Letchworth Garden City RFC is setting standards for other rugby clubs to follow – nationwide. That is the message from the Rugby Football Union who honoured the club with a special presentation on Friday where Brian Williams, Junior Vice-President of the RFU, presented Letchworth with the President's XV Trophy to mark their setting the pace in club modernisation.
Leading sporting and civic leaders, including Oliver Heald MP, Stuart Kenny (Letchworth Garden City Hertitage Foundation), Amanda Bate (RFUW), and Ian Knighton (chair of Leisure at North Herts DC) also attended the presentation.
The award centred on the work of the club's girls' section, and pioneering use new methods used to improve communication.
Many of the speeches highlighted the contribution the game of rugby can make to the personal and social development of young players, and girls U17 captain, Katie Alcock, best expressed this when she said:
Katie Alcock, captain of the Letchworth Girls U17 team
"In March 2004 I wasn't a sporty person. I definitely wasn't a rugby player. I wore glasses, I had terrible hand-eye coordination and I took a long time to get changed! By the time I finally got out onto the pitch, I just wasn't any good. I tried my little heart out but I just couldn't do sport. Rugby changed all that.
Through rugby, I have met people from as far away as Canada and been on tour with people whom, without rugby, I probably would never have met, let alone talked to. Rugby has given us here something much more than friendship, we are a team and we support one another. At Letchworth we have tall girls, short girls, big girls, small girls, girls who dress differently, like different music, come from different towns and have different friends - but if I'm having a bad time at the bottom of a ruck I know one of these girls will come and help me; if I'm injured or I've been fouled, I know someone will be there to pull me up and, if I make a bad decision out there (which I admit happens sometimes!), I know that one of these guys will be there to pat me on the back and tell me to forget about it.
When the blog began, I thought - great; no more having to store a screwed up newsletter in my kit bag and hope it doesn't get too muddy; no more texting people the night before a match to say, "Please say you were listening at training because I can't remember what time to meet!" - but in reality the blog has become so much more than that. I mean, yes, we do get our information, dates and times, maps and directions, but there are bits full of nostalgia and comedy, articles which have nothing to do with rugby and some which have everything to do with rugby, not just for us girls but for boys, men and women, too; and not just in Letchworth but around the world. The blog gets over 2000 hits a month and has global recognition; people comment on it, contribute to discussions, advise us and congratulate us - what we've created is not longer merely a means of online communication; it's an online community in itself.
And that's what rugby is - a community - and it changes people. It's changed me. That little girl who first came here to Letchworth Rugby Club in March 2004 holding her Dad's hand and looking scared is a completely different person from the one standing before you. I'm still short, I still wear glasses and I'm never exactly going to be Miss Sportswoman of the Year, but I can now consider myself a sporty person. I wear my rugby shirts to school with pride and bore my mates to death with blow-by-blow accounts of the last match, I've learned not to judge people by what they look like and have been taught how to communicate with people from all walks of life, all cultures and all cliques. I've become a person who is confident in herself, confident enough to stand up and talk to a room full of people. Rugby gave me that. "
The evening also saw the premiere of the girls' section's new promotional video. This short collection of highlights from the 2006/7 season - with a musical soundtrack composed and performed by four pupils (Chris Bell, James Flight, Matthew Hinton, and Adam Wright) from Highfield School, Letchworth - received resounding applause and will be used, in various versions, to promote the club and the girls game in the area. A version for the 'blog is currently being worked on.
Training for girls at Letchworth restarts on Sunday 19th August at 10.30. Girls of all ages and abilities, and regardless of previous experience, are welcome to attend. For more information contact John Birch on 07767 615274 or firstname.lastname@example.org - or better still just visit the blog at http://letchworthgirls.blogspot.com !