Game on: school sport switches to clubs

Leamington Rugby Sports Club president David Barnett (left) and chairman Dave Peters at Saturday’s open day.

Cambridge clubs are welcoming a major shake-up of the primary school sports scene.

In a move driven by the Cambridge Principals’ Association, year 1-8 rugby, netball and hockey teams will be organised by clubs, rather than schools, this winter.

Deano Herewini, junior sports director at one of the clubs involved, Hautapu Sports Club, said growth in Cambridge’s population and player numbers meant schools no longer had the manpower to administer sports teams.

He said his club was “very, very excited” about the move, which would ease the load on busy teachers and promote growth in local clubs.

“We’ve been working hard for a number of years on creating a very friendly, family-orientated culture within our club, so I want the junior sports kids and parents to be part of that,” he said.  “We’d like them to know this facility is here for them to use.”

He said clubs were liaising closely with schools to ensure students would be put into teams with schoolmates wherever possible.

“We’re just wanting kids to enjoy themselves and have fun and all the clubs have agreed on that, which means teams should be pretty even in terms of ability,” he said.

Leamington Rugby Sports Club, Tom Voyle Park Sports Club, Cambridge High School Netball Club and Cambridge Junior Rugby and Community Sports Club are the other four clubs involved.

All five clubs opened their doors to the community from 2pm-4pm last Saturday.

Leamington RSC treated visitors to free sausages and drinks and set up a waterslide and touch rugby games for kids.

“A lot of people who walked in here said: I’ve never been in this club before, isn’t it great?” said chairman Dave Peters.

“We had 300 sausages and we’re down to the last 20 – it was an awesome turnout.”

President David Barnett welcomed the move to incorporate junior players, saying it was a natural progression for the club.

“We’ve jumped at it because it’s quite easy for us to handle and it’ll give us some growth,” he said.

Lara Connors, a member of Leamington School’s Sports Council who has been helping Leamington RSC set up junior netball, said parents had been feeling nervous as there was uncertainty about how the new system would run.

“We’re still figuring it all out from our end, so parents probably feel a bit unsure, but give us a little bit longer and I think it’s all going to come together really well,” she said.

She said clubs had worked together to agree on standard fees across the board and develop a common stance on fair play.

“Once we’d established those things we knew we were all in this together and it was going to work well,” she said.

Leamington RSC’s new junior rugby coordinator Jude Fitness said the move would give people a place to gather in the community outside of school.

“We’re going to try and have the clubrooms open so the kids can come in and have a pie or a bag of chips or whatever after the game and have a little bit of a social gathering as well,” she said.

“And as adults, further down the track when they’ve outgrown their school sport, they’ve got somewhere they’re already loyal to and have a connection with.”

Tom Voyle Park Sports Club committee member Sunny West said her club was excited about the opportunities the initiative would provide.

“Being able to support the children’s pathways in sport as well as shared community resources is a positive outcome for all,” she said.

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