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Youth Rugby

Rugby Hero
Latest News & Articles, Youth Rugby

Ode to the Hero by Steve Kelly

We stumbled across this great little ditty by Steve Kelly the U11 coach at Medway RFC, apparently composed after a beer and a run (not necessarily in that order!)

Steve kindly let us share it, as we are sure many will relate to it. Thanks Steve and keep running!

Have you written any great rugby prose or poetry? If so let us know, we love to read and share the rugby love.


Ode to the Hero…by Steve Kelly

“Look at him go” they shout, it’s yet another try for Billy

Johnny looks on, another missed tackle, oh man am I silly

Billy’s got the ball again, passed straight to him from the start

Today Johnny might make one tackle, he’s trying with all of his heart!

Billy’s first on the A team list , next week it’s the  big match

Johnny’s playing a game as well, even though he can hardly catch

Billy is the star of the team, the best by far every week

Johnny’s best bit of the day is the clubhouse, for the game of hide and seek

But as the boys start to grow bigger, Billy starts getting beat

Johnny’s grown too and is getting stuck in, what an amazing feat!

Billy might give up this game, he’s no longer getting satisfaction

But Johnny’s been at the club since he was 6, the environment’s the attraction

So Billy calls it a day, at the ripe old age of thirteen

Johnny’s learned to play now, the best he’s ever been…

And in case you didn’t realise, this isn’t what it seems

For Billy and Johnny of course, are from two different teams…

One for coaches’ glory, the adulation and the “fame”

The other for the enjoyment, and the spirit of the game

So remember the boy on the pitch that you think may be worth a zero

He’s out there having a go, a mini rugby hero!


More details on Medway RFC can be found at

Youth Rugby

Kids rugby growing in Yorkshire with Aireborough RUFC

Yeadon-based rugby club Aireborough RUFC are reaching out to the local community in a bid to encourage more children to participate in their micro’s rugby fitness sessions.

A recent influx of new members across the Mini and Junior teams has highlighted the need to encourage more players to get involved from a younger age.

Since their founding in 1970, Aireborough RUFC- home to a mix of 12 senior and junior teams, have been continuously developing the opportunities they offer for those who wish to play rugby.Rugby

Their current focus is to highlight the benefits of starting rugby from a young age by teaching parents and children about the transferable life skills learnt during training and games.

Micro’s coach Kieren Hanogue commented “Our main aim is to overcome the stigma of rugby being a ‘rough sport’ and relay the benefits of participating in our sessions.

Not only does being part of a team help the children to flourish, but the core values of rugby Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship, Teamwork and Respect are all skills which are transferable to life outside of the sport.”

Coaching co-coordinator Kris Brook added “The way we see it, the junior members of the club are our future, one day they will form our senior team. We feel if we can educate more people about the benefits of playing, then we are half way to keeping the spirit of rugby alive for years to come.”

The micro’s sessions currently taking place on a Sunday morning from 10.30am at Nunroyd Park Yeadon, are always open for new children aged between 4 and 6 to come along and spectate or try it out.

If you would like more information regarding the Micros, or have any other questions relating to the club please contact a committee member by emailing

Check out Aireborough RFC at

Youth Rugby

Bambi on ice? No, just a mini growth spurt!

What are they doing?

‘They look like Bambi on ice.’

‘I don’t understand, they could do that a few weeks ago.’

‘Why are we bothering, it looks like they have done no sport at all.’

These are just some of the comments that I have heard on the side lines of training sessions and matches over the last few years.  Do you know what?  At some point in time, both in their early years of growth and during puberty, all parents and coaches will have noticed physical and mental changes in the players that they are involved with.

Puberty is the most documented growth and development spurt but prior to that children will experience many mini growth spurts.  If your child grows a few centimetres very quickly, you will undoubtedly watch them struggle to find their feet so to speak.

They will look uncoordinated, they may trip over the ball, the piece of skill they could do easily only a few weeks ago looks a distant memory. They may have lost some speed and their changes of direction suddenly look more like the QE2 turning.

Rugby kids

There is no need to panic, they have probably just grown.

It will often take them a few weeks to retrain their brains and bodies to coordinate the movements once again to the height that they are now working from.  It will soon come back together for them and it is important during this stage that both parents and coaches back off and do not shout and criticise them too much.

