Community Group’s Head of Community at Stourbridge Rugby, Chad Thorne provides an update in his latest blog

We have all faced some very obvious challenges over the last 12 months and the community department at Stourbridge Rugby has been no different. Despite this, we are proud to say that, powered by Community Group, we have still been able to drive our Community engagement forward, bridging the gap between all age groups and backgrounds, and the exciting thing is there is still more to give and achieve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to focus on different elements within our community and we would like to share some of those successes with you.

Social Inclusion

Isolation was a key concern during the various lockdown periods and we wanted to offer our Stourbridge members a way to still feel part of a team while they were unable to meet in person. This was achieved through the Community Group Midlands Cup which saw Stourbridge go head-to-head with Bournville RFC in a Strava challenge. We are proud to report that more than 400 members took part across both clubs, logging over 15,000km. We were delighted to claim victory, but the most rewarding aspect was seeing the engagement from all parties and how, even though they were unable to meet in the flesh, they could work together virtually to achieve something. We look forward to the next challenge with our friends at Bourneville RFC, further details will be provided.

School Engagement

The easing of lockdown restrictions has allowed us to return to schools and we are currently providing rugby and education provision to six primary schools and one alternative education provider. We are also pleased to announce that we have just signed a new contract with a secondary school with a number of other schools in negotiation. If you are aware of any schools in need of our support please let the team know, we will be delighted to help as many children as we can.

Our Stourbridge Rugby Academy, which is run in partnership with Sandwell College, is flourishing and we have already started to sign up new students for next year as well as organise fixtures. It has also been pleasing to see 5 of our older students sign playing contracts for the Club in recent weeks and it is great reward for their hard work. We look forward to watching their progress.

We have also been able to carry on providing our traditional rugby provision, as well as morning, lunchtime and afterschool clubs, Reading & Rugby and our rugby mentoring programme for our older pupils.

In its second year, our rugby mentoring programme has just been expanded to reach more schools and years at local schools. We engage the students by using rugby to break down barriers, harnessing the core values rugby prides itself on – respect, teamwork, trust, discipline. This has led us down the path of working with more SEN and vulnerable children which has provided a variety of new challenges but ones we have relished. By using rugby and providing positive role models, we have been working with students who are facing their own challenges and making some wrong turns in life. With our help, the students are setting goals in and out of rugby and have a better outlook on life.

Camps and Club Event

We are delighted to have hit record numbers for our Easter camps and currently have more than 70 children booked in each day. We are excited about these numbers and can’t wait to be delivering rugby at the club again.

We are also planning to host masterclasses (kicking, scrummaging etc) and First XV engagement days as part of bringing all facets of the club together.

Projects and live bids

We have just completed our Resilience Fund where we were awarded a grant by the Heart of England Community Foundation to deliver school meals to vulnerable children. Thanks to the hard work of our brilliant volunteers and staff at the club, this project ran smoothly and was gratefully received from the children we helped. We are proud to say that we were able to deliver more than 470 meals to vulnerable families during the pandemic.

We have also recently received more funding from the National Lottery and we are excited about the projects we will be able to deliver in the future – more to follow soon!

Minis & Juniors engagement

One of our main aims this year is strengthening our Minis & Juniors engagement and we are excited to be starting our ‘Stourbridge Rugby Pups’ project. This will be our own version of toddler rugby, where we can give them their first experience of the sport.

On top of this, we aim to bridge the gap between the First XV and our Mini & Junior section as they are vital to the club’s future success. This is just the start of our plans to enrich the Mini & Junior experience, so watch this space!

This year has been challenging again for a number of reasons, but personally I am really excited about what the future holds and the exciting projects we have coming up.

Take care and I hope you are all enjoying your return to rugby.

If you would like to know more about how Community Group can support your club, please get in touch by clicking HERE.