Youngsters are loving their rugby at Holt
- Credit: Archant
This season may have been disappointing in terms of first team results, but at the junior levels Holt rugby is in good shape.
Over 300 players are registered in the youth sections, which extend from under-sixes to the under- 18 colts.
The minis, players below the age of 12, have had a particularly strong season. Excellent facilities at Bridge Road mean that up to 10 minis pitches can be made available at any time, while still leaving three pitches for senior rugby.
This means that Holt can host major events, most recently the Kingswood festival where over 170 minis teams were involved in a tournament that took place in the first two weekends in April. Kingswood, a leading provider of outdoor education, provided exclusive use of their North Norfolk centres and laid on accommodation, meals and activities for over 300 families.
Holt's mini rugby chairman and membership secretary is Neville Drewry. He played his rugby at Fakenham where he was a prop-forward but became involved at Holt some four years ago, when he brought his son along to play for the Gladiators – Holt's team for the under-sixes.
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With the support of a progressive senior committee he has seen mini rugby grow to the extent that Holt can claim 'best of county' status in terms of participation and support. They have enough players and supporting adults to field 10 minis team on a given weekend.
Neville is keen to emphasise the ethical standards that govern mini-rugby. There are national age grade rules imposed by the English Rugby Football Union and these shape the game. For example, seven-year-olds play in four-strong teams and no tackling is allowed.
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Tackling is introduced in the nine-year-old game and, at all levels, there is emphasis on learning basic skills – ball handling, distribution and avoiding reckless play that can cause injury.
Any parent can bring their son, daughter or grandchild along in confidence that the social skills will be given far greater emphasis than physicality. Holt are strongly committed to the English Rugby Union's wider ethos known as 'TREDS' (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline, Sportsmanship).
In mini-rugby scores are not recorded nor trophies awarded. This was introduced some 18 months ago to counteract what was seen as an over-competitive element. The change was controversial at the time but is now widely accepted and has Neville's full support.
He recalls refereeing a minis cup final before this change was made, and acting under intense pressure from touchline coaches and parents who were challenging his decisions. He now feels that such behaviour is very rare.
Holt's junior rugby set-up provides an important player pipeline for the club: in one match last season 12 of the first XV players had come through the junior sections.
This year Holt have been chosen to host the Norfolk Rugby's Big Weekend. On Saturday, May 6 seven senior Norfolk finals will take place; the following day, will see no fewer than six finals, all involving youth teams.
One of the Sunday finalists will be Holt's under-15 team who will be playing Wymondham at 12.45am with the under 14s and 15s also taking part in plate finals on the same day.
For further details of the Big Rugby Weekend see the club's website (www.holtrfc.com).
Meanwhile Four Holt under-sevens teams impressed the organisers of the Leicester Tigers Festival as the club's youngsters took centre stage at the weekend following the end of the senior season.
The teams took on opposition from across the country, from Shrewsbury to Peterborough and Newark to Market Harborough, and gave an excellent account of themselbes.
After the festival the squad, along with their siblings, took to the Welford Road pitch to wave the giant flag and welcome visitors Newcastle and the Tigers for their Aviva Premiership encounter. The 62-strong party from Holt had a tremendous day which was topped off by the former Holt junior Ben Youngs' superb break that earned his side the bonus point in a 30-3 success.
This was a fabulous opportunity for the boys and girls from Holt under-sevens to experience live rugby and to play against other teams outside the county and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.