The success of Premiership Rugby’s Try Rugby programme is showing no signs of slowing down according to Sale Sharks community coach Vicky Irwin, after the innovative and unique scheme launched a pilot this week in Venezuela.
Alongside the British Council, Premiership Rugby are looking to promote the growth of rugby across South America through the Try Rugby programme – which has already been a huge triumph in both Brazil and Argentina.
Premiership Rugby coaches develop the local capacity not only to increase participation, but also to utilise rugby's culture and core values to initiate health, education and social outcomes.
And after heading to Venezuela this week alongside Bath Rugby coach Joe Aygul to give the country a taste of what Try Rugby can offer, Irwin is confident the programme has the potential to touch even more lives in South America.
“I got involved because it was an exciting opportunity to help grow the game of rugby,” she said.
“The governing body, schools and local authorities have all been really supportive. It's a chance to coach kids who have not been introduced to the game before and we also bring in educational aspects to what we do too.
“It's been a success already in South America and the most important thing is to build up sustainable interest in schools, which is what we're aiming to do.
“Every session we work with 150 kids, and over 500 children in total from each school. Focusing on six schools in total in each city each day, and it's been even more hectic than I imagined! But it's been going very well so far and I just hope it can continue after this week.”
Irwin and Aygul arrived last Sunday for a week of intense coaching across three Venezuelan regions, while the long-term aim remains to launch the programme in full as has been the case in Brazil and Argentina.
After just two years of Try Rugby Brazil, over 14,000 participants are now playing every week in 5 different states and more than 54,000 young people and adults taking coaching sessions each year – which has doubled the rugby playing base in Brazil.
And former England international Helen Clayton, who is heading up the project for Premiership Rugby, believes the sky is the limit for Try Rugby given the South American passion for rugby.
She said: “This is a continuation of our partnership with the British Council, who have facilitated the pilot to explore the potential impact that Try Rugby could have in Venezuela.
“We wanted to bring the methodology to Venezuela and explore how Try Rugby would work. It’s a week’s worth of activity to test the model and local partnerships and to build on the level of understanding our coaches have gained already in Brazil and Argentina.
“Every South American country is so different, but the passion for rugby is there, as it is exciting and different to football.
“We are helping to deal with some social issues as well, as there are a lot of problems in Venezuela around gangs and crime, in Brazil, Argentina and Columbia we have developed experience in using rugby as a diversion from that.
“Rugby is the best possible sport for this ambition just simply down to the core values. The ethos of rugby and the expectation on the players and supporters is unwritten; there always has to be respect and that is an important lesson for young people to learn.”
To find out more about Premiership Rugby’s award winning Try Rugby programme, click here