By Iva Wharton
Covent Garden Secondary School’s dominance of the national schools’ rugby tournament is a testament to the hard work put in by the students, both males and females, says Troy Yhip, Youth Development Officer (YDO) of the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU).
Covent Garden won all six of their matches at the under-14 category but lost to Tutorial in the under- 16 event. The competition was played Saturday last on the rugby field at the National Park.
Two of the six matches were female games played against a combined Marian Academy and St. John’s College team.
Yhip said that of the 12 schools in the programme, Covent Garden Secondary probably has the most dedicated bunch of students.
The YDO, who is in charge of Covent Garden Secondary and three other schools, Marian Academy, North Georgetown Secondary and Queen’s College, noted that Covent Garden was the only school where he has been able to successfully form three teams – an under-14, under-16 and a female team.
It would not be practical to divide the females into two teams because the numbers are not there, Yhip explained.
Attracting females to the sport is a difficult task, as their main concern is about being injured as they see the sport as one that is very dangerous.
“What we do now is show them videos and explain to them that is not contact they play. This is what we play, tag rugby where they run and pull the belt off.”
Marian Academy, he said, is one of the latest schools to join the programme after watching the videos. He said that both males and females are not exposed to contact until they are 16 or 17-years old. Very soon a new batch of students from Queen’s College, including girls, would be joining the programme. According to him, this is the second batch of students from Queen’s College that he is working with.
The first group, he said, was disbanded as the students were not showing up for practice since their parents refused to give them permission to participate in the sport.
The excuse offered was that the sport would take away from their children’s pursuit of an education or that the parents were concerned about them getting injured.
This time around, Yhip said he hopes that things would be different as 16 girls have registered for the programme.
He emphasized that once the parents are properly educated and informed about the programme then it should not be difficult to get the students on board.
Yhip said that the purpose of this progamme is to have a steady flow of players entering the senior league and for that to happen it has to start at the school level.
Through the schools’ programme, the students will be taught the basics of the sport and they will also be guided through the transition from tag to full contact which, he said, does not happen until the students reach age 16 or 17.
No student, he maintained, would be exposed to full contact before age 16 as that is against the rules.
However, in order to maintain a high level of interest they have organised community progammes and are also working on having regular tournaments that will assess the development of the students.
“Once we keep working with them and encouraging them to com
e out, keeping the community programmes, keeping tournaments like the school competition it will continue to grow.”
Asked about the challenges, Yhip said their only one continues to be extra lessons in which many students are engaged after regular classes during the day and for many of the schools it is difficult to get a large number of students out to rugby practice.
There are instances where they
ould start with a large group and then it is significantly reduced because students have to rush off to lessons.
He said that it is a different picture when it comes to competitions as a number of students who miss out on practice sessions are available for competitions. There is also the case, however, of students who are regular at practice but absent for competitions and that is usually responsible for the poor performance at tournaments.
Using North Georgetown Secondary as an example, Yhip said he was certain that North Georgetown could have defeated Covent Garden Secondary in their match had four of their better players participated in the competition.
Meanwhile, based on what he has seen during his training sessions with both schools, North Georgetown Secondary is the only one that can put up stiff competition against Covent Garden at competition thime, but the players must be there.
Yhip said that the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) has plans to expand the programme, but they must first meet their main challenge, which is getting the children out to practice.
The programme is mainly centered around schools in the city with the exception of three schools – Uitvlugt, Covent Garden and Wales Secondary.
The programme is run by the GRFU with funding from the International Rugby Union (iRB). The programme is run by three YDOs with assistance from many of the senior players.