More than 120 children from comprehensive schools across the Bridgend area attended a special rugby festival hosted by the Ospreys last week.
Year seven pupils from Cynffig, Ogmore, Porthcawl, St Clares, Ynysawdre and Llangynwyd schools took part in a round robin event at Cynffig Comprhensive that was designed to give children the opportunity to play rugby, in a non pressurized environment where the emphasis was on enjoyment rather than winning.
The festival was organised by Gary Clement, Ospreys Player Development Officer for Bridgend, with support from players Sonny Parker, Mike Phillips, Nikki Walker, Cai Griffiths, Gareth Owen and Kristian Phillips, who attended the event to meet the youngsters, sign autographs and to pass on rugby tips to those taking part in the event.
Following on from the success of the event, the Ospreys have already penciled in a similar event for year nine pupils, allowing Ospreys development coaches to assist clubs and schools in the area with their ongoing work in producing young rugby talent.
Jason Lewis, WRU Ospreys Community Manager, hailed the success of the event, paying tribute to the talents of everyone involved. He said:
"Our first year seven comprehensive rugby festival in Bridgend was a huge success and is certainly something that we'll be looking to repeat over the coming months. The format of the day encouraged youngsters to get involved and enjoy themselves without the pressure of victory being put on them, whilst it doubled up as an identification process for the district under-12 side, allowing us to take a good look at some of the young talent in the area.
Over the last two years we've put in a lot of effort as a region into the development of rugby within primary schools and amongst girls rugby in the Bridgend district, and this event allows us to refocus our attention this season onto secondary schools, an area where we will be working hard over the coming months. With Gary Clement now on board as the Player Development Officer for Bridgend, we will work closely with clubs and schools to assist them with creating sustainable playing opportunities and to develop the player development pathway so that as well as introducing more youngsters to the game at community level, we are also able to effectively identify and develop the better players as appropriate.
It is important to us that we continue to develop further our close working relationship with teachers in the area to support the excellent work that they are already doing, as this can only be of long term benefit to the schools involved, the pupils and teachers who are actively participating in rugby on an ongoing basis, and also, to the Ospreys as we look to strengthen the game across the region at grass roots level."
The Ospreys highly rated youngster Gareth Owen, who comes from Maesteg, attended the festival. He commented:
"From what I saw of the festival, the whole day seemed to be a huge success and I loved being a part of it. I'm a local boy myself so I'm delighted to be able to come along and support the event as I know what it means to youngsters to be given an opportunity to play rugby for the first time, and in particular, to do it under an Ospreys banner.
I may be playing for the Ospreys now but I still remember picking up a rugby ball for the first time and the excitement I felt as I learnt the game and developed as a player, so I'm fully behind any initiative like this that will get more children in the Bridgend area playing rugby. If the youngsters taking part can look at me and see what I have achieved in just a short period of time, it can help to inspire them to try and follow in my footsteps, and maybe, we'll see one or two of them pulling on an Ospreys shirt in a few years time."