Q&A: Edinburgh Rugby Community Team returns

Q&A: Edinburgh Rugby Community Team returns

In the first of our P&P Community Focus series, we caught up with Edinburgh Rugby Community Team's Ruaridh Pye and Andrew Whitelaw as the pair discuss returning from lockdown with renewed motivation as well as the impact the of the relaunched P&P Prosper Programme.

Q – It has been a difficult 2020 for everyone, but perhaps even more so for those working in the community, where you’ve been unable to make an impact due to COVID-19 measures put in place. How have the Edinburgh Rugby community team coped during this period, and has it simply been a case of staying safe and ready until it has been OK’d to return?

[AAW]: “Yes, is the simple answer. The current uncertainty in the world just meant that we have had to stay patient.

“At one stage, we got a bit of a green light from rugby development, to then things stopping again - so it is all just a waiting game at the moment, but for the right reasons.

[RP]: “COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, shape, or form and we were no different.

“We had a great 2019-20 season, delivering some real tangible results across all four areas of our strategic plan (Participation, Education, Health & Wellbeing and Disability, Equality and Inclusion), meeting and exceeding our key performance indicators.

“We had hoped to use those successes as a springboard to lead us into season 2020-21, further develop and enhance our programmes and press on with the innovative style in which we approach our work, however, nobody could have predicted the unfortunate situation we all find ourselves in.

“We used the time meaningfully, evaluating and re-writing many of our programmes, coming up with new and inventive ways in which to retain our presence in the community whilst remaining poised to re-start at any given time.

“If there are a couple of positives to come out the situation - it has reinforced the importance of the Edinburgh Rugby Community Programme and the impact it has on children and young adults lives and it has also highlighted our passion for the game and the service we provide our communities in its absence.”

Q – We’ve seen everyone – from businesses to rugby clubs - adapt and get creative in the ways they speak and interact with their stakeholders. The Edinburgh Rugby Community Team have been no different. In what ways have you managed to stay connected with local rugby clubs or schools during this period?

[AAW]: “Via WhatsApp and social platforms mainly. We are a pretty tight group with the Edinburgh based Development Officers.”

[RP]: “With my role being part funded by City of Edinburgh Council, we have been fortunate to work alongside other Local Authority positions in ensuring sport and the value of sport is retained.

“The City of Edinburgh Council Sports & Lifelong Learning Team alongside Active Schools, worked at producing sport and physical activity sessions for children and young adults to complete at home, of which rugby featured.

“I sat on a number of working groups to identify key areas of work, one of which was children and young adult’s mental health & wellbeing. With this being one of our [Edinburgh Rugby Community Team’s] key strategic areas of work, I felt this group was most applicable for me to contribute towards.

“We came up with a Virtual Player Appearance programme; this enabled us to reconnect with our community – providing the platform for our players and coaches to communicate directly with individuals, groups and organisations. We provided over 200 messages varying from ‘Thanks to NHS’, to ‘Get Well Soon’, to ‘Happy Birthdays’.

“We also used this platform to provide Virtual Club / School awards ceremonies and will soon be launching our Virtual Christmas campaign.”

Q – The Edinburgh Rugby Community Team are now back in a limited sense. Firstly, how great was it to get back to work after such a long and difficult period without being able to deliver the community programme?

[AAW]: “It was great! It’s not often you have a six month break from work and doing what you love, so for me personally, it was a great feeling to get back involved with the club and the community programme.”

[RP]: “As stated before, one thing this pandemic has done is made us appreciate what we maybe previously took for granted.

“It has made us appreciate the value of what we do and why we do it. I am 75 classes deep and loving every minute, the impact we have on people’s lives, not only through physical exercise but now, and more importantly, to aid the mental health & wellbeing and the benefits sport and physical activity plays in that, is more crucial now than ever before.

“We can’t wait to reach the next milestone in re-starting, but for the time-being, we will continue to listen to, and adhere to National Governing Body, local and national guidance.”

Q – The main area you’ve been able to return to is delivering the Principal & Prosper Prosper Programme. Could you give us a bit of detail on the programme and how you’ve amazingly managed to get it restarted and going again amidst a pandemic?

[AAW]: “The P&P Prosper Programme is used to help kids that are struggling in school, whether it has been attainment or struggling to focus in classes. At the moment, we are in Royal High School working with two groups.

“A group of S2s that we were working with prior to the pandemic and now a new group of S1 kids. They have both been brilliant.”

[RP]: “We had to remain patient and allow the school(s) system to firstly return, then secondly to adapt and make the vast changes required to deliver safe day-to-day educational classes. The protocol and procedures put in place by schools, the challenges faced and overcome by our schools, teachers and pupils has been remarkable.

“In short, we had to wait until they got their ducks in a row internally before they would even consider the extra challenges in bringing externals [The Edinburgh Rugby Community Team] in.

“When it was deemed safe and practical to do so, and in conjunction with local and national guidance, we were straight on the phone - three weeks and a few socially distanced meetings later, we’re back!

“The Prosper Programme is designed to help those who face a variety of challenges within the education system. COVID-19 has only made these challenges worse, the long-term educational impact and anxieties faced by these young people has been acerbated to new levels, therefore an intervention-based programme which will actively work on reducing the long-term impact and anxieties is exactly what they need.

“The application of our skills, aligned with selected professionals from other walks of life, using rugby as the vehicle and catalyst for change, has proven to positively impact on reducing the challenges faced by youngsters in our educational system.

“Of course, none of this would be possible without the support and backing of Main Club Sponsor Principal & Prosper.”

Q – The P&P Prosper Programme has been able to make a huge impact on the lives of the kids enrolled. How great has it been for them to have the programme up and running once again, and have you seen it make an instant impact during these difficult times?

[AAW]: “As far as we are led to believe, the kids have been asking when the programme was restarting when the schools returned, so for me, I think it’s great.

“It means that we are channelling a way with these kids where we are making an impact and hopefully setting them up in the right direction for future life.”

[RP]: “Some of the youngsters we have enrolled on the programme only come to school when the Prosper Programme is on, this highlights the impact and value not only ‘we’ and the school place on the programme, but those it is designed for!”

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