How Exeter Chiefs are driving junior rugby.
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This week we’re delighted to have had time to speak with Exeter Chiefs Rugby Community Manager Andrew Dudley.
Having started out as a coach at the club, Andrew worked his way up to become the new Community Manager and has seen the club continue their extraordinary success.
The Community aspect of the Club started in 2008 just before Exeter were promoted into the Premiership and has grown to encompass coaching for more than 10,000 children yearly throughout the South West of the UK.
‘We primarily focus on two aspects within our operation. The first part is what we call Break-Through. This is our community based arm that looks to create social change through Rugby. The idea behind this is to enrich the lives of the communities we serve in our way. So that might be through promoting healthy eating, improving young people’s maths skills or helping young people get back on track through our programmes. The whole point is to be an asset to the community.’
‘Our other focus is our Play Programme. We want to enrich the rugby experience that kids get, so we encourage juniors to get involved in the programme. The whole point is to make everybody welcome and enjoy playing rugby in a fun, safe, educational environment.’
‘Having just won the Premiership, the Exeter Chiefs brand is a great draw and we’re making the most of the increased attention the Club is receiving. We work hand in hand with the main Club’s social media platforms and really try to drive participation this way.’
‘Enjoyment drives participation. If people are having fun they’ll come back. It’s as simple as that. Our aim is to get a ball in every child’s hand and to do that our programmes have to be fun. If kids see sport as a chore then participation is bound to fall so we focus on the love of the sport and make sure that kids enjoy playing rugby.’
Andrew’s success with the Community side of Exeter Chiefs has certainly played a part in the team’s success on the pitch. The Chief’s Academy is known to be one of the best in the country, something that has filtered up from the Community’s work.
‘We want to grow rugby and the best way to do that, as in any sport, is to improve the knowledge of your coaches. The better your coaches, the better the sessions; meaning the more young Chiefs players and fans we’ll produce!’
So what advice does Andrew have for other clubs looking to grow their own reach?
‘From a business side, it’s really important to make good use of social media. We’re all over Twitter and Facebook, and we use the Club’s brand to really drive our programmes.’
And what for the future of rugby as a sport?
‘The growing success of the national team can only help the growth of the sport over the next few years. Moreso, I think it’s about making sure our coaches are equipped. The more knowledge we can pass onto coaches, the more the rugby product improves.’
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Andrew for taking the time to chat with us. If you’d like more information about the Chiefs Community you can visit their website here.