Today was the last day for Sandy Bay mini-rugby, and the last day of Sebastian's rugby career. Sebastian has decided he will not move up ito Youth rugby next year. The game has too much contact for his liking, and he thinks continuing to play while at his level would put him at risk of injury. He is opting out. I have to give Sebastian credit for sticking it out this far. A few tournaments ago when he saw the end in sight, he decided he would continue until the Tackle Tunnel that takes place on the last day of the season. This is when all the Under 12s run through a tunnel of tackle bags to symbolise graduating from mini-rugby. Sebastian ran through the tunnel and then that was it. There was one last game - the Under 12s verse the Youth Rugby Under 13s. Sebastian declined to play - when he ran through the tackle tunnel he finished his rugby career. (Above: posing in our uniforms after rugby.)
I have been coaching for a few years now. I started on Saturday evenings when there were less than ten players. Saturday night was created to allow for players to attend church on Sunday. Another coach and I took care of Sebastian's group for two years on Saturday night. Our strategy was to make sure the kids new where they were supposed to be at different points in the game - very much an HR approach with mini job descriptions and org charts. While other teams tried to organise in the of middle games, our players would use those few extra seconds to gain an advantage in the game. For fifteen months our little team went undefeated. We were streamed at Level 3 (the lowest level), but still we were doing okay. (Above: Sebastian charges into the Tackle Tunnel.)
Entering Under 11s the contact increased even more. We decided to move the Saturday night group into the Sunday group where there were much better coaches. It was important for all the kids to train together as a team and make sure proper training helped them avoid injury. These coaches provided much better skill training than I. I still attended on Sunday mornings and provided whatever help and support I could. By this year, Under 12s, I stopped making the charts: we were beyond players not knowing where they were supposed to be.
Therefore, today was my last day as a mini-rugby coach for Sebastian. During the closing presentations for trophies, club colours etc, the U12 coaches were presented with an engraved Acme Thunderer whistle: as far as I am concerned, this is the bees knees of whistles. "Rather cool," I thought. Then I saw that it was engraved. For a few seconds the last several years flashed through my mind's eye and that whistle became very special. I wasn't expecting it and I am very grateful. Earlier in the day, Sebastian also received a surprise: the last tournament of the year his team was runner-up for the Shield (after winning the Shield the month before.) The Football Club had hosted the last tournament and made medals - real medals - for the placing teams. To cap off Sebastian's career he received one of the medals for being on that team. (Above: the Acme Thunderer whistle and a picture of Sebastian's medal.)
And the triplets? The girls play on Saturday nights but went this morning to be part of the Sandy Bay Club's fun for the morning. Jasper went too, and found himself playing with some fellow team mates in the U9s. The girls will most likely retire but Jasper plans to continue on Saturday nights when the new season starts up in August. The Sandy Bay Saturday night group has now grown to at least 100+ players across most of the mini-rugby age groups. I will also help Guest Blogger Dale coach Jasper's group on Saturday evenings. It might even be time to get out those old org charts!
Going forward, Sunday mornings will be for church, where I plan to test the waters of Youth Sunday School... using my very spiffy Acme Thunderer whistle to keep the Youth in line.