Coaches, parents, referees, team managers, first aiders and administrators work tirelessly to ensure rugby clubs continue to be happy places for all at the heart of our communities. Many have continued to be active even while pitches and clubhouses are closed to ensure the welfare of their members and to safeguard the community game for when we come out of the COVID pandemic.
Volunteers throughout Wales have worked behind the scenes to ensure clubs survive the lockdown by accessing funds and taking care of their finances. They are also providing a virtual support network for members of all ages by organising quizzes, challenges and online meetings – along with coming to the aid of the most vulnerable throughout their own communities and nationally.
Tondu husband and wife team – chair and treasurer Graham and Jo Thomas exemplify the effort going on throughout Wales at the moment.
Graham, who is the club’s under 15 coach, oversees one of the biggest mini and junior sections in the area as well as the club sponsors. He said during the first lockdown, “We have some fantastic volunteers throughout the club. We’ve been looking at how to keep the club connected at this time through quizzes and challenges. We’ve been running a ‘Greatest ever Tondu XV’ on social media which has worked very well to keep everyone engaged.
“We’re going through something we’ve never seen before. As a business you try to put something aside for an emergency and it feels like this is that emergency. We’ve shut the club down completely apart from essential maintenance and apart from making sure the club is there when we return, mental health is one of the most important aspects. Our club mentor and well-being coach Rob Lester has been in touch with all our groups making sure we stay in contact and check in on each other regularly.
“We are also looking ahead at the future. There are some positives we can take from this period, for example club meetings via zoom or other apps, while a challenge for some at first, could prove useful in the long-term when many can struggle to get to the club. I think one of the challenges will be getting the young people back off the X Box as they’ve inevitably been forced to do that for a lot of the time in lockdown.
“Once government guidelines allow us to reopen our clubhouse again, we have looked at ways we could re-open the space while keeping social distancing measures. We have a garden and could possibly become a café or drop-in centre for the community.
“Our 45 or so coaches are also keen to do something but we will of course wait and react whenever we get the green light.”
Jo, who works in insurance is confident all measures have been taken to safeguard the club financially.
“We contacted Business Wales immediately at the start of the first lockdown and were grateful to receive both the Welsh Government and WRU grants, along with Bridgend Council. We took advantage of the furlough system to ensure our staff are looked after and our expenditure is reduced to an absolute minimum. I’m happy to help other clubs on areas such as insurance and we’d also be keen to hear from other clubs in terms of their ideas during this time.”
Plans are in place to recognise and support volunteers in a number of ways as the country prepares to ease out of COVID restrictions.
Thanks to all our Welsh rugby volunteers.