Rugby is for Everyone

Kampuchea Balopp

With the range of partner NGO’s that Kampuchea Balopp is working with expanding and diversifying, new challenges are posed in how our coaches adapt and deliver effective training to the young Cambodian children. How to actively get them involved in rugby sessions, enjoy their time training with us and in the long run we hope to develop enough enthusiasm and interest that the kids can form a team to participate in domestic rugby competitions.(All the meanwhile encouraging teamwork, discipline, and enjoyment while maintaining their health and exercise improves).

When Krousar Thmey and Kampuchea Balopp formed a partnership in 2013 it raised fresh challenges and offered great opportunities in diversity. Krousar Thmey “New Family” is a Cambodian NGO, created in 1991 and is active in the field of education, and specialized in the education of deaf and blind children in Cambodia. (It also created the Braille writing for blind Cambodians as well as the sign language for the deaf.)

Initially we worked with one centre and focused on working with very young boys and girls. Our Kampuchea Balopp coaches received training from Krousar Thmey in basic sign language and with the help of the facilitators struck a good balance of communication to be able to explain the rugby exercises and activities to the groups of boys and girls who had a range of hearing impairments. The grinning faces and broad smiles that were expressed on the faces of the kids transcended any communication barriers, the kids were soon loving their weekly rugby sessions.

As the development and enjoyment of the children at Krousar Thmey grew we expanded to train two of the centers with boys and girls now ranging from 14-16 years for the new group in addition to younger kids (8-11 years old), the self imposed pressure also grew to get them involved and playing as a team. We also decided to move the training to sun protected synthetic pitches. The progress shown by all the kids was more rapid.They had witnessed the other NGOs enter teams in the domestic rugby championships 7’s rugby and were as keen as everyone involved to show they could take to the field and express love of the game.

In addition they recently joined over 200 other children for the ANZ Grassroots Day in April which promoted social inclusions with kids participating from NGOS and international schools and Krousar Thmey said at the time “A beautiful day of Rugby which has helped our deaf or hard of hearing of Phnom Penh Thmey to have fun and meet many children other associations or schools in Phnom Penh. Thanks Kampuchea Balopp!”

To continue to build their character, confidence and empowerment the next goal was to field a team to participate in the domestic competition for at least a round, that day finally arrived on Sunday May 18th, as a time was allocated for the Krousar Thmey kids to play their first game of competitive rugby in Cambodia on the finals day of the domestic Cambodian rugby championship.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we attended a practice session for Krousar Thmey & spoke to one of their rugby facilitators, Paorn Kosal, who explained his views on the success of the rugby program to date. He said he has found working with Kampuchea Balopp to be very interesting as we have been working with the kids for over 6 months now and the children learn about good health and good teamwork, he was very surprised that last Sunday they could play their first game, and the kids were very happy, exhausted but very happy.

He wants Kampuchea Ballop to develop more programs like this and build on the relationship as it been beneficial to the children. Asked about the benefits, he added through a translator “I can see the kids develop and thats very important for them; to meet many people through rugby and get more confidence in themselves. The children enjoy playing rugby, they feel good to join in with the other kids and go to Old Stadium (venue for the Grassroots and domestic 7s games) and enjoy the rugby with everyone and now they are all really looking forward to their second game.”

One of the kids to most quickly pick up the aspects of the game and is developing into a fine rugby player is 12 year old Rathi who is hearing impaired. Asked on how he feels on playing rugby with Kampuchea Balopp he uses sign language to indicate that he was very happy to play as its different from other sports and he gets to meet more people like (us) or the Kampuchea Balopp coaches and volunteers and he learns good skills and gets strong and he wants to continue to play. He was very excited and nervous to play his first game and hope there will be more he added.

Of equal importance the Krousar Thmey team played their first game against a combined and more experienced PSE/APECA team, none of whom had hearing impairments but this did not trouble Rathi or the rest of the team, in fact they appreciated the chance to be treated equally. At the game, the Kampuchea Balopp coaches remained on field to give hand signal instructions to the players when they couldn’t hear or understand the referees calls.

Everyone had put in a great effort and  they managed to draw the game, they scored their first tries, made their first tackles against opposition and gained the respect of everyone involved. There’s a steely determination in the eyes of young Rithi, but a boisterous grin too, rugby is now in their veins and we look forward to seeing them take to the field and encourage more kids of all ages and abilities to give the sport a go in Cambodia.

For more information on Krousar Thmey see their recently released video

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