From COVID bubbles to live streaming fitness sessions, Henley Hawks Mini and Juniors are ensuring the health and wellbeing of their record number of members.
Following on from being awarded the best Mini & Junior Section at the 2019 National Rugby Awards, Henley Hawks have seen a record number of members this year, despite the challenges that COVID-19 brings. A comprehensive set of protocols were established to ensure that children are kept safe and secure during training. This allowed participation at regular training sessions during the summer once the initial lockdown restrictions were eased, allowing children to both reengage with their friends in a safe environment and participate in some much needed physical exercise. Following on from the June recommencement, and in line with the RFU guidelines, continual development of safe play was led by the coaching team, resulting in a comprehensive return to play, including games of touch rugby, at the September season start.
Nick Bradbury, Chairman of the Kids First and Junior Section at Henley Hawks said, “It’s really important that children are kept active during these unprecedented times. We were really keen to provide the children with a fun physical outlet but within a safe environment. Our robust protocols have been adopted by other clubs and we are always keen to look at new ways of keeping our kids active and engaged”.
A number of additional initiatives have been addressed by Nick and his extensive coaching team, spanning U6-U18 groups, including the girl’s section:
“Following on from the great success of our girls teams participating in their first tournament earlier in the season, it is really important we keep them feeling part of the whole club” adds Lisa Tavinor, Head of the girls section and player in the senior women’s team. “To provide some online direct training during this latest period will, hopefully, keep some of that team bond that the girls have started to develop in their normal training sessions”.
In addition, coaches have recently been through a comprehensive first aid training course and a number have also taken part in child wellbeing and mental health courses. This is in addition to the RFU’s mandatory concussion training and other skills development sessions led by our more experienced coaching team. Henley also run additional training camps in school holidays and recently had 80 over two days during half term with other clubs also attending. Another camp is being planned for the Christmas holidays on 22 and 23 December.
“With Lockdown 2 now underway, it’s really important for the children’s mental and physical well-being that we continue to develop our offer”, continues Nick. “With that in mind, we’re now planning to stream live fitness sessions to our members on Sunday mornings, whilst lockdown continues”.
Max Tilney, a fellow coach and owner of the video production company Talefin, has been running live video music lockdown sessions over the summer. “The technology is available. we’ve seen the success of Jo Wicks PE sessions. It’s just a natural progression to offer this to our membership whilst we can’t meet in person. Giving all players across all the age groups the ability to still connect with the club is extremely important to continue the Team approach of rugby as a sport and physical and mental well-being.”
Henley Hawks has recently received national praise as a model club by World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward. Woodward started his coaching career at Henley in the early 1990s. In an article he wrote for the Daily Mail, he stated that Henley are “looking forward and staying optimistic during these times”. Henley Mini and Juniors are the embodiment of this ethos and are continually innovating to remain an important community asset for Henley’s children.