“Dynamic, Hardworking, Respectful”
Michelle Banks (Willenhall Junior Section Chairper
Dynamic, Hardworking, Respectful – the words of Michelle Banks (Willenhall Junior Section Chairperson).
Michelle was referring to the VOLUNTEERS we have working down at the club that have helped the youth section develop year on year. With the structures being put in place for the Seniors, we decided to ask Michelle Banks more about what the future of the club is looking like.
Willenhall: What age groups do we have supporting the senior sides?
Michelle: We cater for ages 6 to 8 (school year 2 and 3). These ages play tag rugby. At age 8 (school year 4) we begin to introduce contact. We have a team for each age group all the way to under 17s, (school leavers and colts). U17s and Colts will be working together this season ready for transitioning to seniors in 2019/20.
Willenhall: How are you finding working with so many age groups?
Michelle: My role last year was very much a learning curve. It was my first year in the role. I don’t come from a rugby background or have much rugby knowledge, however I love a challenge! What a challenge it was to say the least. However, I was very fortunate to have a fantastic support network to guide and help me through.
Willenhall: How did the Junior section get on last year?
Michelle: Last season the Mini and Junior sections grew in numbers. We ended the season with 158 young players across the Mini and Junior sections. That is an increase of approximately 30 players on last season.
Willenhall: That’s like being able to field an extra 2 teams when they get to the senior sides. That must be very pleasing.
Michelle: Yes but for me personally, the biggest success of last season was seeing the smiles on the faces of the players at their presentation nights. To me the important thing is that the kids enjoy playing and have a great experience making new friends and being a part of something that they will take with them as they grow into young adults.
Willenhall: What about the people who co-ordinate these youngsters each week. They must play a vital role as without them, we would not be able to grow as a club.
Michelle: Coaches play an important role in the section. They give up their free time to commit to a team and take them through the ranks each season until they transition to a senior player. They teach the kids about TREDS (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline) and how to be a good player. Some of our coaches have a child within the team they coach, some play senior rugby and some do both. Its nice to see parents helping out too with the lead coach and supporting them in training and match days. Behind the scenes we have a fantastic fixtures secretary, Steve, who ensures that on Sundays, each side gets a game be it at home or away. We also have Vicky, the club safeguarding officer who helps out so much in ensuring the players play in a safe environment too. There are many behind the scenes who help also, too many to mention.
Willenhall: It sounds like a mammoth operation with so many people doing a sterling job behind the scenes. It goes without saying that the club has so much to offer the youth but there are other clubs who operate youth sections too. Why should parents choose Willenhall RUFC for their child over others?
Michelle: I think people should come along to a free training session to see why we are a growing club. It speaks for itself. I recall the first time I stepped onto the training pitch with my son. I was welcomed by a friendly parent and introduced to the coach. My family and I were never made to feel out of place or like we didn’t belong. It’s become our second family.
Willenhall: Even with the club continuing to grow year on year, there is always room for improvement. What do you have planned for this coming season?
Michelle: As always the focus will be on growing the section to provide year on year players to the senior section. TREDS will be focus as always and ensuring the players have yet another great season and continue to return. I have on board 2 school liaison officers this year who plan to go into schools and promote the club to bring more players in. With Vicky as my vice chair this season any decisions made for the section will be as a result of ensuring that the players come first. We hope to see some of the teams participate in away days at clubs such as Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors again this season. A new area we are looking at developing this season is a girls’ team. We have a coach in place and a core group of keen players. We hope to have enough players soon so they can play some fixtures too. A new kit has been launched this season. This will mean that Seniors and Mini and Juniors will all have matching kits. This season the u15s 16s and 17s/colts have been fortunate enough to gain sponsorship to have the new strips for the start of the season. I am really excited to see them all in their kits. Kit will be introduced to the other teams in due course starting from the eldest to the youngest.
Willenhall: How about the long term?
Michelle: The plans are to continue growing the section to ensure the club will always have players going into the senior section. Who knows one day they will be a coach and if they have children bring them along through the ranks too. Id also like to see the girls’ team progress and be a success.
There you have it. It goes without saying that the future of the club is definitely in safe hands.
If anybody would like to sponsor a mini or junior team to provide them with a new kit or if you want to find out more about the Mini and Junior section, don’t hesitate and get in touch with Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07432028356) or contact us through the Facebook page or the official Twitter feed (@Willenhall_RUFC).
Updated 16:32 - 7 Aug 2018 by Mark Austin