It can be difficult to watch as a parent, but patience and bags of encouragement and understanding is really important no matter how frustrated you may be feeling.

Going through puberty which can generally last for two to five years will have a much more significant impact on the development and performance of your child.  It will be a long and bumpy ride and where possible it needs to be managed as effectively as possible.

Most girls will start puberty between 8-13 (average age around 12) and have their major growth spurt between 10-14.

Most boys will start puberty between 10-13 and continue to grow until around 16-17 years of age.

During these periods you will notice an increase in body size, hormones and muscle strength and a temporary decline in balance, skills and body control.  In fact they may well just appear as clumsy.

This is just a temporary phase in your child’s development, with temporary being the key word.

Your child’s coach should be aware of these stages and once again it is vital that both parents and coaches remain positive and encouraging.

The more parents and coaches can understand and recognise this, the better the environment you will be able to create for your children playing.

Based on the above the best advice for parents would be:

  • Do not panic if your child suddenly looks clumsy
  • Do not start constantly yelling at them at this stage, no matter how frustrated you may be feeling
  • Speak to the coach- make sure they are aware of the situation.
  • Seek advice on the amount of training during puberty to help prevent overuse injuries

Many thanks to Gordon at for this great article.

Jack Blain rugby
Youth Rugby

BRM talks to Jack Blain, the future of Edinburgh rugby!

Q and A with Edinburgh Rugby’s Jack Blain

In recent weeks Jack Blain became the first player born in the 2000s to turn out for a Scottish pro rugby side, our Scottish correspondent caught up with him:

BeRugby Magazine – How did you get into rugby?

Jack Blain – I started playing rugby when I was in primary school with the Stew Mel Lions in Edinburgh and then began also playing school rugby at Stewart’s Melville around P4 age.

BRM – Was rugby your first love?

JB – Like a lot of youngsters growing up I tried to get involved in as much sporting activity as possible an also liked cricket and athletics. Rugby then kind of took over in recent years once I was lucky enough to play regional under-16s which moved into Scotland under-16s.

BRM – How was playing for Scotland under-18?

JB – I played Scotland under-18 for the last two years while the school first XV were also doing well so it was a busy time, but I learnt so much and grew as a person and a player.

BRM – How important was being a Scottish Rugby stage two Academy player in 2017/18?

JB – It gave me access to some extra coaching and facilities and the school and the Academy worked together to make sure that my workload was managed and I will always be grateful for that.

BRM – How did things escalate?

Jack Blain rugby

Jack Blain in his school playing days (not that long ago!). Photo courtesy of Scottish rugby/SNS

JB – I left school a few months ago and have been lucky enough to become a stage three Academy player. For three weeks over the summer I did pre-season with the other Academy players and the I was invited along to a couple of Edinburgh sessions. I was then told I would be heading off with the full squad to St Andrews for a training camp.

BRM – That must have been amazing?

JB – It certainly was amazing and I learnt a lot because we were fully focused on rugby and I was able to get to know a lot of the players better. I must admit it was weird at first running out onto a training pitch with guys who I have watched on the TV growing up!

BRM – What was it like to be named in the starting XV for the Bath pre-season match on August 17?

JB – It came as a massive surprise on the Wednesday when the coaches read out the squad for the Bath game and I was starting. I had to pinch myself really to believe it was true and, even now, I still feel like it is all a bit of a dream.

BRM – Lots of nerves?

JB – Leading up to the match against Bath I was feeling pretty nervous, but once I got out there I just tried to get involved as much as possible. I didn’t see much of the ball, but hopefully I did well enough in the 40 minutes I was on.

BRM – Strange feeling?

JB – After the game in the changing room it was really surreal thinking ‘I have played for Edinburgh’ and letting it sink in, but now I have to get my head down, work hard and move forward.

BRM – Feedback since that and the Newcastle Falcons match on August 24?

JB – My phone has been going pretty mad with messages over the last few days, I think I have heard from everyone I have ever met! A few folk have mentioned about being the first player born after 2000 to play for Edinburgh and it is a pretty cool stat to have.

BRM – Advice to other youngster?

JB – Play for fun, listen to coaches and see where things take you.

