One of the things that those of us immersed in the world of rugby are proud of is our sport's ability to help shape individuals for the better. The core values of rugby; respect, teamwork, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship ring true at every level of the game and senior players at all clubs feel it is their duty to ensure that younger members of their teams embrace them and as such our game continues to stay true to its roots. By its very nature rugby is an explosive and dare I say it an aggressive game however it is always delivered with the utmost respect for opponents and officials - something that can't always be said in other sports. These strong values mean that our sport has the ability to help people of any age grow and flourish.
This summer a man that has just hung up his boots after spending his life immersed in the professional game, Ugo Monye, has taken the time to be at the heart of a new programme. The programme is delivered by our Aviva Premiership Rugby Clubs and is supported wholeheartedly by the broadcaster that is intrinsic to the competition; BT Sport and its charitable initiative, The Supporters Club.
In short the Urban Rugby Squad is aimed at young adults from challenging backgrounds and is about giving them the opportunity to grow as people, in exactly the manner I spoke about earlier. For any of you that have kids, cousins or nieces and nephews you will know about the power of having positive role models for them and the way in which young people often look up to those in the public eye. For many young people advice from teachers and parents can fall on deaf ears however advice from sports stars and sports coaches often permeates a little deeper. Ugo is a tremendously personable guy, he is approachable and from a young person's perspective pretty cool for an adult! Chatting with me from Harlequins' Urban Rugby session in Camberwell Ugo shared the admiration he has for those hosting this programme;
"First and foremost it is a fantastic initiative, it is great to see that even with so much focus on the Rugby World Cup there are still major companies that want to keep investing in individuals and putting energy into young people and rugby."
Over the course of this summer all of our Aviva Premiership sides have been or will be hosting similar Urban Rugby Squad sessions and then the clubs are coming together for a Festival. Following that the whole programme will culminate in a National Festival that will be held at The Twickenham Stoop in October. For those delivering all of the training sessions and more the festivals the focus is simple as Ugo shared;
"It isn't about trying to create a whole host of international elite athletes; most importantly this is about having an impact on their lives and helping individuals to become better people in their communities. I met a young lad called Mitch today who was sharing with me how he is learning to use rugby to get rid of some of his frustrations and focus his energy on the pitch. We take the time to chat during sessions about what they are doing or learning and about how it can translate into their lives on a daily basis and it is just great to be a part of."
The forthcoming Rugby World Cup will be a tremendous celebration of those at the very top of our game however as Ugo said it is great to see the support at the other end of the performance spectrum. Personally I know how much rugby can give you as an individual, even though my background certainly couldn't be classed challenging I credit our sport for shaping me into the individual that I am today. Once again this is a great example of the superb power of rugby and why we are all proud to be associated with a game that has the ability to deliver so much, both on and off the field.
BT Sport Ambassador Ugo Monye was speaking on behalf of the Urban Rugby Squad, a partnership between BT Sport's The Supporters Club, Restart Rugby, the Official Charity of The Rugby Players' Association (RPA), and Premiership Rugby. The initiative is running across all 12 Premiership Rugby clubs throughout the summer and will see young people aged 14-16 from disadvantaged communities across England given the opportunity to participate in regular sporting activity and personal development workshops that use rugby as inspiration. For more information about The Supporters Club, visit www.thesupportersclub.org