WALKING rugby levels the playing field with a slower-paced version of the sport — and allows children, recovering heart patients and Rotherham Titans all to play together.
The ball is carried forward and passed backwards between teammates as normal — but running at any time leads to a penalty.
This low-intensity version of the game has been adopted by the Titans Community Foundation, which has worked with more than 1,000 youngsters since September.
Trustee Lindsay Jones said: “We find it works best with between five and eight a side. It involves handling skills, passing skills and lots of moving about.
“You can’t run but you can take steps and if you want the ball you have to physically take it off someone, with two hands.
“We’re targeting referrals through doctors’ surgeries, slimming clubs. It’s great for older people as well as young children.
“We spoke to people recovering from heart attacks who were looking for something a little more challenging than the exercises they were given.
“We’re not looking to the next Vunipola brother, we’re looking to have lots and lots of fun. Quite a few companies have said they like the idea of a tournament.
“We get some great messages too. One parent said their daughter had loved it, had a wonderful time but they weren’t happy with the amount of mud she’d brought home!”
The foundation has secured a £10,000 lottery grant to help it spread the virtues of walking rugby, beginning with a current batch of sessions at Maltby.
And children who have had a taste also have the chance to attend a Titans match or play with the Phoenix amateur arm of the club.
Walking rugby is part of the foundation’s efforts to curb social isolation — not only loneliness among older people but those in the younger generation at risk of petty crime or alcohol.
She added: “To get £10,000 is incredible. The projects will facilitate bringing people together who do not usually spend time together.
“Activities will focus on creating social opportunities and include low level games and an element of exercise or fitness activity.”
Players from Rotherham Titans were at Brinsworth Howarth School recently to run training sessions for year five pupils. Pictured putting the children through their paces are, from left to right: Alfie North, Anthony Maka, Jamie Cooke and Kieran Frost.
Titans centre Jamie Cooke was one of four players who hosted a session at Brinsworth Howarth Primary School last week (13).
He said: “You meet children who have never touched a rugby ball in their lives. You start with the basics, how to hold the ball, catching with the tiger hands method where you make a W with your hands.
“You can see them taking it on board and after three or four weeks you definitely see the improvements from what they’ve learned.
“Walking rugby is good for cardio patients. It’s low intensity and you can have all different ages playing at once.
“You can spot the ones with real talent at a young age. You see them using space, the evasive skills and communication.”
There is also the opportunity for Titans players to host foundation events linked to their own interests, like fishing or baking, as they work towards various qualifications.
“The players all have a story,” said Lindsay. “Frosty [Kieran Frost] spent last summer out in Australia and when he tells children his stories, it’s aspirational for them.
“It’s good for them to do something outside rugby. It’s important to have something else besides your sport.”
The foundation is aiming to capitalise on the current growth in rugby’s popularity following England’s journey to the world cup final in Japan — there has been an increase in interest for the mini and junior Phoenix teams in the past few weeks.
Free walking rugby sessions for adults of all ages are currently happening at Rotherham Leisure Complex from 1pm to 2pm on Fridays. Drop in or call 01709 722555 for more.