Gloucester Rugby visit Longlevens Mixed Ability Team thanks to Grassroots Giveaway competition
Longlevens Rugby Club has a long-standing heritage at the heart of the local community in Gloucester. And in the summer of 2017, the side set up its very own mixed ability team.
Since then, equipped with the motto of helping people from all walks of life to play rugby — regardless of their situation or circumstance — the team has rapidly gone from strength to strength.
Longlevens were just one of almost 1,000 clubs to submit their entry into the Aviva Grassroots Giveaway competition back in December. However, the Gloucester-based side were only the second out of the 12 lucky entrants to be told that they had won the competition and received their prize of £2,000 worth of kit and equipment, along with a training session with an Aviva Premiership Rugby community coach.
When the players were next scheduled to train, I joined the sponsorship team from Aviva and headed over to Longlevens Rugby Club before the players arrived to give the rest of the team the good news. We also introduced them to the Gloucester Rugby community coach, who would take the evening’s session as part of their prize.
The players were elated when they found out the good news and the training session soon got underway with smiles all around. After just half an hour, the players had warmed up and were ready to get stuck in as the community coach called them over to talk them through their session. However, there was one final surprise in store for the players: Gloucester Rugby and England internationals Charlie Sharples, Billy Twelvetrees and Ben Morgan turned up to join in with the training session and give the players advice as part of their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Despite being a blisteringly cold evening, the players and professionals had a brilliant time and fully engaged in the session, showing their skills to add to this unique experience. At one point, Charlie Sharples even gave the players a glimpse of the kind of speed his professional team mates and premiership rivals can expect as he took part in an entertaining game of stuck in the mud and used his pace to capture all the players in just a matter of seconds.
Longlevens and their mixed ability team absolutely epitomise the inclusive and diverse nature of rugby that this competition hopes to reward.It was a great experience meeting the players, learning all about mixed ability rugby and joining Aviva in taking part in this brilliant surprise.
What is mixed ability rugby all about?
The players at Longlevens have a wide variety of disabilities ranging from physical to mental. The rules of mixed ability rugby provide a route into the game for those who feel unable to join what would typically be described as a ‘conventional club’ – whether that’s due to physical or mental health issues, the perception of not being good enough, or even inactivity for a long period.
Mixed ability rugby is not about separating players by their levels of ability but rather bringing them together and letting the players choose the level of contact they’re able and willing to take. The able bodied players and coaches around them act as facilitators to support those less able players.
The characteristics of rugby such as friendship, exercise and inclusivity still very much apply. The only real difference between mixed ability rugby and everyday rugby is the level of contact and that scrums are uncontested. So if you’re a player looking to get back into the game, trying to get fit or hoping to take part in a sport you thought you may have otherwise been unable to play, mixed ability rugby really is the perfect sport for you.
It is this friendly, fun and inclusive form of rugby that highlights just how diverse and welcoming the rugby community is across the UK.
Click here to find out more about Longlevens and their mixed ability rugby team.