Andrea, one of our London Lead mentors, details his experiences of working with our programme participants in east London.

Jo Richardson Community School in east London is one of the schools our London Lead Coach, Andrea Nalio, works with. Each Friday, Andrea works with a small group of young people from the school to help improve their rugby skills as well as creating a bond that will help them to succeed away from the rugby field.

Over the past few weeks, Andrea has been running bespoke sessions to develop the Jo Richardson students skills on the pitch. Below Andrea details how he has been helping the young people in his sessions:

"Eight young people and a rugby ball - This is how I usually finish my week of delivery with RugbyWorks. My last session on Fridays is at the Jo Richardson Community School, the only Mainstream school we work with in London.

"After my usual coffee catch-up with Mr. Kersey, Pastoral Support Assistant and our ‘rugby person’ at Jo Richardson, I’m ready to meet Michael, George, Gabriel, Tyresse, Paulo, Olamposi, Kieran and Alfie - the eight lads that have been part of our programme since September, who have never missed a session.

"Four of them – Michael, George, Gabriel and Alfie – play for Barking Rugby, a Community Club that faces the Jo Richardson Secondary School in east London, but the whole group has a soft spot for the game. They like playing rugby; they like learning new skills and they like being pushed out of their comfort zone.

"So, after Christmas I decided to create a six-week coaching plan, covering different aspects of the game: spatial awareness, communication, strength and conditioning, kicking and creativity.

"This was a challenge - both for the young people and for me. Our programme has taught us all the ability to adapt to unique and unexpected circumstances despite having different sessions planned. I was determined to share this challenge with our group of young rugby players, waiting for their feedback and confident that, as a team, we could have reached our goal.

"Before our first session I prepared a spreadsheet, writing down different coaching points and making sure that the explanation was clear and easy to understand.

"‘How do we communicate effectively on the pitch?’, ‘when do we use a cross kick?’, ‘when is it better to do a grubber kick? And ‘why don’t you try something that you’ve never tried before?’.

"I really wanted to challenge the Jo Richardson boys with these questions because I knew that every single player would show their engagement and commitment. Like so many young people, the Jo Richardson boys love to interact during the session, questioning themselves and the mentors they work with and finding their answers on the field, to improve themselves and their skills.

"Through the six weeks, I was amazed by their passion and willingness to learn:

George - a passionate winger that is always willing to go the extra mile.

Gabriel - a smart fly-half with a rare ‘rugby brain’.

Kieran and Tyresse – Two players that are difficult to stop when they accelerate with the ball in hand.

Michael - a confident full back with terrific ankle breakers steps.

Paulo - who often says that ‘rugby is not my sport’, but quickly changes his mind when he holds the rugby ball.

Alfie - a prop with rare tactical skills.

Olamposi - or just Posi for us, who doesn’t want to play rugby during the week but he never misses a session and he always wears a RugbyWorks t-shirt.

"During one of our sessions, I asked Posi: ‘Is there something that you don’t usually do on the field?’. We were working on creativity that day and I encouraged them to try something new that they weren’t already doing.

"Posi was struggling to pass the ball with two hands, so we figured out a simple way to deal with that situation. Within moment he was comfortably holding the ball with both hands. A few phases later I checked on him, he looked at me and said: ‘All good now, I just held the ball and the passes came along’, he smiled. Problem solved.

"That moment gave Posi more confidence and that is exactly what being a coach is all about, especially at the age of the young people we work with are, as they begin to build their own character. That day Posi helped me to remember this principle. That day, leaving the pitch, I couldn’t tell who was the happiest between us.

"The commitment and passion observed in every young person during the sessions at Jo Richardson showed me the difference our programme makes to young people’s lives. The critical thinking skills and confidence grown during our sessions will enable these young boys to be confident when making their first steps into the adult world."