Youth Advisory Group Update: A Reflection on Year One
As community rugby 2021 ends the off-season process of reflect, review, and adjust begins. Included in this process is the Tasman Youth Advisory Group - a new initiative introduced this year (April article: http://bit.ly/TeenRugby)
Since its formation in April, eleven passionate teenagers have come together for three thought provoking meetings. Each member has offered their unique perspective on a range of topics, and the group has collectively developed an open, trusting, positive environment. NZ Rugby have been highly supportive of the concept and invited Tasman to present the project as a case study at a national conference in June.
Highlights and Insights
It has been exciting to see various opportunities the Advisory Group has brought about for our young Tasman men and women.
Krugar Griffith, Golden Bay born and raised, was invited to join a national ‘Game Lab’ committee. The committee was charged to investigate and recommend changes and improvements to the laws of Community Rugby.
Krugar was flown to NZ Rugby HQ in Wellington and mixed with several great minds of the game, including Wayne Smith. Not only was this an unforgettable experience for Krugar, but it also stimulated important discussion about domestic law variations to be trialled in Tasman for the 2022 season.
A post-season player survey was a significant body of work for the Group, capturing a range of feedback from teenage players in Tasman. The Advisory Group helped form relevant questions and an implementation strategy for the survey. Below are a couple of interesting findings that were discussed at the third meeting:
Trainings: 25% of players surveyed would prefer one training per week.
“I know a lot of friends that stopped rugby because they wanted to focus more on basketball, and rugby trainings were getting in the way”.
Considering this, the Advisory Group agreed on the importance of communication between team management and players in their season planning. For example, training frequency, duration, structure. Open group discussion and a willingness to consider a less ‘traditional’ framework may result in more teenagers willing to try rugby or remain in the game.
Tournaments/festivals: 90% of players surveyed want to see more tournaments/festivals.
“It’s going to get a lot of people into it [rugby], plus it also gives the opportunity to meet other people that play rugby and develop friendships, which is what playing sport is all about”.
“It will be good to have some fun with rugby, but also have that serious side… because you can’t just have serious, it takes away the passion you have for it [rugby]”.
In further response to player feedback, the Advisory Group discussed how we might improve the environment of rugby in our region to better appeal to teenagers.
A New Type of Game?
Challenging conventional norms and thinking ‘outside the box’ was encouraged, focusing on participation and enjoyment of the ‘non-playing’ aspects of tournaments and festivals. Mini competitions within the event appeared to be a popular idea, such as sidestep, passing, and bin kicking competitions. Another suggestion was to run a ‘knock-off’ NFL combine, including the showcase 40-yard dash with timing lights. Prize… social media bragging rights!
Social media has an increasingly important role in teenage sport. The Group were free flowing with ideas involving content creation and sharing strategies. In short, teens reported a preference for short video clips, ‘tag a mate’ giveaways, and the appearance of Mako or other professional athletes.
One notable suggestion was to utilise teenagers’ own creativity by opening a participant submission channel on Tasman Rugby social platforms. This could be a good opportunity for the Union to take up the challenge and better utilise our social media for community engagement.
The first year of the Youth Advisory Group in operation has yielded valuable insight, ideas, and opportunity for improvement. All members indicated they would like to return to the role in 2022 and increase the frequency of meetings – a real testament to the positive culture our group worked hard to build. Everyone has a clear, genuine desire to represent the voice of their peers, and challenge the way we all think about rugby. This will ultimately influence the design, delivery, and environment of teenage rugby for the better.
Tasman Rugby are currently undertaking structural change to better serve our rugby community. 2022 will challenge us to design a structure that supports discussion and implementation of new ideas and changes in our game. Cementing the Youth Advisory Group into the governance of Tasman Rugby’s structure will be another positive step forward in having players central to the game we all cherish.
Game Development Manager