I travelled back 5 years in time last weekend, back to one of the fondest times in my life and certainly one of the most personally rewarding times in my life. I went back to my old Junior Rugby League Club to watch some of my old boys play.
I guess a bit of history might help paint the picture for you all. My son wanted to play Rugby League when he was 5 so his mother and I signed him up at the local J.R.L club, the Redlands Parakeets. That was Grub’s first year in a team sport and he loved it.
Being the youngest team in the club it catered for the little ones that were 5 and 6 years of age. At the end of the season half the team that were already 6 moved up to the under 7’s comp the next year with the balance remaining to once again go around as under 6’s. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it their coach in that first year was the father of one of the boys that moved up to under 7’s and he went with them to continue being their coach.
So I stuck my hand up and very tenderly stepped into my first and only foray into coaching. I had never played Rugby League before but had always followed the sport after being brain washed by my parents growing up, after all how difficult could it be !
I figured the best game plan at this age was to keep it simple and to keep it fun, I know I wanted to install a strong TEAM mentality, and from watching the previous season I could see that fitness played a very large part of the game even at this level.
So there I was on the team allocation night and I met all “ My Boys ” and their parents for the first time, I introduced myself and let everyone know that I was simply a Dad who had stepped up so that the boys would have a team. I pointed out to the parents that it was impossible to do by myself and I would be expecting a lot of help from them, I also made it clear to them all that it was about the kids, not the parents, not about the score line and it was not about their kids not blowing opportunities like they felt they may have done !
I then remember talking to the kids and making sure that they all knew that they were there to have FUN, but at the same time they needed to listen and train hard because they were part of a team. I told them that my game plan was simple and that I only needed them to focus on three things to start with, running in the right direction, not dropping the ball and to not run over the sideline.
It was a great season and from memory we went on to have about a 75% win rate ( not that the winning or losing was ever focused on ).
I stayed with the boys for another two years and coached them in the under 7’s and 8’s as well before handing over the reigns for two reasons, one was work commitments and the second and main reason was because the boys were getting into the age where they needed more skills taught to them then I had at my disposal. My main goal always was to drill the basic fundamentals into them at a fun level before handing them over for the main game.
Well, about 2 weeks ago I was contacted on Facebook to link as a friend by one of the boys in that first team. I accepted and was so excited to hear from Rhys once again. Apparently Rhys told everyone he had found me again and within the next week I was linked as a friend to over half of the old team.
Now that may not seem much to some people but for these boys to want to contact me after 5 years and for them to want to now remain in contact with me tells me that the connection I felt with these boys was not just a one way connection and that they remember the old days fondly, it tells me that they had FUN !
After a few chats Rhys invited Grub and I down to watch them play their next home game which was last Sunday and of course Grub and I couldn’t get there quick enough.
It was a blast to see the boys again and to see how they are all growing into strong young men and still enjoying the game with a passion that they started 8 years ago. I think most of them were just as surprised to see my son Grub standing 6ft as we were to see how they had all grown and the voices dropped.
Callum, Dan Myself & Rhys ( 2010 )
One thing I did notice though is how their individual skills and passions had just grown and developed over the years, the speedsters still loved to pin the ears back and run like the wind and the tacklers still cherished the opportunity to burry an opposing player as hard as they could into the ground, their natural talents and skills were there from the start, as coaches all we do is make sure they have fun and fine tune their skills.
In Australia’s National Rugby League comp there is a coach by the name of Wayne Bennett who is known as the premier coach in the game today if not in the history of the game. I have had the pleasure of meeting Wayne on a couple of occasions during business lunches and on each occasion he has emphasised that his roll was not so much to teach them how to play but to ensure that all they had to focus on was their football and to ensure they stayed fit and had FUN !
Myself and Wayne Bennett (2000)
Pretty simple words from one of the games most influential individuals the game has ever know, Have Fun !
I think this is such a fundamental tool to remember in all of our lives, To Have Fun. If you are doing it and you are not having fun then WHY are you doing it ? There are always other options or roads to take.
If you don’t enjoy it you will never commit to it 100% and therefore at the end of the day only wasting your time and effort, and probably everyone else’s as well.
I’d just like to wrap up this Blog by thanking “ My Boys ” for reminding me to have fun !
Dohi, and thank you for reading my Blog.