With the Olympic Games just around the corner Premiership Rugby’s International Development Manager Dom Caton insists the sky’s the limit for the programme in Rio de Janeiro with more and more children discovering the sport every day.
Alongside the British Council, Premiership Rugby and SESI are looking to promote the growth of rugby across South America through the Try Rugby programme in Brazil and the HITZ programme in Argentina with more countries on the horizon.
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 change.
Try Rugby launched in Rio de Janeiro in March 2015 through sponsorship from Jaguar Land Rover, becoming the fifth Brazilian state programme alongside São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul.
And Caton – who spent three years in Brazil as a Try Rugby coach – is confident the programme has the potential to touch even more lives in South America given the passion for sport on the continent.
"We have helped introduced the new sport of rugby into five states and with the Olympics in Rio this year it is a great time for us to be there," said Caton.
"The biggest challenge we've faced everywhere is their love of football. Teaching them any new sport is tough, let alone one that has totally different rules and skill sets like passing the ball with your hands rather than your feet, as well as passing the ball backwards in order to go forwards.
"But the kids taking it on have loved it, and alongside the sessions we've run festivals, competitions, and coach education clinics. It's a very different model to the original as we are working alongside Sistema do FIRJAN (The Industry Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro) and the coaches actually go into the favelas and communities to deliver the sessions," he said.
"In November we took over 100 children to Blumenau in Santa Catarina for the annual Try Rugby festival with the other four states where Try Rugby is being delivered in Brazil as well as bringing across a group of 15 children from Columbia.
"Most of the kids hadn't been on a plane before, so it was a very exciting time for them.
"This was also a fantastic chance for cultural exchange which is one of the British Councils main aims."
Try Rugby Objectives:
- Help to grow the sport of rugby in Brazil in the lead up to Rio 2016.
- To use rugby as a tool for social change and to support the inclusion of 'at risk' or disadvantaged young people in Brazil and the development of rugby’s core values to build valuable life skills.
- Build links between the 12 Premiership Rugby clubs in the UK and SESI centres in Brazil to co-create resources and share best practice in the use of rugby for social inclusion and the development of young people.
- To share knowledge and best practice in rugby with teachers, coaches and young volunteers creating a sustainable workforce.
Ahead of the introduction of Rugby 7s at the 2016 Rio Olympics Try Rugby has been universally acclaimed as a huge success in South America since starting in 2012, winning the prestigious Community Programme of the Year Award at the Rugby Expo Awards 2013.
After just three years of Try Rugby Brazil, more than 18,000 participants are now playing every week in Brazil and more than 70,000 young people and adults taking coaching sessions – which has more than doubled the rugby playing base in Brazil.
Caton added: "Obviously our objective is to increase the growth and awareness of rugby, but as important is the objective to effect social change in hard to reach areas.
"We want to find people who are at risk and try to help them, and we are so lucky that rugby has these core values.
"They are fantastic values not just for the sport, but for life, and we always get the kids to think about how the ideas of discipline, respect, solidarity, integrity, passion, and teamwork can affect them on and off the pitch.
"It shows them the importance of respect for their family, respect for their team and respect for themselves as well. They are skills for life and rugby is one of the best vehicle to educate them."
The Try Rugby programme is now into its third year and has seen:
- More than 18,000 participants playing every week in Brazil, which has doubled the rugby playing base in the country
- More than 70,000 young people and adults taking coaching sessions, workshops, coach education, events and competition
- Around 300 teachers and volunteer coaches now able to teach tag rugby and referee games (key to making the project sustainable)
- The programme is another step in Premiership Rugby's expansion overseas with programmes run this year in neighbouring countries Colombia and Argentina.
"Part of being a responsible business, is creating the right opportunities for people to make positive change," said Ines Menezes from Jaguar Land Rover.
"Try Rugby is part of Jaguar Land Rover's innovation-led Global CSR Programme which will create opportunities for 12 million people by 2020, reflecting the increasing scale and scope of our business and our commitment to making a wider contribution to society."
"Try Rugby not only takes the game to communities where it’s never been played before, but it is also using the game and its core values such as teamwork and integrity to positively impact the lives of thousands of children each year by strengthening essential life skills."