What do Jack’s teachers say:

Stewart’s Melville College head of rugby Stuart Edwards: It is great to see someone like Jack getting a chance with Edinburgh. He was always a talented sportsman at school and really put the hard work in. He was a good team player and to see him progress so quickly to play alongside Scotland internationalists is quite amazing.

For more news on Edinburgh rugby visit


Rachael Burford rugby camp
Latest News & Articles, Youth Rugby

Amazing opportunity for rugby mad girls!

This August, grab the opportunity to train with England Rugby world cup winner Rachael Burford, who will be coaching her Summer Rugby Day Camps for girls in Kent, Surrey and Sussex/Hampshire. The Burford Academy camps are aimed at girls of all levels of skill and experience between the ages of 7-18. Attendees have the opportunity to build new friendships whilst developing their skills and confidence both on and off the pitch, all under the guidance of some of the nation’s top female international Rugby players. 

Rachael, who has become one of the first women in English history to become a full time professional rugby player, will deliver these camps personally alongside her team of experienced coaches. Guest appearances from fellow international players are to include the likes of Katy Daley Mclean (England No:10), Nolli Waterman – (Formerly England No:15), Rocky Clark (England No:1) and Fran Matthews (Formerly England No:14).

Rachael Burford rugby camp

This Summer’s camps will be held as follows:

Surrey –  13th August Old Surbitonians Memorial Ground

Sussex and Hampshire – 15th August Hove Recreation Ground

Kent – 20th August at St Marks Recreation Ground


There are only 25 places in each age group so if you want to get muddy with the champions this Summer, book your space up now via


In Rachael’s own words, founding TWELVE ( and the BURFORD ACADEMY is her attempt to give back to a game that has given her so much over the years. Inspiring others (especially the next generation) to not only fall in love with the sport she holds dear, but to learn from her unique insight into teamwork, achievement, and the value of pursuing one’s dreams.


Facebook: @burfordacademy


(We will be at the Kent rugby camp. We can’t wait to get down and support the future of women’s rugby! let us know if you will be there?)

Rugby captain
Latest News & Articles, Youth Rugby

Is your child a potential leader?

Written by Gordon MacLelland

How important is the role of a captain in children’s sport and do coaches take the opportunity to help develop some of the skills required in order for young people to develop and become leaders later on?  Do coaches when handing over the role really give away the responsibility and allow the freedom for their captains to express themselves?

I remember a school cricket game many years ago when a new cricket coach into our establishment (a former professional player) managed their first U13 game.  With not long to go the 1st XI were in real danger of losing a home game, something that had not happened for a while.  The field positions were wrong and he was not acting.  What was he doing?  Why had he not spoken to the captain? Why had he not moved some players as many U13 coaches would do?  Could he not see the score board and the danger of losing?

These were all comments made from fellow coaches and parents on the side of the pitch.

I spoke to him afterwards and I will never forget the conversation.  He merely said, ‘how can we expect them to learn if they do not make the decision for themselves?’ ‘I will speak to the captain this week and the team and we will talk about what has happened.  It will be a far more powerful lesson that they have lost the game and the next time they find themselves in that situation, hopefully a few of them will recognise it and make far better decisions.’

I later saw that side get into a similar situation later in the year and the same mistake did not happen again but not only did the captain act so did another 4 or 5 players.  Great leadership from the coach, great learning from the players and the loss had led to so many valuable lessons being learnt by the players as opposed to adults bailing them out to gain a short-term victory.

I am writing this blog opposite an old school friend and we are just talking about our own sporting experiences.   Neither of us as players had any interest in being a captain, were never asked to be a captain and we felt we had enough to worry about with our own games than worrying about other people.

In a lot of children’s sport the role of captain is certainly less important than the role when children reach the teenage years and enter into adulthood.  Most coaches carry out a large number of the roles required in the early years along with supporting parents.

Many captains who appear in children’s sport can often be seen to be simply the best player, regardless of whether they display many of the character traits assumed with such a role.  As a coach working with 13 year olds over the last 10 years, with hindsight I believe I have appointed 5 great captains and 5 very average ones.  What was it I was looking for?

Even if I knew what I was looking for, why did some carry out the role far better than the rest?  Is there a magic formula?

