Two years ago the IRFU launched the ‘Spirit of Rugby’ initiative bringing together a series of practical educational programmes that embody and promote the core values of the game – Respect, Inclusivity, Integrity, Fun and Excellence.
At the weekend they made that real for hundreds of coaches and administrators with the Sprit of Rugby Conference at the Aviva Stadium.
It was of course a massive weekend on the pitch with each of the four provinces securing wins in Europe but the sessions at the conference were focused more on the building blocks that are an essential part of those triumphs.
That is always the mark of a successful sporting culture when you are looking at the foundations for the next generation with as much of an interest as you are celebrating the achievements of those who currently wear the jersey.
The focus of the conference was very much on youth and ‘age grade’ rugby with concern expressed for how we treat the physical as well as the mental needs of young people playing the game.
The importance of understanding the effort being asked of young people across multiple sports was central to presentations from John O’Sullivan and Dr Anne Marie Waldron.
Many of the themes were an echo of the conversations happening across the city at Croke Park for the Sky Sports sponsored GAA Games Development Conference.
Understanding the impacts of training and playing on young people who might be playing multiple sports, and learning from each of them, was also touched upon and given a perfect example on the other side of the world that night.
Patrick Mahomes has been the star of this year’s NFL season as a quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is the son of an All-Star pitcher in Baseball and played both sports as well as basketball through to the highest levels all the way into College.
What he learned from each made him better at each and one of the best there is in the American Football that ultimately became his choice.
We see it all the time across Irish sport as well with Rugby, Gaelic Football and basketball giving endless examples of the benefits of a multi-sport upbringing.
In order for that to work, it has to be understood at every coaching level and the understanding of the load on young players was an important central theme to the Spirit of Rugby conference.
It was a strong first year for the event, well supported by coaches around the country and at different ages.
These are heady days for Irish Rugby but its good to see that there is such a focus on preparing for the future as well as celebrating the present.