Grassroots Rugby development in Ghana alive and kicking despite challenges
One of the main priorities of the Ghana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) is the development of youth or grassroots Rugby development and according to the President, Mr. Herbert Mensah, it is alive and kicking despite many challenges.
According to Mr. Mensah World Rugby (previously know as the International Rugby Board or IRB) in recent years launched a structured programme called “Get Into Rugby” to support grassroots development and to also measure the growth of youth involvement in Rugby.
“Grassroots rugby development has been in existence as long as Rugby has been in existence,” he continued to say.
According to Mr. Mensah grassroots Rugby development across the world varies from very structured development programmes that is part and parcel of the school system to, what he terms, “gutter-to-gutter” development.
“Street sports is not a new concept and in many developing nations you will find young kids playing football or soccer, cricket and indeed Rugby in the poorest of poor areas in the streets,” Mr. Mensah said.
Youth Rugby development in Ghana is especially vibrant in CentWest (Central and Western Regions) where the current Technical Director of the GRFU, Mr. George Ladipo, has made it his mission to build a Rugby culture from the ground level.
“When I got involved in Rugby in Ghana I soon realised that the future of Ghana Rugby is indeed dependent on the extent that we will succeed to make it an optional extracurricular sport for our school children,” he said.
Mr. Ladipo and his team has managed to involve the youth through tournaments such as Fetu Afahye Festival, an annual festival celebrated by the people and chiefs of Cape Coast Traditional Area in the Central Region of Ghana, Beach Rugby programmes and school tournaments.
“We established The Central and Western Rugby Academy Development, a registered NGO under the Department of Social Welfare and Ghana Rugby. The organization was setup to train, promote and expose youth in Ghana to Rugby as a sport,” Mr. Ladipo said.
According to him it has a membership of about 800 from 34 community and school clubs in the Central and Western region of Ghana such as the University of Cape Coast, Mfantsipim SHS/JHS, Adisadel College, Aggrey Memorial, Oguaa SHS, St. Augustine’s College, Wesley Girls SHS, Holy Child SHS, Jubilee Catholic, Montessori JHS, Abura Bombers, Oguaaman Ocean Warriors, Twifo Praso-Hemang Lower Denkyira, Takoradi Polytechnic, Takoradi Technical Institute and many more.
In December 2014 a youth development programme was embarked on in Greater Accra that spanned over three days and involved more than 200 students.
The project created great excitement and enthusiasm and also created a major challenge on how to sustain the programme with the current resource constraints.
“Proper youth Rugby development requires many resources such as trained coaches, equipment, facilities and indeed money,” Mr. Salim who headed the project said.
According to Mr. Mensah the “Get Into Rugby” programme is a very professionally structured programme with huge potential to grow the Rugby Family worldwide and indeed in Ghana, but that also has its limitations for resource strapped developing countries such as Ghana.
“Ghana Rugby is in a process to build Rugby in Ghana almost from scratch and the opportunities are huge, but unfortunately the challenges are even greater. We will have to look at a pragmatic approach where both ‘Get Into Rugby’ and ‘Gutter-to-Gutter Rugby’ support each other for the betterment of the sport.
According to Mr. Mensah the GRFU is in discussion with both World Rugby and African Rugby on how to re-introduce “Get Into Rugby” into Ghana while simultaneously generating awareness in Rugby in ways that has served Rugby for generations.
“Our Clubs are supposed to play a very critical role in youth Rugby development as they will eventually be the beneficiaries. The day that we can vitalize this dormant factor will be the day that Rugby will explode in Ghana.” Mr. Mensah concluded.