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The Hauraki Youth Rugby Club is experiencing huge growth in its membership this year, a change which is also being reflected in the senior rugby, hockey and netball codes at the Ngatea Rugby and Sports Club. Photo: SUPPLIED.

Communication, culture and coaches key

There are changes afoot at Ngatea Rugby and Sport Club, with growing club numbers and a culture shift seeing the club’s committee excited for its future. 

The Hauraki Plains Youth Rugby Club in particular has seen rapid growth over the last three years, and club vice president Chris Spilsbury said they are now facing the welcome problem of not having enough field space to accommodate all the teams. 

“Registered within our youth rugby club [is] 163 members, including players and coaches,” he said. 

“It was 30 per cent growth last year. And the senior rugby club, we’re sitting on 60 registered members.

“Because we’re growing, we always need more space. We need more support, more referees, more volunteers.”

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The committee has changed its approach to a lot of things in its effort to become a family-friendly, inclusive space, Chris said. One of the biggest changes on the list is transparency and communication with club members, and it said there has been a positive response from families. 

“Communication has been one of the things we’ve worked massively on,” Chris said. 

“We are conscious that people do stuff outside of sport, and that we need to be making sure that we can give them enough information early to plan outside of your two hours of whatever you’re doing on a Saturday morning.” 

Youth club president Simon Stratford agreed, saying the increased communication had also allayed parents’ concerns about other issues. 

“We have a big, big responsibility about the safety of the children, and that is [managed] through the communication, through coaching courses,” he said. 

“Coaching courses weren’t really pushed with the old committee, whereas we’re very, very big on it. So I think parents knowing that their kids are safe is massive for us.” 

The extra support for coaches has also been welcome. 

“We look after our coaches as much as they look after the kids,” Chris said. 

“We brought in coaches’ catch-ups… We get round the table and we have a beer and just sort of talk about all the kids and the rugby and what’s positive and negative.”

The committee said they have noticed an increase in entire families becoming involved across the codes. 

“What I find really cool is the crossover,” club treasurer Shelley Spilsbury said. 

“A lot of those mums from our youth rugby training that are standing there watching their kids are actually running for the women’s rugby.

“[We] try and make our trainings fun and skillful at the same time, it’s not just all fitness or skills, it’s a bit of everything all mixed in together. They never want to go home.”

The growth has been made easier with the support of the community as well, she said. 

“I’ve got a massive thank you to our sponsors, all of them. We’ve got a pretty amazing community.”