This year, at Under 9s, we had the introduction of contact rugby. Some kids were ready and raring, other hesitant and some not really understanding what “contact” actually meant but from the whole squad there was an air of excitement and a buzz around training.
The parents on the other hand … did not get the same excitement, maybe a little nervousness, possibly a few more worry lines, certainly some wincing as we practiced tackling in training.
The coaches, “business as usual” until the morning of the first ever game, then some nervousness, butterflies, that uneasy feeling in the stomach. Had we done enough in training for them to come through the game safely, are we the same standard as the opposition, kids putting their bodies on the line for the first time, was I sure we were we ready for a game????
That all went away once we kicked off and the teams were evenly matched, natural order of those wanting to get stuck in getting stuck in from the off and the hesitant ones picking their moments to join in but at the end all wanted more. We were set for the season
My greatest fear for this season was that we would have people leaving, not wanting the contact, but that has turned out not the case and this year we have 4 new players, Jack, Mikey, Nathan and Tommy, recruited at various points of the season.
Three, have a rugby league background and their experience of tackling at an earlier age than U9s has been beneficial for the team during matches but more importantly from peer to peer point of view and given more confidence in tackling across the squad.
In the main we have been competitive all season, one mauling early on in the season against Widnes and due to the bad weather/cancelled games we did not have the chance to “put things straight”. Since then have come on leaps and bounds and dished out our own big wins against Orrell, Bolton and Sale.
Everyone has come through the season safely, a few bumps and bruises, no major incidents and they are ready for what the new season throws at them in the way of mini scrums, rucks and mauls
To the awards …
Martin and I thought long and hard on what the category should be. One option was hand it over to the parents, but decided against doing “Eccles-Factor” style public vote. We have made this the U9s clubman award with criteria such as attendance, discipline and effort across both training and matches. It also took into account consistency of performance, learning during training and application of what has been taught.
This year the clubman award goes to a player who has been in the running for man of the match in almost every game. His demeanour off the field is placid, friendly and is attentive and observant during coaching sessions although I would want to get in his way on a rugby field. With strong hard straight running all season and a passion for running down the left hand touchline, regardless of where he starts off on the pitch … the bronze award goes to Guy.
The Silver award this year is for the most improved player. As mentioned at the start we had players with differing attitudes to contact rugby. Our most improved player, I feel, was not in the rough and tumble, get stuck in, no holds barred category at the start of this season. Now I would say he is one of our most accomplished and probably feared tacklers regardless of his diminutive stature. This tackling prowess has also been highlighted time and time again in my recent match reports. He is also one of the first in the team to understand field position and in a match situation, actively look to pass to a team mate in a better position and gain the advantage for the team rather than “I can do it all myself”.
The most improved player and Silver award goes to the player who I was informed two weeks ago at Trafford by their coach, made the “best tackle seen all season” … Josh.
The Gold award, as it has been for the last two years with this group is for Players Player. This year we have approached the scoring in the exact same way asking for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd places from each player. The positions then attract points and the whole lot added up to give a winner. Looking at who has voted for which player we do have a different spread of points to previous seasons. Historically I have seen Eurovision type voting, ie regions voting for countries in the same region or in this case players voting for players in their own little clique. Not so this season and this means we are coming closer together as a squad which is good to see.
Our Players Player is one of the nicest politest kids you are ever likely to meet (off the field), he has the highest attendance in matches and training, is one of the few that takes instruction on board first time and looks for feedback as to what can be improved, a joy to coach. On the field he is strong going forwards, brave going for the ball, wicked sidestep off his right foot and tactically aware linking players across the field. There was even a game this season where he stepped of his left foot. This year’s top award and Players Player goes to Charlie.
I would like to say thank you to the U9s parents for the support both Martin and myself have received this season. Without your help in ferrying the kids here and there to games or training, standing on the touchline cheering and encouraging in all sorts of weather or simply allowing us to get on with shouting at errr I mean calmly and quietly instructing your children in rugby we would not have a U9s team.
Onwards and upwards to next year’s more technical challenges, thank you.