It is pleasing to see that many clubs at grassroots level simply rotate their captain around giving a different child an opportunity each week.  It gives a child confidence, gives them something to look forward to and gives them a taste of what it perhaps may feel like in the future.

As they grow older however when should we really start to be looking at these potential leaders?

I welcome any thoughts from coaches and parents on when you feel this should be, when this occurs and what can we do as coaches and parents to really help them understand their roles and responsibilities to the rest of the group?

Being a captain isn’t just about wearing the cap or being the boss or even just cheering your friends on. It requires a number of other traits.

Rugby Dylan Hartley

England Captain Dylan Hartley lifts the Six Nations trophy. Credit Patrick Khachfe – onside images

Does your child display any of the following?

  • the desire to lead by example
  • a passionate belief in team spirit
  • the ability to handle the conflicts that invariably arise when a team is under pressure
  • the desire to put more input in planning the team’s strategies
  • the ability to handle problems which may arise in a fair and expedient manner
  • the ability to behave professionally and responsibly despite personal feelings of frustration and anger
  • a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game
  • a desire to build relationships with other members of the team, in good times and bad
  • the ability to handle the burden of being captain while still playing in the team
  • the ability to inspire and motivate and raise team morale

If your child does gain this coveted role or displays many of the above, how can you as a parent help support them in doing the best job that they can?  Being a sports team captain is a great opportunity for them to develop the leadership traits that will help them succeed in their future career, whether this is as a sports athlete or in another field of work.

How can you as a parent help them provide good leadership?

  • Encourage them to take charge – not just rely on the coaches. For example, encourage them to start the warm ups on time, even if the coaches are still getting ready or temporarily occupied elsewhere.
  • Encourage them to do more than is expected – stay longer, help put equipment away, take the time to talk to other players and coaches.
  • Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions – don’t play the blame game.  They will be respected far more than if they make lots of excuses.
  • Get them to lead with actions, not words. Anybody can talk – it is what they do that counts.
  • Don’t allow them to elevate themselves above the rest of the team – just because they have the captain title does not mean that they should have any preferential treatment.

A sports team captain is subject to the same rules and consequences as the rest of the team.

If your child has yet to be a captain and they would like to be then encourage them to be self-aware and improve their leadership skills.

There are many great leaders in many sports teams around the world who never gain the coveted role but are excellent in their own right both on and off the field.

If your child needs encouragement, get them to think about the captains of various sports teams in the international arena and consider why they were chosen – was it because they are popular? The best player? Responsible? Honest? Dependable? A good listener? Motivating and inspiring? Remain calm and positive under pressure?

Some children are not cut out to be captains but they should all be given the opportunity by coaches and parents to develop some of the character skills through their sport associated with such a role.

(Thanks to Gordon MacLelland of WWPIS. Check out more great articles at


Latest News & Articles, Youth Rugby

Book now – Awesome summer rugby camps at London Irish RFC!

Rugby Summer Camps PosterThe London Irish community team are now taking bookings for their ever-popular summer coaching camps which begin in August. 

Designed for U7s–U14s, the camps will take place at eight locations across the region, offering participants a jam-packed rugby timetable and the opportunity to gain tips from professional rugby players during Q&A sessions. 


All camps include quality coaching from DBS cleared community coaches from 9.30am-3.30pm and participants will receive a free match ticket to an allocated home game with an accompanying full paying adult. 

“With the school holidays approaching, youngsters love to spend time with their friends and playing sports that they love really fits the bill for all the family – an involved child is a happy child,” said Andy Keast, head of community at London Irish.

“This is the perfect opportunity to cap off a great year for our rugby camps. We have had great numbers at each camp throughout the year and the summer camps are a good opportunity to get a head start before the season starts again.”

Rugby summer campsFor further enquiries email or call 01932 750100 and to book, head straight to



Rugby working with parents
Youth Rugby

The Silent Weekend’ – Is it natural? How about ‘A Noisy Weekend?

As an organisation we are asked many times to help support and promote the Silent Weekend, the Silent Sunday or indeed the Silent September.

We are often asked about how we feel about these events and our stance has always been that we love the concept and motivation behind running these but also feel that something needs to be done to help support the sporting parents on the side during the process.

