Lend your voice to enhance player retention in Connacht

What is this research project about?

The Connacht Rugby vision and strategy plan aims to enhance the immediate sporting environment and retain players of both genders from the ground up. From this, the Connacht Rugby Age Grade Committee approached the University of Limerick through the “UL Beo” initiative (Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences) to examine ways that the branch could support the underage player pathway to better facilitate the playing experience, reduce drop out and ultimately see more players playing at all ages and continuing to adulthood as participants in rugby at all levels. These goals would be in line with the IRFU and Sport Ireland commitments to the Lifelong Involvement in Sport and Physical Activity Models and to help build the base of the performance pyramid.

This project is supported by the Lifes2Good Foundation. One of its aims is to support community initiatives in the West of Ireland and the foundation recognises the critical importance that local community sport plays in the wellbeing of people and the physical and social health of communities.

 

What has been done to date?

The project involves two work-packages, the first aimed at volunteer recruitment and support, the second work-package centred on player retention in the 16 to 20-year old age bracket.

Enhancing the volunteer experience: The initial drive, spearheaded by Dr. Gary Ryan, sought to investigate perspectives of current, former and potential volunteers to provide actionable points to Connacht Rugby in the short term. The final report documented the findings of two separate consultations: one with a group representing those currently active within Connacht Clubs and another called the “Seldom Heard Voices” which heard the voices of those thought to be on the fringes of the sport in the region. The report contains thirty recommendations for Connacht Rugby and for clubs in Connacht to implement. The recommendations are in areas such as Marketing, Club organisation, and Human Relations Management, and are currently under review.

Enhancing player retention: The second part of the initiative, steered by Dr. Phil Kearney and Patrick McEvoy, aims to enhance the immediate sporting environment to retain players of both genders, to encourage more young people to participate in rugby, especially from non-traditional cohorts and areas and to provide a sustainable framework to increase participation in Connacht Rugby in the medium to long term.

The first phase of this work-package was an exploration of the Connacht Player Database. In all over 33,000 entries were processed, focusing on whether factors such as number of appearances, playing for both club and school or at multiple age grades in a single season, and a player’s relative age influenced retention (fig. 1)

 

The database executive report contains four principal findings and nine key recommendations to help increase player retention. These findings are currently being actioned by Connacht Rugby.

 

The second phase was a review of the current scientific literature relevant to player retention in sport. This literature report highlighted six key findings which will inform phase 3 of the project, but also provides recommendations to address current practices and enhance the player experience. The overarching themes of the review are illustrated in figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Key factors surrounding an individual’s intention to continue in their sport or to dropout

 

The third phase of the project is currently underway. Focus groups are being conducted with a range of stakeholders regarding the reasons why players aged 16-20 years are retained or drop out of rugby, to inform decision making on policies and enhance our rugby landscape as we look to the future.

Initial focus groups have already been conducted with parents of current players, current male players aged 16-18, current female players aged 16-18, and coaches of current players. It is important this research account for all perspectives on player retention. If you are involved in the rugby community in Connacht and you wish to add your voice to help shape our research, please click the link here to fill out the interest form (it will take about 90 seconds) and leave your preferred email address. Remember, your voice and your perspective is as important as anybody’s and will add to a meaningful step in keeping young players involved in club rugby.

If you wish to find out more information about what focus group participation means and what is involved, please click on the   VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SHEET. There is also a brief description of what to expect and how each focus group is Focus Group outline attachment.

If preferred I can be contacted at [email protected]. I’m here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

History was made last night when Ann Heneghan was elected the first ever female President of Connacht Rugby.

Ms. Heneghan, originally from Partry in Co. Mayo and now living in Galway, is the first woman to hold a Presidential role at provincial level in Irish rugby. She was initially elected Junior Vice-President in May 2018 and Senior Vice-President last summer.

She has served in a number other positions within the provinces governance structures, most notably as Chairperson of the Connacht Rugby Disciplinary Committee. She was also Chairperson of the Connacht Rugby Supporters Club during the time in which the future of the province was under threat in 2003.

Ms. Heneghan runs a law firm based in Galway and Claremorris, and more recently she has been appointed as a Judicial Officer for World Rugby, facilitating on cases across a range of competitions.

