Coventry rugby festival celebrates community success

MJ Black

Coventry’s primary schools have come together to mark the success of a sporting community initiative.

Since the New Year more than 1,200 eight and nine-year-olds from 26 of the city’s schools have taken part in the Engage! Values Programme, which teaches children life values such as enjoyment, respect, integrity, discipline and teamwork through classroom activities and the game of rugby.

To mark this achievement, more than 100 pupils from six schools took part in the Engage! tag rugby festival at the AT7 Centre in Bell Green to round off the programme.

The festival was attended by the programme’s architects, hosts and principal sponsor – Chris Millerchip, Coventry Sports Foundation CEO Paul Breed and Finham Primary School Deputy Head teacher Sarah Brackin – accompanied by the cabinet member for public health and sport at Coventry City Council, Cllr Kamran Caan.

With Ladbrokes continuing the sponsorship of the Challenge Cup this season, and numerous other high profile companies eager to get involved in the sport, these are exciting times for rugby league.

Tom Clift, Programme Manager at Engage!, said: “While this festival scratches the surface of the scale of work we have been doing in the community and across Coventry primary schools, it demonstrates the positive impact that the programme is having on young people’s lives.

“The children have been able to learn about each core value in a fun and engaging way. So for enjoyment they have been playing board games to learn about having fun but not at the expense of others so nobody gets left out.

“For respect, they have played and watched each other play ping pong to explore how to treat each other correctly, such as cheering each other on, scoring and congratulating one another.

“To develop teamwork we’ve tasked the children to develop rugby formations using cut out shirts, and for discipline we’ve given them their own sweet and set them the challenge of not eating it in a set time to receive another reward.

“Once the children have touched on each of these values they are then given the opportunity to apply the values out on the field in games of tag rugby also.”

The Engage! Values Programme’s growth is welcome news for Coventry’s City of Rugby initiative – a pledge made by all of the city’s rugby organisations last year to make the city a world leader at every level of the sport by 2023.

This includes increasing participation, improving rugby facilities, unlocking funding to support clubs and attracting major rugby events to the city, with a particular focus on making the game more accessible to women and girls, people with disabilities, and those from non-traditional rugby playing backgrounds.

Cllr Caan, cabinet member for public health and sport, added: “The City of Rugby project was a bold and ambitious challenge when initially launched last year, and this Engage! tag rugby festival is the latest event to prove that the plan is really starting to come to life.

“Coventry is one of rugby’s rising cities. As well as record engagement levels at a grassroots level, we’ve hosted the Rugby League Four Nations and the future is looking bright for rugby in our city.

“Now I’m looking forward to seeing what else our city can achieve for the sport over the next few years as we encourage everyone to be physically active.”