Lakeham Hewett have recipe for girls rugby success
In a sporting world where our youngsters are too often embossed with a 'win-at-all-costs' mentality, girls rugby coach Michael Tidder takes a refreshingly liberal view in his particular field.
Tidder, who has been overseeing the Under 15 and Under 18 girls teams at Lakenham Hewett rugby club since their formation back in 2008, is adamant that enjoyment should come first at such junior levels, and that winning will take care of itself.
It certainly did last season – the Under-18s finished top of the RFUW (Rugby Football Union for Women) Midlands South league, while the Under-15s ended the season runners-up in their respective division.
This season the former move to the North London league to pit their wits against different opposition, and Fidder is determined to maintain the attitude that has brought the team success before.
'They should play to take pleasure in playing,' he said. 'I want them to walk off the pitch, win, lose or draw, and already be looking forward to playing again the next week.
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'Obviously it's not enjoyable when you're losing at anything. The most important thing, however, is to know that you tried your best and enjoyed it. That's all that matters really.'
Tidder is glowing with praise for the girls' attitudes to training and playing, and believes this stems from it being a completely new experience to them.
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'It's a blank canvas, really,' added Tidder. 'A few of them had seen rugby matches before, but didn't understand the rules. To suddenly start playing meant immersing themselves in something almost completely new.
'Unfortunately, there's very little interest in girls rugby in schools – the female teachers tend to lean towards sports like netball and rounders. I think that's why the girls here find it fun, because it's so different to what they're used to. They're all in the same boat, so they begin to socialise together and form a tight-knit group.
'It definitely reflects in their attitude. They have such a willingness to learn, both tactically and technically. That's where they differ from boys, who often think they should know everything about the sport so aren't as willing to take things on board.'
With such high enjoyment levels, Tidder, who went into coaching at an early age after suffering an injury that brought his playing days to an end, is disappointed women's rugby doesn't get the public exposure he feels it deserves.
'There is a real lack of knowledge about the sport in this country,' he said. 'They held the women's World Cup here last year, but no-one seemed to know about it.'
The RFUW recently announced that England Women will play world champions New Zealand in three Tests a year, for the next three years, and Tidder is hopeful the matches will attract more fans and players to the sport.
In preparation for the new season, which begins on October 2, the U18s have been training weekly and will play a '10s' tournament next month. Tidder admits the squad are keen to achieve more.
'They're a competitive bunch, so will want to replicate their success from last year. As long as they keep enjoying it, that's what's key.'
The club will be holding an open day at the CEYMS Ground, just outside Swardeston on Sunday, September 11. If any youngsters are interesting in joining the Under 13s, Under 15s or Under 18s teams, then please call Michael on 07540 706190 or visit the club's website at www.lakenhamhewettgirlsrugby.com