These events are fantastic for raising awareness, but must also provide some positive channels for discussion and the opportunity for parents to understand why a certain type of support is more beneficial for their child’s development and enjoyment; this has not always been particularly well addressed.

In some quarters it has been seen as another opportunity to criticise and bash parents for displaying in what many ways are just normal human emotions.  Granted, some of these behaviours can be extremely misguided but what have we really done to address those beliefs?!

rugby with parentsThe issues that we face on the sidelines can be traced all the way back to Roman times.  Sport was always a release from the sterile nature of day to day life and an opportunity to let off some steam. People merely wanted to have fun when watching the gladiatorial games and in many ways sporting parents have continued this trend.

Life has become sterile for many and do we really want to take away the excitement for them watching their child play and being involved in sport?  Also, is silence a natural environment to be involved in in the first place?

Parents behave in a way that society perceives sport, the games they watch in stadiums or the matches they see on TV and merely fall into line with these environments when watching their children play.  It is not high on their agenda to be thinking about the ins and outs of sports coaching and child development.

That is the role for us as coaches and educators to help support them.

Sport is passion and we need to find new and engaging ways to support sporting parents and allow them to channel what quite frankly are normal emotions.  The weekend is a time for them to allow some of their passion out!

There is no doubt that local bragging rights can often be at stake and many poor behaviours are due to that fear of dented pride.

If that is the case ‘The Silent Weekend’ goes against all normal levels of human emotion and could we maybe try something a bit different that is far more natural and perhaps allow parents to adapt behaviours during the process.

Many parents are peaceable human beings (not all) who would be happy to be guided by clubs, coaches and other parents.

As a result, we all have a great responsibility to ensure the environments that we create are natural, but still crucially allow our children to flourish and develop.

So how does this sound as a concept? – We would love to hear your feedback.

‘The Noisy Weekend’ – parents are allowed to make as much noise as they want watching their children play, creating a wonderful atmosphere but we put against that the following set of guidelines:

1.  You must not shout any instructions to your child or any other player on your team.

2.  You must not shout anything aimed at the official.

3.  You may not shout at an opposition player but you may praise them if they did something well.

4.  You may not shout towards the opposition coach or parents.

5.  You can be as ‘Noisy’ as you wish following the guidelines above.

With our work on the sides of some grassroots matches we have witnessed some absolute crackers.  Great games, great support from the sidelines, huge ovations for both sets of players for putting on the most fantastic, entertaining game of sport.  It can be done, that lovely mix however can be difficult to find and requires all parties involved in that specific match to hold similar beliefs and approach the contest in the right way.

We are not claiming to have found the solution to the problems on the sidelines but is it worth us being creative, trying different things that raise awareness but crucially create environments that are natural, that allow everyone to flourish and allow everyone to look forward to their matches at the weekend.

Thanks to the guys at Working with Parents in Sport for providing this great article, Go check them out at for more fantastic tips and advice.


rugby kids
Youth Rugby

Is your praise having a positive or negative impact on your child or your players sport?

To add to the growing minefield for sports parents we have to ask the question about the amount and type of praise you are giving your children.  Does it have a positive or negative impact on their sporting performance?

There are a number of things that you need to think about.

How much praise is too much praise?

How often should you be praising your child?

Is some praise simply a waste of time?

Praise can take many different forms encompassing the following:

‘commend, express approval of, express admiration for, applaud, pay tribute to, speak highly of, eulogize, compliment, congratulate, celebrate, sing the praises of, praise to the skies, rave about, go into raptures about, heap praise on, wax lyrical about, say nice things about, make much of, pat on the back’

In any form of praise that we may consider giving our children we must use appropriate language.  A skilful use of language can directly increase self esteem and develop confidence whilst careless use of language can lead to low self esteem and a drop in confidence.

Why do we need to give any praise?  Well that is simple, praise can regulate and reinforce positive behaviour and character traits.

Praise must also be directional, ‘good work’ for example is a bit vague, meaningless and many children are not stupid and will often see phrases like this as just empty praise.  Can your praise allow them to reflect, are you in a position to give them some useful advice on what went well and what may require some further work?

In this day and age many parents over praise their children, as they believe that if they are not going to do it then who will?

Children can see right through this and often know that their parents are saying that quite simply because they are their parents rather than being based on any fact or actions.

