Ironsides News


Paddy Flynn joins the 3 Pillars at a Hackney Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)

PRUs have been established and are maintained by local education authorities. They are specifically organised to provide education for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend a mainstream or special maintained school. 3 Pillars Project deliver in these units to offer more positive opportunities to these young people.

The course uses the rugby values of teamwork, respect, discipline and sportsmanship as base for the audience to become self-aware of how to enjoy learning using these values and in-turn help develop their own self-esteem and relationships with others.

We arrived for the first session on Tuesday the 30th of October and were greeted by Rupert the PE teacher and his team of teaching assistants. Rupert is enthusiastic and positive with the kids, and likes his rugby so he had been looking forward to our arrival and encouraged us to run it as we saw fit. Without further ado we went straight into it and began some rudimentary rugby handling drills; whilst it was clear that the kids had had little or no previous exposure to rugby, there was an abundance of energy in the group and it didn’t take our team long to recognise and find exciting ways to harness this. Much like training down at DSP, our coaching involved using a game format as a carrot alongside the stick of drills. Unlike traing at DSP, all involved seemed to enjoy the drills as much as the game!

As the weeks go by, and the personalities of the kids involved become more apparent, it shows on the face of it that the kids in the group try not to show interest, that they have reputations to maintain amongst their peers. However, the attraction of a fun and challenging game environment with their peers, as well as the opportunity to expend energy and adapting to new skills and rules is hard for them to keep under wraps, such is the draw of the game of rugby. 

Initially we began with a rugby-football hybrid game, two goals either end, only handling a rugby ball, passing forwards and backwards with no offside. Anyone touched in possession of the ball immediately turns possession over to the opposition. Here we are using their knowledge of football to slowly introduce some aspects of rugby; the game is teamwork focused, while also somewhat introduces the kids into honesty and sportsmanship calls where the referring has been missed. This is central to rugby and is far more about a player’s self discipline than the referee imposing rules.

Over the first 3 weeks this hybrid rugby-football game was used as a foundation to introduce more skills; Auckland grid handling, 2 versus 1 and rugby rules, reverting back to the game as we saw skill levels growing during the drills. As we challenged the kids to do more, to get them out of their sporting comfort zones and gauge their reactions, enjoyment and above all behavioural levels improved.

Our 4th week of coaching had the team at the mercy of the weather but we had a backup plan; what better time to introduce the physical side of the game! Using tackle bags, and with the full support and encouragement of Rupert and his outstanding assistants, we began the introduction of contact and the role it plays. Given that we we'rent entirely sure as to how the group would take this, we were all encouraged by both their mental and physical focus, as well as the increased sense of discipline. As the kids became more comfortable with the physical challenge of the bag, we slowly reintroduced the passing aspect. This initial taster of contact, combined with the skill of passing had been a success both with regards to the attitude and the discipline of the kids participating. This is very much central to the work that the  3 Pillars Project have been doing in prisons - at times wkith the help of Ironsides players - and now they're taking this to communities, to help raise aspirations and behavioural standards. Contact rugby continues to be great for this as it teaches so many skills that are essential both on and off the field; self-discipline, channelling aggression and teamwork.

The more the kids focus on these new techniques and skills of the sessions, the more they unconsciously develop the values of teamwork, respect, discipline and sportsmanship and it is clear to see that this combined with good mentoring is key for the 3 Pillars Project.

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