Since its establishment in 2017, The NSW Positive Rugby Foundation has quickly seen inspiring results in its communities thanks to its investments, and they continue to flourish. Now, in the uncertain times they've found themselves experiencing, the Foundation’s focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing amongst its causes is as important as ever.
As the official charity and social impact program of the NSW Rugby Union, the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation has many an initiative to focus their efforts on. Across grassroots programs including schools and junior rugby, girl’s and women’s rugby, country and regional rugby, Indigenous rugby, elite youth development and Western Sydney rugby, the foundation has quickly crystallised and focussed their vision on these communities since its inception.
“We seek to improve the health and wellbeing of rugby communities,” says Greg Mumm, Head of The NSW Positive Rugby Foundation. “Where we have grown is to try to serve these causes by focusing on three main health and wellbeing outcomes; physical health and wellbeing, mental health and wellbeing and life skills and educational outcomes. These are areas where we think rugby has a real track record of providing benefit and where we feel we can make a real difference.”
It’s with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind that Mumm has further confirmed the importance of supporting the mental and physical health of NSW’s rugby communities for the year ahead.
“The reality is without physical activity, team relationships and the ability to interact outside of confined groups, there are going to be some significant challenges for people’s physical and mental wellbeing” he says. “Sport has always brought people together in an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles, so sport is going to play a critical role in rebuilding communities, physical fitness and social cohesion."
“These are very challenging times for everyone. For some, rugby is their main social outing of the week. The comfort that people get from a rugby club and knowing they are safe and belong, is the exact opposite of the isolated anxiety they may be feeling. If they lose this, as well as have limited other interactions through work or socially, our focus is finding ways to remain in contact with them, and continue to make them feel like they are cared for. When able to, rugby will be willing and waiting to welcome people back and remind them how good a run around with mates can be.”
After government restrictions limited the sport from being played as usual across the country, the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation looked to continue to engage with members to provide hope for a safe and speedy return to normal and keep their renowned camaraderie alive.
The Foundation moved to modify plans for several programs to become accessible to all online, including their Positive Coaching Platform and Classic Coaches Online Masterclass Series. Between the two, NSW Rugby provided access to advice and expertise from some of the best coaching minds in the game, allowing The Foundation to effectively assist rugby players at all levels and coaches of all backgrounds, keeping the rugby community connected to the game.
For Mumm, supporting coach education has been one of the most significant pillars of the organisation’s work. “Across all of our causes this was a universal request, something which not only benefitted the coaches, but directly improves the experience of all participants as well. Our volunteers offer so much to the game, and to be able to support them through an online coaching app, The
Positive Coaching Platform, and initiatives like coach mentoring and safety support, it proves to people we are listening and care about them and what they are doing.”
Typically throughout the year, The Foundation also continues to create and maintain relationships with delivery wellbeing partners, including social enterprise Creating Chances and mental health organisation Batyr. In 2019, the Foundation partnered with Batyr to tour regional communities over six months with the aim to provide tools and skills to empower individuals to take charge of their mental health and look out for their own wellbeing and that of their mates.
According to Mumm, “Our Get Talkin Tour really was the right thing at the right time for our drought-affected communities in the bush. To have the Foundation be able to answer the call of those in need and arrive with a strong delivery partner in both schools and local clubs was special. Providing mental health awareness workshops to thousands of high school students and training close to 400 mental health ambassadors in regional areas was definitely something rugby has gotten right, and the Positive Rugby Foundation was a massive driver of this.”
Since partnering with the Australian Sports Foundation, the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation has raised a remarkable $700,000 – and counting – of their $1,000,000 goal. With a primary goal of investing in grassroots programs to grow rugby in NSW and prioritise the health and wellbeing of the community, the Foundation has been able to get projects off the ground thanks to these funds.
The most difficult barrier to these sorts of initiatives is getting started, and through the Australian Sports Foundation, we have been able to take the first steps that got us moving
Looking forward, the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation will continue to support the growth of the game across all its causes, including the newest and fast-growing coterie of girl’s and women’s rugby. In the three years since the Foundation’s establishment, female participation in rugby has grown exponentially from approximately 3% to almost 15% of total participation. The Foundation is keen to capitalise on this exciting growth in women’s rugby with an ambitious vision to grow participation to over 20% by establishing a female team in every club and school across NSW while ensuring systems are in place that encourage and support female participation right from a local level to an elite level.
That appreciation of all levels of participation is reflected across all causes The NSW Positive Rugby Foundation focuses on. Beyond players, the many individuals and roles that support the game are always close to Mumm’s thoughts, with that whole-game focus offering a renewed energy for the sport in the future. “As a Grassroots organisation, these are exactly the people we look to support; from the water boy to the whistle blowers, the burly front rowers to the volunteers on the BBQ. When we include volunteers in to our sport we swell in numbers to a community of approximately 87,000, not including parents."
“In the country particularly, some of these people are driving hours to be a part of the game and all of them, regardless of location, are sacrificing other parts of their lives to contribute to rugby. Wherever possible, we include these members of our community in our programs. We, as an organisation, are intrinsically valuing the whole game again. Many governance and management decisions now
are valuing the whole game, all its participants, volunteers and supporters, and by getting back to this I believe we will see a renaissance in rugby and the benefits it offers to people’s lives."
“It truly is a game for everyone, all backgrounds, all shapes and sizes. Australians of all cultural heritage can find a community in rugby and athletes of all sizes can find a game. On top of this we have a game that is based in camaraderie at a club level, which means even in small towns, people can get a sense of belonging and community from their rugby club, whether it is for them individually or for their whole family.”
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