Now in many cases I would hope that your child’s coaches would be doing this part of the job for you with their praise and feedback, allowing you to play a predominantly supporting role but it is still good to be armed with some appropriate tools.

Learning to praise appropriately, is an important part of developing a child’s confidence and raising a high performer. Here are some helpful tips:


  • It allows you to praise both failure and success.
  • Focusing on the effort instead of the outcome keeps you present with the children in their struggle, holding their hand and even carrying them at times.
  • It makes you a partner in the process and allows your children to give their attention to the journey and not the destination.
  •  Praising effort prevents us from being so focused on the prize that we forget what got our child there in the first place.
  •  Foremost, high performers are all about the process, and the process is all about effort.


  • Your praise should come in the form of encouragement for your child and should be specific, clear, and focused on the process.
  • “Good job today” is nice, but it’s not action, effort, or goal-specific
  • On the other hand, “You’ve worked really hard in training on that piece of skill and it was great to see it used so well today.  That is the first time it has really worked in a match situation. This encourages your child for his/her effort, perseverance, progress, and competence.
  • It activates your child on multiple levels and sets the stage for further improvement, additional goal setting, and continued improvement.
  • Avoid over-praising your child. We have all met the ‘over-praiser’, the parents who are afraid that their child’s self-esteem will suffer if they are not encouraged and praised for every outcome, however, this is not true.
  • Over-praising your child can be a negative on two fronts. First, children can become apathetic to praise, since they hear it all the time. You will run out of superlatives and be unable to discern real achievement from the everyday norm.
  • Second, kids are smart, and they soon catch on if everything they do is “fantastic” or “brilliant” or “awesome.” It’s not, and your kids eventually know a good performance from a bad one.
  • They will grow cynical to your words if everything is incredible.


  • Avoid “over-praising” your child by comparing him/her to others.   You should not be comparing or making your child better by criticising team mates or opponents.
  • This not only can cause a fixed mindset, but it is very destructive of team dynamics.
  • Even if they are the best player on the team and you consistently tell them that, the world is a big place and these comparisons can have long term implications once the player pool changes and your child is no longer the best player.


  • Some players respond to sarcastic comments made at opportune times, but such comments are not appropriate before, during, or after an event or game.
  • All sarcasm has a hint of truth, and young children are so emotional that it is very difficult to know if it will go over well.
  • Sarcasm does not go down particularly well from parents.  It is best to find other ways to encourage and motivate your children.

As we have said many times before on this site, sports parenting can be tough and does require some reflection and practise.  Try some of the above, if you feel something that you have said has not had the desired effect or has indeed had a negative outcome then be brave enough to admit you may have got it wrong, think it through and then try a different approach the next time… one is perfect!

(Great blog courtesy of Working with Parents in Sport. Check out even more fantastic articles at


Rugby and Autism
Latest News & Articles, Youth Rugby

Rugby and autism. An incredible story.

Life of an Autism Rugby Mum

This is a little insight into how autism in my family has affected me and how I have the amazing support from my rugby family.

Life is hard. So hard. At times I don’t even know how I survive. People often ask me what it is like being a mother of an autistic child and how I’m dealing with the fact my youngest is also going through the process of being diagnosed. In reply I just say to them that I know of no other life, so how can I possibly say anything different.

When I first got his diagnosis I cried. In fact I sobbed. I could not quite believe what I was hearing. After years of fighting, years of being told it was down to our parenting skills, years of being told I was looking for an excuse for his behaviour, somebody believed me, somebody realised I was not making it up, somebody had recognised Ellis had a disability. I cannot actually describe the feeling I was experiencing as there was so many going through me, but one thing I did feel was vindicated.Rugby and Autism

Throughout the course of Ellis being diagnosed, my friendship circle changed dramatically, to a point where I have lost close friends for various reasons. Before I had children I was what you would call a social butterfly. How life has changed since then! As a parent of a child with autism, you see the world in a different perspective. You become more attune to situations and you see things in many different ways. However one of the most difficult things to deal with as a parent is the way people in society handle him and his difficulties, and to be honest it’s heart breaking. They have no clue. I have wondered to myself why I as a mother have to feel sorry for my son because of people’s ignorance. I then stand back and realise it’s not him I feel sorry for; it’s them. They don’t know this beautiful, intelligent, creative, athletic young man known as Ellis. They haven’t come to know him for the boy he actually is, and for the young man he’s slowly changing into. However, if there is just one wish I could have for him, it would be that Ellis ​​and his autism be understood, and not ridiculed. Autism is an invisible disability, which means that just because you can’t see it, does not mean that it is not there, and I understand that not everybody is going to ‘get it’, but what I don’t understand is the lack of empathy that is shown, especially when it is obvious Ellis is in difficulty, and cannot self-regulate his emotions.

