Barnes Youth Rugby, comprising the Minis (U5-U11), Juniors (U12-U16) and Colts (U17-U18) divisions, is thriving with over 550 registered players and 115 volunteer coaches. In May 2019, we celebrated the 10th Birthday of Barnes Youth with an epic summer party which was attended by close to 900 players and their parents as well as others from the wider Barnes RFC family.
Now we are just one season away from ‘bridging the gap’ to the Senior levels of the club with our new Under 18 squad. Some of these boys were from the original set of minis. Our Colts have already been mid-week training alongside the Seniors and receiving specialist training from our new position of Director of Rugby in readiness for that much-anticipated debut of one of our original Minis!
The many volunteers in the Youth ranks uphold the mantra that “Improvement Never Ends”. In the autumn of 2018, we put in place another stretching 3-year plan, building on our strengths and enduring values founded on ‘kids-first’ rugby. We re-affirmed our objective to feed players into the many flavours of the Barnes Men’s and Ladies’ squads over the long run, having developed the Barnes style of play, lived the club spirit and – most importantly – learned how to tour the Barnes Way.
Last season, we were delighted to have built a squad of sixty Under 5 players. For them, this bodes extremely well for a fruitful Barnes rugby career with a strong cohort of close friends and mentors. Our numbers are strong throughout the Minis age groups, which could be something to do with the regular free hot dogs in the club-house after training, or due to the dramatic improvement in the quality of the coaching. A vast number of our volunteers gained qualifications last year in coaching, refereeing and first aid skills. The 4:1 coach to player ratio means the players are encouraged to build the range of rugby skills in a fun and supportive environment.
The Minis have played at a very high standard at all festivals attended across Experienced and Development levels. We take great pride in the positive feedback we receive from other clubs on the attractive style we play and the positive attitude shown by the boys and girls on the pitch. With growing numbers and a commitment that everyone who wants to play is able to play in festivals and ‘triangulars’, we will be expanding our fixture list in 2019-2020, taking our enjoyment of the game further afield.
Two notable highlights of the Minis 2018-19 season were the Minis lunch, attended by 170 people prior to the Worthing 1st XV match, and the Minis Tour to Wales involving 220 players and family members. In line with tradition, the Under 11s, enjoyed a phenomenal tour to Picardy in northern France, where 60 tourists enjoyed the hospitality of Laon Rugby Club and the life-experience of witnessing the legacy of the first-world war at breath-taking historic sites.
The ever-expanding Juniors over-flowed to a new site at Barn Elms, adjacent to the River Thames, and have taken rude advantage of the additional pitch space to enhance their regular training and considerably increase the number of interclub fixtures played. Two Under 13 sides toured to St. Andrews to add Scotland to their ‘rugby passports’, with Italy lined up in 2020 to complete the full 6-Nations of tours in their Barnes careers.
We have an impressive 43 girls playing Mini rugby and 17 girls playing Junior rugby, encouraged by the expansion in the Barnes Ladies squad. This season, our girls played their first junior fixtures versus Wimbledon and Battersea. Ashley Brandon, the lead coach for the Junior girls’ squad, has built up an energised coaching team to scale this success in 2019-2020.
Record numbers of 450 players from 16 schools in 62 separate teams participated in Friday Night Floodlit Festivals, run by Barnes Rugby. These iconic evenings are a much-anticipated event in the winter evenings in Barnes and the surrounding suburbs. Kids love the speed-rugby format and skills zones, while the parents get to enjoy a drink or two from the clubhouse. We are extremely proud that we are bringing rugby to more and more local school children who may not otherwise represent their school at sport or get introduced to the wonderful rugby family and its values. Last year, the commencement of the series of Friday nights with a girls-only tournament seemed to hit the mark – as we saw more and more of the girls competing in the subsequent Year 3&4 and Year 5&6 festivals.
Barnes Youth built on our extensive Community outreach programme. With contributions from the majority of the Barnes membership, we have sponsored many kids who have not had the opportunity before to train, play and tour with Barnes RFC, under the Exceptional Circumstances Fund. Here members and friends of the club are able to sponsor places for kids to experience rugby and benefit from the life-long skills and discipline that it teaches players.
At Junior-level we have fostered stronger ties with Fulham Boys School and The Ark Academy in Putney for girls.
This season’s Under 14s were extremely fortunate to train with Eddie Jones, England Head Coach and Will Greenwood, Rugby World Cup Winner 2003 at Pennyhill Park, England’s elite training facility. This special event was in aid of raising money for Will Greenwood’s ‘Borne’ charity, in memory of his son Freddie.
We see Barnes Youth providing an essential compass to our children through their personal development and journey through childhood and adolescence. We believe in instilling the strong values of rugby in our players and giving them the supportive environment to build life-long friendships and express themselves in a safe environment.
Looking ahead to 2019-20 season, we are introducing many more features to our wonderful club:
- Professional coaching support on tap for our volunteers to help us build the key skills, fitness and gamesmanship expected inside our Barnes teams.
- Dedicated highly qualified coaching for the Colts
- More festivals for the Minis
- More full-club fixtures across the Junior age groups with associated lunches
- MUCH MORE FUN – It’s contagious and we love it! We’re proud to be Barnow!