Dallaglio RugbyWorks is an intensive, long-term skills development programme based on rugby, through which we aim to get teenagers outside of mainstream education into sustained education, employment or training.

Dallaglio RugbyWorks recently expanded delivery of our intensive skills development programme to a greater proportion of the 2200 14-16year olds that are excluded from school every year. We caught up with Aleki and Gareth, our coaches covering the West Midlands, to see how things are going in this new region.

DRW: Hello gents, thank-you for agreeing to talk to us and update us on the West Midlands. We’ll start with you, Aleki, as a new member to the team. How are you finding working for Dallaglio Rugby Works and how does it compare to previous coaching that you’ve done?

A: Working for Dallaglio RugbyWorks has been exciting and rewarding, knowing that I can help make a difference to young people’s lives by using the values of rugby.  In comparison to my previous coaching roles, this role has given me the opportunity to work and engage with the same group of young people every week, which builds that relationship and trust to help support and guide them for their future.

DRW: And Gareth, as you’re a bit of an old hand…

G: I wouldn’t say old but yes, I was an exisiting RugbyWorks Coach and have moved to the West Midlands from the East Midlands, where I was working last year.

DRW: …How does your experience in the West Midlands compare to the East Midlands, so far?

G: It’s a new challenge, with new schools, new young people and a new colleague (not to mention a new accent!) but I was very excited to have the opportunity introduce Dallaglio RugbyWorks into a new region. There are some similarities; the essential nuts-and-bolts of my role are the same, the schools have been very welcoming, which is always a good start, and we’ve experienced the unpredictability of young people – one week they’re brilliant, the next they might be less so. The biggest difference is that we are predominantly working in Alternative Provision schools, whereas last year I was mostly working with targeted groups within mainstream schools. The AP schools, by their very nature, seem to have greater flexibility around timings, which allows us to extend an activity that is going well or to continue a really productive conversation with a young person. Another big difference is the facilities that we can use. I was very spoilt last year with facilities for sessions, large open spaces that were great for running rugby were the norm, but we’re a little more condensed on the whole, which has forced us to be a little bit creative.

DRW: Which is better?

G: That’s not fair! …

A: Definitely West Midlands!

G: …It’s too early to say, really. Besides, are you really allowed to ask that question?

DRW: Probably not, no. Let’s move on! What have been your highlights of the first few weeks and could you tell us a little more about them, please?

A: My main highlights have been getting to know the young people from the various school and seeing the students engage and enjoy the rugby sessions we’ve delivered. I’ve had a few one on one conversations with students who have opened up about their goals and dreams which is a great start!

G: Similarly to Aleki, a new academic year is always exciting but to meet new groups of young people that we’re going to be working with is definitely a this-is-why-we-are-here-moment. For a specific example though, our first session at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre was a real pleasure. It’s not an environment that either of us, I think, had experienced before but the engagement of the young people was outstanding and their willingness to try a new game or activity or to open up and have a chat definitely made me come away thinking that that was an absolute joy. Hopefully the young people did too…

DRW: What are the key areas that you have been looking to develop so far?

A: We’re looking to build positive relationships and trust with the young people. So far we’ve mostly been running rugby sessions, which we review and then tailor to keep the young people engaged.

G: Our main focus in the early stages of the programme is Engagement. During this phase we work to break down the barriers that many of the young people face or display and get them enthusiastic about the program. We point out very early on that we are not teachers, we are part coach, part youth worker, part mentor and our sole focus is to support them as they navigate through a very stressful and potentially defining stage of their lives.

DRW: So what’s next?

A: We’ve got a Tournament coming up so we’re building towards that, which gives our young people something to aim for. For a lot of them this is their first experience of rugby so we develop their rugby skills and through this we also build teamwork and communications skills which are transferable.

G: After the Tournament we shift our focus more towards the young people’s futures. A mixture of group and individual tasks such as research, discussion, presentation help us determine their aspirations and expectations as well as offer a dose of inspiration and/or reality.  Our Employability Days in partnership with a variety of different organisations enable our young people to gain experience of the workplace and find out a bit more about working life in general as well as a specific role or industry.

DRW: Exciting stuff! We look forward to hearing about the progress that the young people make and hope to catch-up with you both as you become more established in the West Midlands.


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