In the Spotlight: Tag Rugby Development Trust

In this new feature, we’ll be covering some lesser-known rugby stories from around the world, and in the inaugural edition, we speak to Martin Hansford about his charity – the Tag Rugby Development Trust.

So what is TRDT?

Tag Rugby Development Trust (TRDT) is a charity that uses Rugby as a way of improving the lives of children in Africa and India. Volunteer-staffed coaching tours visit local government primary schools and orphanages, teaching basic tag rugby over a fun-filled few days that culminates in a festival of rugby. As part of the programme we concentrate on developing the coaching skills of the teachers and local rugby community volunteers we work with.

Where did the idea come from?

I have a long history of involvement in overseas community-based projects that covers many countries and has involved a wide range of work. In all the time I have spent volunteering or leading teams on these projects I have never seen anything that unites people / communities as much as sports … its incredibly powerful, yet for some reason seems to lack credibility in the eyes of many development organisations.

Having played rugby from the age of 7 and realizing what a profound impact it has had on me, I couldn’t think of a sport with a better set of values to share with young children in other parts of the world.

Were you expecting to win the IRB Development Award last year?

Winning the award last November was a total surprise. We thought we had been invited to “network” and pick up a few business cards. The recognition for what we have achieved over the last 7 years and 11 Tours is fantastic, and something I want to share with all the people who have helped us put 10,000 children through our programme. The exposure it has given has been fantastic too. We are likely to run 5 Tours this year alone where it’s has taken us 7 years to run 11 previously, so we really are going from strength to strength.

We intend taking the award with us on all the Tours this year and should have a fantastic set of photos by the time we return from India in November … I just hope it doesn’t get confiscated in customs as it is quite sharp!

What are your plans for continuing to grow the charity?

One of the reasons we have so many Tours this year is because of the growing interests from schools to get involved in our programme. Trevor Martingell, a TRDT Trustee, has worked closely with Esher College and Hurstmere School, both of whom will Tour to Zambia and have an incredible experience visiting schools in and around Lusaka. Our volunteer Tours will run as usual to each of our destinations and by year end I think we will have taken over 80 volunteers on a Tag Rugby experience of a lifetime!

How can the tours benefit the people that volunteer?

For the volunteers that join us on Tour there is an incredible range of challenges to face on a daily basis – and not just climate, diet and accommodation. For those that are not experienced coaches there is plenty to learn in taking children from holding a ball for the first time through to being capable of competing in a tournament.

For experienced coaches, their skills and perceptions of the way things are achieved will be tested and stretched to new levels by the green field nature and speed with which we progress through the week.

In all the tours we have run I have never seen a single volunteer that hasn’t felt challenged in one way or another by their experience. In old fashioned terms, its character-building stuff! Nobody does the work for the volunteers, its true “ownership” of everything from the minute we walk into the schools. In modern talk it takes individuals out of their comfort zones, exposes them to new influences, new coaching techniques and new friends. This can only be achieved through effective teamwork and provides a massive sense of achievement at the end of the tour.

For more information, and to find out how to volunteer, visit www.trdt.co.uk

If you have a story that you’d like to see featured ‘In the Spotlight’, please get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.