“That gave the clubs a lot of confidence to say, ‘this is really manageable," Success of Rugby Summer Skillzone Gave Connacht Confidence To Plan More Events

09 December 2020

“That gave the clubs a lot of confidence to say, ‘this is really manageable,
By John O’Sullivan 


Following on from the success of the TotalHealth Pharmacy Connacht Rugby Summer Skillzone, Connacht Rugby, adapting to the COVID-19 restrictions, have and are planning more events for the last weeks of November and throughout the month of December. 


Over 500 children aged between six and 12 attended the one-day Skillzone camps across 11 venues in the province in August. Coached by IRFU and Connacht Rugby accredited coaches, with emphasis on non-contact Rugby skills, catch and pass, evasion, and, first and foremost, fun the events were met with praise by both parents and the children attending. 


The safety of the camps, where governmental COVID procedures were followed to the highest level of compliance, was a particular area of approval from participants parents. To ensure compliance with safety regulations the camps were capped at 48 participants, which is less than in previous years. 


All interested players had to fill out a health check questionnaire 24 hours before the beginning of the camp to avoid the potential of infection. Additionally, a strict drop off and collection procedure was in place in all venues. All equipment was disinfected and thoroughly cleaned after use.


Ross Mannion, Connacht Rugby’s Rugby participation officer(RPO), says that the response of the players and their parents gave many clubs the confidence that restarting their on-field interaction with young players was possible while following governmental guidelines. 


“That gave the clubs a lot of confidence to say, ‘this is really manageable", the Sligo native said. 


“They had the confidence to proceed with caution, as long as everybody complied with the rules that we had. The response from parents was very good. Once they could see how it worked, how well run it was it gave them the confidence that it was a safe environment.


“There was still very much a reluctance(at that time) from some people and an apprehension as to whether they could get going(youth training) like it used to be, to get back to some level of being able to interact with a small group. But it gave the parents that confidence.”


Connacht`s next events, because of the ongoing and changing restrictions, will be free to access online with some already having taken place. There will be The Learn To Perform series of webinars in association with Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and, in association with Total Health Pharmacies, there will also be a series of online skills videos.


Gavin Rackard, Connacht Rugby’s performance nutritionist,  presented a Learn to Perform webinar on nutrition for 11 to 14-year-olds on Monday the 30th of November.


​Later in December, Rackard will present a Nutrition webinar for underage players from 15 to 18 years of age. Both talks have and will aim to give the players, parents, and coaches an insight into the importance of nutrition in a child's development and ability to perform to their best potential.



“It will be aimed at kids from 11 years old up to 14 years old. That’s going to be with Gavin Rackard, who is the lead nutritionist with the pro team. It will be an informational evening for the players, their parents ​, and coaches. The target of this, the first in the Learn to Perform series talks, ​is aimed at 11-14-year-olds, so it would be great if an adult did sit in with them. 


“Coaches as well, who would be involved with those age groups,​ are welcome to attend. It’s introducing and identifying to ​the kids,​ parents, and coaches the importance of a healthy diet, taking into consideration if they’re only playing rugby or are multi-sport players, and their growth period,” Mannion said. 


Connacht Rugby aims to have a member of the IRFU, Rugby Players Ireland, and representatives from both Connacht's men's and women's teams to present on the Tackle Your Feelings scheme in the coming weeks and months aimed at underage players. Tackle Your Feeling is a mental health and wellbeing campaign, which supports proactively looking after your mental wellbeing. 


Similarly, Ann Caffrey, an athletic development coach with experience with elite and underage sports teams in Rugby and GAA, will present a series of strength and conditioning webinars for women's underage and senior Rugby, starting on Wednesday, December 9th.


For more information, visit connachtrugby.ie/community