International hooker SCOTT BALDWIN is encouraging the nation to get support their local teams as they move further through the Welsh Rugby Union’s ‘Pathway to Participation’.
Welsh rugby clubs have moved through the stages of the plan, gradually returning to contact rugby after numerous lockdowns due to the pandemic. They are currently playing in competitive competitions for the first time since March 2020 and can look forward to the return of WRU National League rugby, due to restart for senior men’s teams from November, two months earlier than first planned, while the second phase of the women’s cup competitions has also been brought forward to the autumn.
The National Lottery supports the move to get community rugby back on, and is encouraging players, volunteers, referees, coaches, and supporters, back to their grassroots rugby clubs to support them as they rebuild after the pandemic.
The WRU has used a flexible approach to enable community rugby to return, with changes in laws, team sizes and competitions, to negate the challenging environment caused by the pandemic.
Scott, capped 34 times by Wales and who will play at Worcester Warriors next season, believes the campaign is needed to help community clubs across the country.
The 33-year-old hooker, who has coached in the community game himself including at Bridgend Ravens, has recognised the tireless work done by volunteers to ensure the grassroots game remains healthy. He told us……
“I think it’s hugely important to restart community rugby in Wales”
“From the mental side, as well as the physical benefits, a lot of people have been isolated over the last 18 months, and not able to see their friends.
“To be able to get back to our rugby clubs, and out onto that pitch again, with your teammates, is massive.
“To have friends, family, supporters and volunteers watching is amazing. We have seen the power of spectators back in at professional games, and now I hope our community clubs can feel the benefit of that.
“It will be a huge boost for the amateur game across our nation.
“I come from an amateur pathway, as does Rhys Webb, Matthew Morgan and so many players, which shows how important it is.
“The volunteers are vital to the heartbeat of our national game. They are there for the pure love of the game, and give up their time on Tuesday night, Thursday night or Saturday morning, whenever. Just because they love the game.
“That is so important. Professional rugby can learn a lot from the amateur game in that regard, about those connections you make in the sport, and who really makes a difference to your life.
“Just look at how New Zealand for example, develop their youngsters from the grassroots game and how it benefits their senior game eventually.”
With backing from The National Lottery, the WRU is aiming to help community clubs rebuild post-pandemic.
In a study commissioned by the England, Wales, and Scotland Rugby Unions with the National Lottery; research showed that for 75% of players revealed no club rugby had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, while over half (58%) stated that what they missed the most was the team chats and camaraderie, and a further 38% said that they missed having rugby as an outlet for day-to-day stresses, exacerbated by the pandemic.
86% of players and volunteers feel being part of a community rugby club has a positive impact on their mental health
And Scott was also keen to point out the social benefits that playing community rugby can have, something he knows from experience.
“Community rugby gives so much to those who are involved in it, not just on the pitch, but off it as well.
“It has given me a lot. I was probably mischievous as a youth, but when I came into rugby it brought a lot of discipline into my life and made me realise it wasn’t just all about me.
“It made me grow up and gave me the opportunity to play professional and travel the world, so I know how important it is.”
The National Lottery is supporting Welsh Rugby’s Pathway to Participation programme and the return of community rugby across the whole of Wales. Visit HERE to find out more