At that ceremony Brian Williams, Junior Vice-President of the RFU will present Letchworth with the President's XV Trophy to mark their winning the award for club modernisation.
The importance of the occasion will be recognised by the presence of local MP Oliver Heald, representatives from the district council and Heritage Foundation, and also players and officials from the RFUW (Rugby Football Union for Women) and Saracens RFC.
The club's work will also feature in a forthcoming RFU guide to good practice that will be circulated to all rugby clubs across the country – and probably overseas as well.
This will be appropriate as the centrepiece of the club's award nomination already has a significant international profile, and – even before the RFU announcement – was already being used as a model by other clubs.
It is also appropriate that the group at the heart of the award should also the club's newest section, and North Hertfordshire's contribution to the fastest growing area of rugby, worldwide – the Letchworth Girls' teams.
When they were formed in 2004 the girls' section presented the club's managers with a problem – how to keep the players and parents in touch with what was happening at the club. This was exacerbated by the fact that virtually all of the girls (and their families) were new both the club and the game, and were therefore not part of the usual internal communication networks, and also – being teenagers – rarely bothered reading the traditional newsletters, posters, or even emails!
So the managers of the section tried a different approach – attempting to tap into the methods of communication that the girls did use. And so in March 2006 the Letchworth Girls Blog ( http://letchworthgirls.blogspot.com ) was born.
All information for the girls goes onto the blog – and that is not just information about the club, but a range of other information about their game, thus also attacking another problem – the very low public profile that women's and girls' rugby has.
So far much like any other websites – but a crucial feature was the generation of a "newsfeed" which the girls could easily attach to their personal computer homepages (services such as iGoogle and MySpace). This newsfeed is automatically updated whenever new stories appear on the blog, which means that the girls are made aware of latest news whenever and wherever they turn their computers on, and without them having to remember to check the blog itself.
The blog can also be updated by any manager, from any computer. It is simple, requires no complex systems, no software downloads, and no training. New articles can even be posted by mobile phone, allowing match reports to appear on the blog before the girls have even left the field. This was particularly popular during the team's Easter tour to Devon and Cornwall when regular updates from pitchside (and beachside!) meant that parents could keep fully up-to-date with their girls progress.
The blog was an immediate success. Within a week of its launch it was clear that the girls were logging in regularly and all other forms of communication were scrapped. However, the surprise was how quickly spread use of the blog spread beyond the club. Girls clubs across initially East Anglia and soon the country as a whole became regular readers as much of the information about the latest developments in the game was as relevant to them as it was to the girls at Letchworth – and the method of presentation used was significantly better than anything else available.
Within a few months the blog had also attracted an international audience, with regular readers across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Today the blog – still at its core simply a news service for 30 or so girls in North Hertfordshire – is receiving over 2,000 "hits" a month, even in June when there is no actual rugby being played!
Even more significantly the example is being followed, especially in the girls' and women's game. All of the women's "counties" in East Anglia now have their own blogs, as do clubs from newcomers (such as Swaffham) to well established teams (such as Worcester). Even some national RFUs are starting to use an identical system – for example the German Women's Rugby Federation launched a blog in April 2007.
The presentation on 13th July will also include the launch of the next new idea by the girls' team – a promotional video featuring highlights from the girls' 2006-7 season designed to attract new players into the game. This will appear on the blog, but will also be used to show girls in schools and clubs across the area that rugby is no longer a game just for boys.
The presentation will be at Letchworth RFC (directions: http://letchworthgirls.blogspot.com/2006/06/letchworth-gc-rfc-directions.html) from 7.30-8.00pm on Friday 13th July. Press and media representatives are very welcome.
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