Friday, 28 March 2008

School of Hard Knocks

One of the more left-field suggestions as to who might be part of a new Martin Johnson-led England coaching team is former Leicester maverick Austin Healy.

While I've no idea as to Healy's suitability to such a role (although there can be little doubt he'd bring an element of originality to the table) what I have been impressed with is his latest media venture as a presenter of Sky Rugby Club's recently concluded "School of Hard Knocks" series.

The six-part series involved a ground-breaking rugby training initiative which took a bunch of unemployed lads from Liverpool, who society had pretty much written off as no-hopers, and helped them change their lives by increasing their employability through rugby. A measure of the task at hand was the fact that one of the team missed a couple of weeks of training because he was on remand in Strangeways Prison, charged with blackmail and threatening to kill!

Coached by Sale Sharks coach Chris Chudleigh, the players (who were all bar one total novices to the game) embarked on the intensive 16-week training with the emphasis being on self-discipline and teamwork as well as fitness and rugby technique - all of which culminated in a match against the Army's 2nd Lancastrian regiment, featuring several experienced Fijians.

That the match was lost 3-35 was irrelevant as the scousers threw themselves into the challenge and won a huge amount of respect. The fact that, at the end of the scheme, two thirds of those involved were employed, including five who joined the armed forces, is testament to all involved.

As Austin Healy says: "I really believe that by integrating sport into your lifestyle, a person can learn life-skills that help in whatever you take on. Watching the guys grow, not only as players but off the field as well, has been a fantastic experience to be part of."

Just think then what Austin might achieve with the England rugby team!

1 comment:

anne bebbington said...

My 15yo daughter plays rugby and gets rid of any pent up aggression in a controlled way on the pitch - I've long said that this sort of training course could beat any 'anger management' training hands down - maybe the courts should hand out this sort of penalty to young offenders for a while and sit back and enjoy the results - love your blog and the women's equivalent - keep up the good work!