During 2014/15 the Saints’ community team will be delivering the project in 10 schools across Northampton and the surrounding area, introducing hundreds of Year 9 students to rugby union, often for the first time.
And community coach Charlotte Eggleton says that the reaction has been encouraging.
“Across the schools, the sessions have been going well,” she said. “We’ve got a range of different girls from different backgrounds getting involved. Some have played before, some haven’t ever picked up a ball, so it’s a new experience for a lot of them and a different experience for those who have done it before.
“The introduction to rugby session is the first session that we do with the girls to get them aware a bit more of how rugby works. Instead of playing netball with the push passes and overhead passes, it’s about getting the passes underarm, going backwards and also running around a lot. When it comes to tackling, it’s about making sure that the girls are doing it safely.
“The introduction session is a very active session. It gets the girls moving around rather than just standing still. Rather than being lectured at and introducing everything in one go, it’s a development session. So you introduce things one at a time and develop them, adding more and more, progressing through the weeks.”
The girls rugby project, for which Premiership Rugby received a funding grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has a number of aims, including the introduction of the sport to new participants, encouraging the transition into local clubs for those girls who want to take their rugby further, and developing female coaches as well.
One of the schools in Northampton that has signed up to the project is Caroline Chisholm, and Second I/C of PE Amanda Evans says that the sessions have been positive for students and teachers alike.
“The girls have really enjoyed the sessions and have perhaps seen rugby in a new light rather then something that they're quite daunted to do,” she said.
“After the girls have done the session they're all buzzing about doing the next one and getting out rolling around in the mud again. However, I think that is down to the way in which the sessions were pitched, which was focused around building their confidence up.
“Initially, they thought it was going to be running at each other and hurting each other and they didn't want to do that. However, the way it was delivered was really, really good and built them up gradually to go out and play rugby, the correct way.
“It has also been good to see how Charlotte has coached the sessions and I’ve got plenty of tips from her, building up my own confidence in coaching rugby.
“It’s really positive seeing Premiership Rugby going into schools and helping them to develop rugby for girls. I think there can be a bit of a stereotype attached to women’s rugby and so having the Saints come in and change that with the girls, giving them a new perspective on the sport, that it is a sport that they can participate in and enjoy, has been really good.”
Teachers that would either like more information about the programme, or to sign their school up for coaching sessions, can email [email protected]