Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From a concerned coach...

I received the following today, in response to the article earlier this week about the leagues. Its far too long to go as a comment - and also far too important (its also disturbing that people still feel the need for anonymity when criticising RFUW):

From a concerned coach

Over the last few years as more and more girls teams sprang up, unofficial leagues had sprung up to accommodate these teams. There were two distinct types, highly competitive leagues between clubs able to field full teams, and cluster leagues where teams clustered together to get enough girls to play a game. Not all the country was covered and not all the leagues worked particularly well. There was a county programme with counties finding their own fixtures and some running successful tournaments and there was a regional programme that had developed really well and culminated in an excellent tournament at the end of the year. In summary something fun to keep grass roots going and something more competitive to develop the talent. It did have a few problems in the way it took chunks out of the fixture list for those that didn't move up the ladder, but overall it was successful and fulfilling for the girls.

Adjustments could have been made to it to continue its evolution. However, in one go at the end of last season the RFUW got rid of the lot. Every team was told they would need to enter a RFUW league as none of the old ones could continue. Although it was not compulsory to enter, teams felt obliged to enter to ensure fixtures. Teams reluctantly did this without knowing playing numbers in case they couldn't find fixtures Teams were placed in leagues and corresponding fixtures were published, but it was evident from the beginning that many of the clubs registered didn't have the playing numbers to fulfil the fixtures, or were not at the playing level of other teams in the league.

In prior years lists of teams were published in categories relating to the number of players. These clearly showed few clubs with large playing squads and many who would struggle to field a 7's team. The league rules were lifted from the Women's league where there is a structure for relegation and promotion, something that is not present in the girls leagues and not appropriate. The additional try bonus point system also encourages teams to rack up points, something that doesn't help development. This has led to uncertainty in the league winners list published on the Letchworth Blog. In fact although some of these teams currently top their leagues now all the games have been played, the RFUW will be adjusting some points and in some leagues there will be new winners. Leagues also cause problems to teams emerging during the season, how do they find fixtures when clubs already have a fixture list in place? So we see in many leagues vast discrepancies in results and in many cases teams not playing a single game. What has happened to these clubs and their girls? Some have clearly folded, girls have quit rugby for other sports. This has been detrimental to the development of the girls game. Hopefully some clubs will return.

What leagues do is introduce competitiveness. Often this is due to the egos of the coaches involved, but witness the introduction of junior leagues in Boys' rugby. This has had an effect on fixture lists, relations between clubs and the development of boys as winning is vital to avoid relegation. At least with the boys' leagues there are enough to have promotion and relegation to ensure teams are in a fairly competitive environment. This is not the case with girls rugby as there are not the number of teams to do this. Examination of the effect of the introduction of the men's leagues shows a similar problem. Many clubs now run fewer teams. Clubs have folded as playing numbers diminished and old club rivalries were lost as teams moved up into different leagues. There is now a large influx out of the lower leagues into merit tables to find the lost ethos that competitive league rugby destroyed.

We need more girls in rugby and more clubs, the base needs to be very broad to support the ultimate goal of a successful world cup winning England team. However, that elite few need to be supported by a fun rugby many. There should be a fundamental principle that club rugby is about developing girls and supporting the growth of and increasing the number of clubs. We do not want to see the emergence of super teams who attract the best players in each county and who de facto become the county team. We want to see clubs growing numbers and new clubs emerging. The strength and support for a competitive league structure with promotion and relegation is not there yet. Concentration should be on growing the base. The leagues should be more flexible to allow new teams to join during the season. Try bonus points should be abolished, with a simple 4 points for a win 2 points for a draw and 1 point for a loss. Games should automatically stop after a margin of 30 points and a new game started with more evenly matched sides. Stronger clubs should be supporting the developing clubs as it is in their long term interest. Alternatively the old merit table idea could be used of ranking teams by the number of games they have won as a percentage of the games played against other teams in their league, so late joiners are not disadvantaged.

The move to Divisional rugby from the regional rugby has been good news for clubs as fewer girls are lost on average. But the divisional structure needs to be sorted out especially at U18 level. Are they going to be like the U15's a couple of practice matches then a tournament, or like the Women a simple league where everybody plays everybody else? My preference would be for a tournament at both U15 and U18 because the girls really enjoy them.

More competition needs to be introduced at the County level. The CB's throughout the country need to be running county girls. Within each division there should be one or two leagues and teams should play each other to win these. This would be a replacement for the sadly missed county festivals from prior years. It would also give divisional coaches the chance to watch girls in competitive games and help them select the divisional nominations from each county instead of the nomination mess that happened in some divisions this year.

Girls are not boys or women! They need to be coached slightly differently. They play the game slightly differently and they need a different structure to support it. One size doesn't fit all.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I could not agree with you more..The league system was a farce in the North East!girls rugby up here is struggling with numbers and to find a competitive game for 13 girls has proved difficult. League fixtures next year?..not likely!
    The weather has not helped but there again neither has the poor numbers at clubs!
    With regards to your point in another blog about Worcester travelling to Scotland...Worcester travelled through Northumberland and they know Morpeth would have played them...
    Thanks for the info on the RFU playing calender and their ideas for next season, somehow they seem to forget the North of England!
    Morpeth rfc - always looking for fixtures!!


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