectations are very different from other places I have been. Everyone you meet is friendly and very humble. They love the physical nature of rugby and have a real passion to learn. In schools and clubs everyone places learning as a privilege and every opportunity is something to treasure and make the most of.
Deano and myself were a lot bigger than your average Indian citizen, so every time we went out and about Deano and myself were often approached to pose for photographs, we always obliged as we thought that’s what visiting giants should do.
We gave out 500 balls to the local rugby community whilst in Jaipur.
We stayed in Jaipur until the Wednesday, coaching mainly in schools. We also did a little sightseeing and saw an incredible palace in a lake in the center of Jaipur. Jaipur is known as the pink city and is famous for its white marble and its traditional cloths.
Wednesday evening was exciting as when we arrived at the airport and weren’t allowed in, as we didn’t have our tickets with us and had missed the meet up with our Indian Rugby Union guides. This was quickly resolved by Air India ground staff, who got us in and resolved our ticket issue.
Thursday was our train trip to Agra. Our driver was a bit late picking us up so we had an exciting drive to the train station through the morning traffic. The rest of the day went really smoothly. The school we coached at made us very welcome. We felt like royalty. Before we coached we attended a school assembly, were presented with flower garlands, a gold trophy each and were entertained by the school dance troop.
During the afternoon we had a guided tour of the Taj Mahal. Probably the most impressive thing I have seen on a rugby trip. I can assure you I have seen some very impressive things on rugby trips in my short life!
We visited schools in three locations and the videos below provide feedback from two of the school principals.
The numbers of coaches and players we worked with on our trip are summarized in the table below:
One of our major concerns was avoiding the dreaded “Delhi Belly”. Lots of pre-trip preparation and medical advice was obtained; we avoided non bottled water, ice cubes, salad and fruit. This was a challenge as we were offered almost all of these things at every school we went to in our pre-session meeting with the school principals.
I am happy to report that we didn’t suffer at all from any kind of upset stomach during the whole trip.