I suppose by writing this I’m asking just one thing. I’m asking you to please imagine what it is like on a daily basis as autism parents dealing with the anxiety, the depression, the wanting to self-harm, the feeling he isn’t good enough, the calling of names like ‘Freak’ and having to deal with the fall out, the refusal to leave the house when it comes to doing daily family activities because his anxiety is so high, the many a sleepless night, the tears and the tantrums, the fights and the arguments, the walking on eggshells, the threat of phone calls being made home because your son has been excluded because he can’t cope. I’m asking you for just a little bit of understanding. I’m asking you if next time you see a parent struggle, don’t walk on by, please ask if they need help. You never know…you could end up being that parent’s saviour. Every day is a battle because there is a lack of awareness of what autism is and the variations of it, which means there is a lack of empathy and understanding, which impacts on the fact that there is a lack of acceptance. This has got to change; the sooner the better.  

Rugby and AutismEvery day is always a difficult for us. If I have not cried more than twice in the day…it is a good day. However through all these difficulties, there are people who have never left us. In fact our circle of friends has grown because of it. These people have one thing in common with us…rugby. These people are our rugby family

The rugby family we have is amazing. His grassroots coaches at Littleborough RUFC, Sam Dickinson and Gaz Sharrocks, just ‘get’ him so therefore support him in every way possible. This has been able to happen because of the positive relationship that Ellis has managed to build and develop over the years with them. As parents this has also helped us develop friendships within the club, because when Ellis feels safe and secure, we feel safe and secure. Safe and secure in knowing we have a ‘family’ who will continually support us, who shares their kindness that goes above and beyond to what we expect, making us feel truly blessed to be involved with such a great club. We know we can go and talk to any member of the club, and feel supported, even on our darkest days.

Rugby and AutismSecondly his community coaches from Sale Sharks, Vicky Irwin, Ellis Greenwood and Simon Leather do amazing work with him. I’ve seen such a change in him because of them. He is involved with them on a fortnightly basis, taking part on the autism project they run called ‘Play On’. They are developing his communication, social and emotional needs, as well as teaching him in how to stay healthy and keep himself safe. Therefore, because of Ellis being given this opportunity to become involved in a great initiative, I have met some amazing people through the Sale Shark Community Team, and I know that whenever I need help, they are only a phone call away. We have made friends for life. We have been given opportunities that we would never thought was possible. We’ve also made solid friends with people in similar circumstances that understand the difficulties we face.

Both adults and children in the rugby family just accept him for who he is, not just a little boy with autism, but they have accepted him as Ellis. Autism is part of him, it what makes Ellis, Ellis, and we are all proud of him as I’m sure his coaches are.

There is a positive side of being an autism mum. The problems and difficulties he faces every day is mind blowing, but the resilience you see in him dealing with them is just breath taking, and he spurs me on to be the best mum I can be with the help and support from our rugby family. With their continued support, I will keep pushing forward, keep moving forward. I’ve learnt that even on the darkest of days, I just need to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going, because I have this support.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, there are days I just want to throw my hands in the air and completely give up, because some days I’m so worn down, so frustrated, so exhausted, so defeated, but what mother would I be if I allowed this to happen?  I’ve been fighting against systems, policies, procedures and people for so long, I can’t possibly stop now… and I won’t.  So I will continue to look at Ellis and his resilience to life, I will put on my happy face and say to myself ‘Everything is going to be O.K’ and with my friends and my rugby families behind me, I know this is true. 

#autisminrugbyworks                                                          #autismisbeautiful

(Thanks to Lisa for sharing this personal yet inspiring story. This really shows how rugby can help those from all walks of life. Our best wishes to Lisa, Ellis and Littleborough RUFC for the many seasons to come)