In conversation with..... Sheila Begbie MBE

Rugby Development

In conversation with..... Sheila Begbie MBE

The Scottish Rugby website caught up with the governing body’s Director of Rugby Development, Sheila Begbie MBE as her regional teams get to work around the country across Scotland.

Can you tell us a bit about the need for change in the Scottish Rugby Development Department operational model?

“What we wanted to do was provide more support to clubs and more support to schools.

“The way we worked previously was that individuals were responsible for clubs, or schools and youth, women and girls, equality and inclusion. We wanted to change that so everyone should be responsible for everything to ensure we deliver an inclusive game.

“We’re really working with the clubs, schools and our other stakeholders to make sure that we develop a culture in the game that’s less ‘us and them’ and more ‘we’.

It’s about working together and how we can make a real tangible difference in the game.”

What things have you done differently to bring these plans to life?

“We’ve established five regions – Caledonia North, East, Caledonia Midlands, Glasgow North and Glasgow South - throughout the country and put in place five Regional Directors. These Regional Directors and their teams are accountable for everything that happens in their specific region, it also gives a point of contact to those clubs in their area who is always accessible.

“We’re being quite clear. It’s not a one size fits all. We’re really working with clubs and stakeholders to look at local solutions for local issues.

“The challenges in Caledonia North are completely different from the challenges in the central belt.

“We’ve decentralised a lot of the decision making so we’re not making all the decisions from Edinburgh. It’s about the decisions being made locally. It’s about local people prioritising key areas of the game and working to modernise the game.

“We’ve got a really good complement of staff working in the regions making sure that they’re working towards the aspirations of our clubs and our schools, supporting the delivery of the plans for the region.”


What are the aims and how are the Regional Directors going to help with the delivery?

“It’s about sitting down with clubs and looking at what the aspirations are. It’s not about the aspirations of, or what, Scottish Rugby want. We are here to give vital support and allow the game to grow further.

“A lot of the work we’ve been doing in the regions, with the clubs, has been about regional roadshows, where we saw over 200 attendees.

“At the moment we’re creating those regional strategies and will go back to the clubs to share and agree what the KPIs will be. It’s then down to our staff working with clubs, working with schools, working with other stakeholders to help ensure we’re delivering these strategies.”

What’s your perspective on the health of the game at the moment?

“I think the health of the game is good. I think we have some major opportunities, but also, I think we have a few challenges. I would say the recent introduction of SCRUMS [Scottish Rugby User Management System] is a great opportunity to benchmark the number of players we have in the game.

“The previous system didn’t cleanse the data properly at the end of the season, so we continually rolled season into season with a large number of players on the database that hadn’t pulled on a pair of boots for several years in some instances.

“SCRUMS will give us a much better opportunity to benchmark where we are in terms of the number of players we’ve got in the game.

“For instance, a better understanding of the data can help inform decisions about season structure and organisation, to make sure we’ve got less unfulfilled games.

“I think we’ve got a lot of opportunities in terms of how we work together and how we pool our resources to make sure we deliver what is in the best interest of the game and each region.”

Can you give us an idea of some of the factors you think stop people from playing rugby?

“Some of the things we’ve noticed, not just in rugby but other sports as well, is there are more demands on player’s time. I think we’ve had a couple of seasons where the season has gone on quite long, in some cases from August through to May or June.

“I think it’s quite challenging for players to commit to playing that amount of time so, again, through the season structure, review and consultation with the clubs, we’ll ask ‘what’s realistic for clubs?’, ‘what do clubs want?’ and ‘what do players want?’”

“Any discussions have, of course, to be with club officials, but I also think that we need to go to the customer too, and the customer for me is very much the player. We need to ask players what they want to make sure we can really move the game on.”

What do you think the clubs have made of your approach so far?

“My approach is very much that the game belongs to the clubs and schools. It doesn’t belong to people in this department or the organisation. It’s really about us being collaborative, it’s about communication, it’s about listening.

“What we’ve said, and what we’ve been quite clear about in terms of our teams, is that you are very much in listening mode with the clubs.

“We’ve got a lot of great volunteers in our clubs who’ve got a lot of experience in the game. It’s about us listening to what they want to see in the game and understanding how we can better facilitate and support them to deliver the needs and requirements of our clubs and schools.”

Sheila Begbie presents the U18 National Youth Cup Player of the Match award to Gavin Inkster 

Regarding the pathway for coaches and referees, how do you think they’re going? Do you think they’re working okay?

“I think we’ve got some really good things happening within training and education. We’ve got a lot of active coaches working in the game, we’re supporting coaches through the use of ‘Hive’, which is our online system which shows good practice and gives lots of opportunities. Our coaches have to log on and do Rugby Right, which means that they’re fully up to speed with various aspects of the game, including concussion and injury prevention.

“I think we’ve actually developed a number of quality referees and, on Silver Saturday, we’re running a big recruitment campaign to get more involved.

“I would say it’s an area of the game that’s going really positively. What we’re doing now is expanding that area so it’s not just what we’re doing with coaches and referees but also what we’re doing with volunteers and parents in the game. How do we get ten people doing one job in a club as opposed to one person doing ten jobs in a club.”

What’s Scottish rugby doing for Women and Girls Rugby?

“I would say we’re being much more inclusive than we’ve ever been. Before we had people specifically working on the women and girls’ game and now we’re seeing the women and girls’ game as part of everybody’s role.

“We’ve already looked at changing the playing season for the Women’s game. We’re looking at age banding within the Women’s game where instead of being a three-year age band, we go to a two-year age band to reduce the likelihood of mismatches within the game.

“We’re looking at how we provide opportunities in the regions in terms of regional squads to support the skill development of some young women. I think that we’re doing a lot in terms of women and girls rugby.”

What was your assessment on the roadshows and what have you got planned for the next year?

“Our regional strategies were saying we’d be ready by August, so I would say it’ll be a big year for our staff working in conjunction with clubs and other stakeholders in terms of different formats of the game, transition programmes in the game, and looking at how do we create partnerships with universities and colleges to get different skills like marketing or business into clubs, so we start to develop relationships and make sure our clubs are the hub and at the heart of their community going forward.”

If you could make one change to the club game in Scotland, what would it be and why?

“If I was to have one wish or one change, I think it would be that we have a shared common vision for the direction of the game as we go forward.”

For a full list of contacts within the Rugby Development Department click HERE

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