An Edinburgh rugby club is celebrating opening its doors again to children and young people after members did all they could to help others during lockdown.
As part of the Scottish Government’s route map through and out of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions were eased on Monday, July 13th to permit outdoor contact sport for children and young people up to the age of 17, subject to public health guidance.
Although it has not been a return to sport as we know it, this is the first step towards the return to sport for children and young people, with training permitted but matches and competitions yet to return.
Sports organisations that have opened their doors again have had to operate as per the guidance produced by their Scottish Governing Body of Sport. Measures such as an appointed Covid co-ordinator, strict hygiene protocols and the ability to contact trace participants had to be in place. For young people aged 12-17 physical distancing is only suspended while the sporting activity takes places, distancing guidance should be observed at all other times.
One club able to implement those measures on Tuesday (July 14th) was Lismore RFC. Forced to close its doors like clubs across the country in March, since then the club utilised Scottish Rugby’s return to rugby guidance to recruit a Covid-19 co-ordinator responsible for club public health measures; assistance with club facilitates and utilities; and an online return to rugby module, encompassing the World Rugby Covid-19 module which provides advice for all players, coaches and club administrators.
There was joy and relief as the club welcomed back young players to its base at Inch Park Community Sports Club. But there was plenty of activity at the club during lockdown as members did all they could to help the local community. A crowd funder raised money for the nearby Royal Blind Care Home, collections were made for the Edinburgh SE Foodbank and the club has handed over 245kg of food and the club stayed virtually engaged with members of all ages with online workshops such as a CV writing workshop for younger members.
It is not just the local community the club has stayed engaged with, they have made new friends on the other side of the world. The club reached out to their Australian counterpart club, also named Lismore RFC, and created the Lismore 2 Lismore challenge.
The challenge was a virtual race between the clubs to see who could reach the others club house first by running, cycling or walking with the miles that members completed added up each day. More than 200 participants, including over 1,000 miles from youth players, contributed over 52 days to help the Edinburgh club complete over 10,000 miles and pip their Australian friends to the post last week. So far the challenge has raised over £3,500 to be split between the club and the Edinburgh SE Foodbank.
The club’s Youth Development Officer, Eric Jones, says doing what they could to help the local community and stay engaged with its players was vital for the club.
He said: “The kids were delighted to see each other again and be able to throw a ball about. We’ve tried to get across the community ethos during lockdown. We’ve tried to stay engaged with everyone.
"We know we’re a rugby club but we always want to be a bit more than that, we want to develop people as well as rugby players."
That goes for supporting family members as well. That is a key message we wanted to get across.
“The challenge started as a way of engaging our youth players with some School of Rugby outcomes during lockdown. It has been important to Lismore to get the message across that we were still here to support all our players, club members and their families despite the current restrictions.
“The two main aims of the challenge were to help improving participant’s physical fitness, and support wellbeing and mental health. Our youth players contributed over 1,000 miles to the challenge and have reported to our post-challenge survey that taking part in Lismore 2 Lismore has improved their wellbeing and mental health.”
Scottish Government National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said: “Being physically active is obviously important for our physical health but it’s great for mental well health too.
"It’s great to see young people back enjoying being able to see their friends again and participate in sport, which helps them to build strong muscles and bones, while maintaining a healthy weight.
“Our national physical activity guidelines suggest that children and young people stay active for an average of at least 60 minutes per day. Unfortunately, the necessary lockdown restrictions made that very difficult for some children, so I hope that they can now unlock all the benefits that this latest development brings.”
Stewart Harris, Chief Executive of sportscotland: “It is another positive step for sport that public health guidelines have been extended further as part of the Scottish Government’s route map through the pandemic.
“Lockdown has been extremely difficult for us all, but it is great that children and young people who have been unable to go to school or see friends and family can now enjoy organised sport outdoors.
"While this is good news, it is not a return to sport as we know it and the most pressing priority remains public health and wellbeing. It is crucial that participants, and everyone connected with sport in Scotland, continue to adhere to the latest government guidance and the advice issued by the governing body of each sport.”