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Pic: Charter Savings Bank

When you’re on the pitch, defending a narrow lead with only seconds remaining on the clock – reading the play and what is in front of you becomes vitally important. Reading what the opposition team might do, where their fly half might be kicking the ball and what the next few phases of play might produce. Reading is crucial on the pitch, but that is nothing to its level of importance off it.

Thanks to my personal sponsor at the club, Charter Savings Bank, I can go into the local surrounding primary schools and lead a unique coaching scheme called ‘Rugby and Reading’. As the name suggests, this is far more than a few passing drills before a game of tag at the end. This scheme encourages young 5 to 11-year olds to read more, whilst keeping them active with a rugby ball in hand.

When I think back to my days in school, which thankfully weren’t a million months ago although they might feel it; the idea of a pro rugby player, football player or even tennis player coming in to help out in a PE lesson of mine wouldn’t have seemed obscene. Rare? Most certainly, but possible. However, would we finish our session and then also show off our intellectual prowess with a reading book in the classroom – no way.

Not to blow our own trumpets; but it seems that there is something unique for a young kid, something special even about getting to read to members of their local sporting team instead of their Teacher. Admittedly, we may not have the same level of young educational understanding as their teachers, but sometimes a change of audience can do the trick for some children.

At times it’s important for these youngsters to know that not just the members of staff in their school think that picking up a book is important. If a professional sportsman that they might be watching play on the weekend is telling them of the books they like and authors they’ve read – then surely reading must be a good thing?

I am extremely lucky to have the education that I’ve had; however, I believe at the age of around 16 I sub-consciously chose to put rugby firmly in the front seat of my life and whilst I kept my education strapped in a seatbelt… it was definitely somewhere in the back. Writing this now, it is this lack of ‘follow through’ regarding my education that dominates my source of adult regret.

I feel well and truly blessed to not allow these youngsters to make the same mistake as I did. No one wants to be playing catch up in anything – but especially education. So, I plan to keep working alongside the other community coaches at Coventry Rugby Club to spread the ever so important message that sport and education are not mutually exclusive, but in fact go hand in hand.

There is no reading without rugby, and no rugby without reading.

To find out more about Rugby and Reading email