The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has teamed up with the Harlequins Foundation to encourage thousands of schoolchildren to interact with local police through a rugby project.
The Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers, in partnership with The Harlequins Foundation, Old Alleynians Rugby Club, have continued to work together to deliver ‘Project Rugby’ – a joint initiative between the RFU and Premiership rugby to engage groups that aren’t traditionally engaged with rugby – in partnership with Gallagher.
The Met Police and the Harlequins Foundation are using Project Rugby with the aim of increasing engagement between non-traditional groups, and to encourage thousands of schoolchildren aged 14 and above to interact with their local police and to transition participants to their local rugby club.
The Project, which has been delivered by four officers from the Met’s TSG unit in partnership with the Harlequins Foundation and Old Alleynians Rugby Club, has delivered numerous sessions at several secondary schools across Southwark and Lambeth. In total, the four-week rugby project has now been delivered to 140 young people and a further 1,200 spoken to during assembly Q&A sessions. By the end of May this year, 200 young people will have had the Project delivered to them and over 2,000 spoken to during school assemblies.
Session one starts by breaking down barriers between young people and police during classroom based Q&As – allowing teenagers the immediate chance to talk to police in a relaxed environment and be listened to on topics that are important to them. The session continues delivering a police personal training programme including basic public order tactics in police kit to introduce teamwork. The conclusion of the session in an introduction into the basic skills of rugby.
In the second session, the students asked to deal with several stop and search scenarios with them acting as police officers. By doing this, they are able to understand the difficulties in making the right decisions based on the information put in front of them.
The students are then given further rugby training and introduced to its core values:
- Teamwork - how to work both as an individual and as a team;
- Respect - for yourself and each other;
- Enjoyment - in all walks of life;
- Discipline - both on and off the pitch;
- Sportsmanship - treating everyone fairly and equally.
They also learn how the sport can benefit them before playing non-contact games to give them a basic understanding of the rules.
Session three is about the impact of victims. The students are educated on the impact to the victim and those around them, including their family.
The session continues with an elevation of skills in preparation for the final meeting at an external rugby club. At the end of this session, the students and parents are personally invited by Harlequins to attend a final gathering to demonstrate what they have learnt and to get more information on how to keep them involved.
The final coaching session is run by professional coaches from Harlequins, supported by police, and local coaches from Southwark and Old Alleynians Rugby Football Club. Role models from both clubs are present to give the students something to aspire towards. The project is then brought to a close with all the participants having a meal together and talking through what they have learnt.
Police Sergeant Chris Bright, one of the Met’s co-ordinators for ‘Project Rugby’ and a rugby coach in his spare time, said: “We are steadily encouraging more and more children to come and take part in ‘Project Rugby’, get fit and active and also engage with police officers - our latest session saw nearly 40 children join us. There is a tremendous amount of talent out there.
“Rugby isn’t just about the game, it’s about people and being part of a community. Better people in the right environment make better players.
“We hope that more and more children will hear about the opportunities that Project Rugby has to offer and will come and join us in the next round of training sessions. It is important that as well as children taking up the game, our key messages about interaction with the police and reducing knife crime are getting across. Our stance on knife crime is really quite simple - knives change lives. It’s your life; make the right choice.”