Her election occurred in a unique online Connacht Rugby AGM last night, and she will now have the distinct honour of holding the position of President when Connacht Rugby marks its 135th anniversary in December.

Commenting on her election, Ann Heneghan says:

“It is a great honour to be elected as President of Connacht Rugby. Having been involved with the Supporters Club at a time when the future of Connacht Rugby was in jeopardy, it is particularly pleasing to see how the Province has grown and flourished over the intervening years. I am particularly looking forward to engaging with all of the volunteers involved in the game across the province. Connacht Rugby’s vision of “Grassroots to Green Shirts” reflects the ambition we have for the game at all levels and I look forward to playing my part on the next stage of that journey.

While it will be a different type of season, I look forward to bringing my experience from different roles to this position and I relish the opportunity to be involved, at a historic time for Connacht Rugby as we celebrate 135 years of rugby in the Province.”

We are now accepting nominations from suitable candidates for two voluntary positions in Connacht Rugby.

The Board of Connacht Rugby is  inviting nominations for the following volunteer roles; Chairperson of the Women’s Rugby Committee and Co-ordinator Club & Community Rugby Committee (C&CRC).

 

Process
Clubs and members are invited to nominate individuals for these roles by emailing their nomination to [email protected]. These nominated individuals do not have to be a member of any club.

The individuals nominated must then submit a cover letter and CV. The cover letter must outline why the applicant wishes to be considered for the role, demonstrate that they have both the experience and fulfill competencies related to the particular role (see role descriptions) and what they believe they will add to Connacht Rugby.

All nominations and associated applications must be emailed to [email protected] no later than 3pm on Friday 21st of September.

Those shortlisted will be invited to interview on the following week.

Please click on the following links for each role description.

Should you have any questions or require any further information please email [email protected].

 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce Four Star Pizza as a new official partner with the province and sponsor of Half Time Mini Rugby in the Sportsground.

 

Half Time Mini Rugby is an all-inclusive new initiative which involves teams from U8s up to U12s, all girls teams and Connacht’s Disability Rugby teams playing at half-time of Connacht’s competitive home games in the Sportsground. All 27 clubs in the province will be represented as part of the initiative.

 

Announcing the new partnership, Head of Commercial & Marketing at Connacht Rugby, Brian Mahony said: “We are delighted to welcome Four Star Pizza on board as an official partner of Connacht Rugby. We place a huge emphasis on the development of the domestic club game here in the province. The Half Time Mini Rugby, now sponsored by Four Star Pizza, brings together the club game and our match day experience in the Sportsground.”

 

Brian Clarke, Director of Four Star Pizza commented ‘We are proud to become an official partner of Connacht Rugby and in particular in supporting the youth teams in the province by becoming sponsor of the Half Time Mini Rugby in the Sportsground. We look forward to the season ahead with Connacht Ruby and continuing to bring the tastiest pizza to the province.”

 

Four Star Pizza is a wholly Irish-owned Pizza chain, established in 1988, and operates 49 stores across the island of Ireland, including two in Galway. Four Star Pizza is renowned for its pizza dough which is freshly prepared by hand on site daily by passionate and expertly trained pizza doughologists.

 

Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are delighted to announce Joe Gorham as the new Domestic Rugby Manager. He will head up the area of Club & Community for the province.

Joe replaces Eric Elwood who, after two years in the role, was recently appointed Academy Manager.

Before taking up the role at the Sportsground, Joe was employed as the Galway GAA Commercial Manager and prior to that, worked in the banking sector for over 30 years.

He has a long history of involvement with Connacht Rugby at all levels of the game. Joe represented Connacht Rugby and played with Connemara, Corinthians, Ballina and Ballinrobe RFC throughout his playing career.

Joe went on to coach Corinthians RFC at underage level before managing the Connacht Under-18’s and the Irish U-18’s sides during a period that saw the emergence of both Ronan Loughney and John Muldoon.

Joe also had a deep involvement in GAA over the years representing Galway, Mayo and Sligo at Senior Intercounty level and was a key member of the Galway Football Management Team.

Commenting on the new appointment, CEO Willie Ruane said:

“We are delighted to welcome Joe to Connacht Rugby. He has had a deep involvement with rugby across many different levels and brings with him an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the club and community game within the province.

“I have no doubt that he will build on the great work that Eric and the wider Club & Community team have already delivered.”

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