Hampstead youth division is blooming as club receive RFU accreditation
- Credit: Archant
When Hampstead set up their youth section they had just 15 players. Three years on, there are 160 young talents attending Saturday training sessions on Hampstead Heath by Parliament Hill athletics track.
The striking increase in participation has been matched by results on the field, and the Under-10s and Under-11s both achieved top ranking in the London Scottish Rugby Festival in Richmond in October.
The Under-11s went on to finish in the top two at the Grasshoppers festival in west London in November, while the Under-10s – who were in the top four – will also compete in the Allianz Cup champions event at Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium next month.
John Collis, who coaches the Under-10s, has been involved with Hampstead’s junior set-up for the past year – and he has been delighted to see the increase in numbers.
“I would say the friendliness of the club is a big factor – and the ethos, which is mass participation,” he told Ham&High Sport.
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“There really is a place for every child. There’s a big emphasis on team play, which is also why they’re successful on the pitch.
“Often, in team sports involving children under the age of 12, you get 22 or 30 kids chasing the same ball and there’s a focus on the quickest and the strongest.
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“At Hampstead, everyone knows that the stars can only be the stars because of the work that the rest of the team is doing, and that everyone has their role.”
It is not just the youth set-up which is thriving. Hampstead have been given official accreditation from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as a recognition of the strength of the club across the board.
The scheme meant Hampstead were assessed in six key areas: retaining & developing players; recruiting new players; recruiting and retaining high-quality coaches; volunteers and referees; effective and efficient facilities; effective and efficient management and governance; integration with the local community.
They ticked every box, and the development of the youth division was an important factor.
Hampstead chairman Simon Taylor said: “We are really proud of what we are achieving at a junior level as a club.
“It shows that the Olympic legacy for sport can be built from the grassroots, through the passion and commitment of volunteers.
“Hampstead is born out of a love for rugby and encouraging children of all shapes and sizes and talents to try rugby.
“We always want every child to play in matches and, frankly, winning is a bonus – instilling a love for rugby is our most important goal. We are justly proud to win two festival cups and accreditation.”
It is hoped that the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which is taking place in England, will encourage further participation in the sport and inspire a new generation of players – and Collis believes the 2016 Olympics may have the same effect.
“I don’t know if the [London] Olympics has been a big factor in the increased numbers that we’ve seen, but I think it will be in future,” he said.
“Rugby sevens is going to be an Olympic sport in two years, and that could be a major driver for a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Hampstead’s men’s first team suffered a home defeat against Hammersmith & Fulham at the weekend, going down 24-0 in London North-West Division Two.
Meanwhile, the ladies team drew 5-5 away against their title rivals Old Albanians, leaving them fourth in the Women’s Championship South-East Division Two.
The second-placed Albanians, who are just two points ahead, are the only team to beat Hampstead in the league this season.
The visitors took the lead through prop Julie Fail, but they were reduced to 14 players for 10 minutes in the second half and conceded an equaliser.
Hampstead go on to host league leaders Blackheath in another crucial clash on Sunday.