At Eccles Rugby Football Club, we are very proud and thankful of the work and time given by all our volunteers, ultimately allowing the achievements of our players young and old. Therefore receiving the following email from a parent of our U10s team put all this in perspective and makes you feel honoured to be part of the “great team” at Eccles RFC.
I just wanted to express my gratitude and how impressed both my wife and I are at Eccles RFC and in particular the U10’s team run by Paul Fleming (head coach), Paula Houghton (manager), Chris Bates (coach), and Dave Allcroft (coach).
As a brief introduction, my wife Rachel and I have three very active children, that are involved in football, rugby league, Olympic freestyle wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming week in, week out. I’m a Firefighter in Lancashire Fire and Rescue service, and in my spare time I’m head coach of Westhoughton Lions U9’s rugby league team and an assistant coach for Bolton Olympic Wrestling Club. Rachel is a secondary school teacher at Turton High School where she holds the position of head of girls PE. So as you can imagine we feel that sport is a very important part of a child’s development, with crucial life lessons from teamwork, responsibility, social skills, hard work, learning to win well, lose well…., I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the list goes on and on.
At the beginning of last season we enquired at a few rugby union clubs for our to oldest children, including two clubs closer to our address, but after speaking to a friend at wrestling, Sean McGrath from your club about the set up and the work that goes into the juniors and developing the club as a whole we contacted Paul, who upon our first meeting virtually repeated the same pitch as Sean, proving to us that this club had a strong cohesive ethos running right through the whole club, decision made Eccles was the club to be at.
Our oldest son Jack is loving being part of this team, the kids are great, the coaching is pitched just right with a good balance of fun, discipline, safety and development, I have to admit I’ve used quite a few of the drills and warm ups for my own sessions with the league lads. The management and administration side has also been tight as a drum, Paula is always on the ball with information from safeguarding to finance and any relevant paperwork, delivering it in a pleasant and relaxed way that makes the parents on the side line feel welcome and involved also. The group have also been very patient and respectful to our other sporting commitments. The rugby league and union seasons slightly overlap and the football runs at the same time we resulting in Jack missing quite a few training sessions and matches but Paul, Chris and Dave completely understand and are great not only with Jack but also letting his younger brother Tommy join in the training sessions.
If all that wasn’t enough Paul decides to take 14 young lads aged from11 to 8 on a rugby tour, which included two nights stay in an activity centre with orienteering, team building games, leap of faith, Jacobs ladder the lot. Followed by a night out at Rossendale rugby club and a day at Rossendale rugby competition. As you can imagine this took months of planning with meetings, texts, four full days of bag packing to raise the funds, t-shirts designed and ordered, DBS checks for the helpers and a considerable amount of behind the scenes work that most of us will not of even realised occurred.
The tour itself was an amazing experience for kids and parents alike culminating in a very successful tournament in which the lads reached the final, beating some well established teams such as Sale and Littleborough along the way. I have no doubt this was in no small part due to the team bonding that occurred over the weekend. I’m no expert on rugby union but I do have experience of kids sport, naturally at this age they all want the glory, to run with ball in hand and score the Trys. Getting them to pass at the right time and be first in to tackle the big lad takes some doing. Our boys where willing to put in the hard work including some of the essential unglamorous work including committing in the ruck stepping over the ball, protecting it for their teammates to use, tackling in twos and threes, mauling as a unit. All tough stuff to expect from an adult let alone a 9 year old child.
The commitment from the coaches and management has always been obvious, there have been training sessions during the closed season where Paul has driven after work from his home over in Preston to Eccles to train just 4 lads. Chris can have been working away all week and still turn up bright and early Sunday morning. Dave is always on the ball with the first aid and the first to welcome new players and parents, and I’ve never seen Paula without a clip board in her hand. But one moment that stood out was on the Saturday night of the tour at around 10:30pm when all the lads where tucked up in bed and the adults finally had a moments peace to relax and switch off for ten minutes. Paul and Paula where sat with a brew in hand discussing past players no longer at Eccles remembering there names and individual rugby attributes. Some hadn’t played for two years! That shows a passion and commitment to kids sport well above the normal standard.
Volunteering your time and energy to be involved in kids sport is a great thing and I know the good ones are rewarded through the engagement and development of the children involved not any personal recognition, but that doesn’t mean good work should go unacknowledged. You obviously have a great team across the board at Eccles RFU. So I would like to thank you all, especially the U10 staff for all your great work.
Andy Brunt told me, “As John alludes to at the end of his heart lifting thank you, our volunteers do what they do because they care, which leads to the rewards of witnessing the youngsters development and engagement. However even gnarled old grumps like a thank you even if they pretend they don’t, it gives everyone a warm feeling – until someone complains again – ha”.
“As well as Paul, Paula, Chris and Dave who deserve a really special well done with this one, everyone who in any way contributes to the running of the club from the coaches and managers, volunteers working in the clubhouse, on the pitches, doing a raffle, running a line, bringing the flags in, etc, etc, etc etc, I really could go on for ever, should take a minute to bathe in a warm glow of satisfaction at this pleasant email. Then get back to working for one of the the best Rugby Clubs in England.”