How rugby can help address social deprivation – Hayley Matthews

My son Harris is an energetic boy and, for a while, we struggled to find “his thing” to expend it. We’ve tried gymnastics, Brazilian football, climbing, scooting, and many other activities, but none clicked, writes Hayley Matthews.

That was until a few months ago when we discovered the gem that is Leith Rugby Youth Development.

One session in and my son was hooked on being part of the Leith Hawks, saying it felt great to be part of a team and we’ve never looked back.

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When we discovered Leith Rugby Youth Development (or ‘LRYD’), which was set up by Gordon Anderson, Brian Samson and James Smith in 2016, I had no idea just how positive an energy source the club would be.

Rugby can be a great outlet for kids' abundant energy

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Their aim is to provide rugby coaching to the young people of Leith and, through the sport’s associated physical, mental and social benefits, help address the social deprivation challenges facing parts of the area.

That is a goal that rings true to me. Attending Leith Academy in the early 1990s was an eye-opener.

We would have really benefitted from such a project to keep my peers and I out of trouble. Any encouragement to get young people into sport, giving them a sense of “belonging and involvement” is paramount in this day and age.

A Hibs footbll coach once stressed to me the importance of getting kids interested in sport to encourage positive relationships and mental well-being.

Every Sunday at Leith Rugby, we are greeted by enthusiastic, passionate and encouraging individuals and I can’t begin to explain how much of a positive impact this has had on our son Harris.

In his own words: “I think Leith Hawks Rugby Club gets kids and adults to learn and have lots of fun. I’m very strong, fast and healthy so that is why I’m good at it.”

The first person Harris met was Ross Johnston, a rugby development officer whose ability to communicate with the kids in a way that is fun and educational is encouraging to watch.

“If only I had his patience,” I say to myself when I see him with the kids.

He’s great. In fact, everyone at the club is great – the volunteers, committee, kids and the parents.

And it is so refreshing to be surrounded by positive, forward-thinking and encouraging adults.

The project was created with a few specific aims and objectives which include increasing participation in rugby among five to 18-year-olds in the Leith area and providing curricular rugby coaching to the children who attend local schools.

However, sourcing the funding to enable the project to continually deliver their aims is a challenge that many such clubs face. So a blatant plea from me for sponsors and supporters is something that I’m not ashamed to make.

Being from Leith, I see the value and importance of keeping something so special in the community. So please the Tom Farmers, successful entrepreneurs and sports supporters of Scotland, I ask for your support and pennies for the amazing LRYD. We’re booking in for the summer club from 5-9 August because I plan to get all ready for back to school.

And, let’s face it, what kid wants to go round the shops with their parents? I know my son would much rather be playing rugby with his friends.