A life-changing experience
As a young man in March 2008, meeting with Tag Rugby Development Trust (now Tag Rugby Trust) marked the beginning of a journey. This journey has shaped my personal values, brought a sense of belonging and, above all, given me a tangible path of endless possibilities with each step taken on the way.
The first step of was a big step. For four years – having been convinced by the man who introduced me to the programme Mr Tony Thompson – I worked as a volunteer. There are many lessons one can learn from volunteering, but for me this was an unforgettable, life-changing experience, which is still reflected today, and follows a consistent pattern… each time I have taken part in a tour or a programme for Tag Rugby Trust, it leaves me with an appetite to come back and do more.
A wealth of knowledge
Some key people played a role in this first big step, teaching me valuable lessons that have seen me grow from a schoolboy at 18, to a young man of 22. These people – Trevor Martingell, Chris Tapper, Dylan Reynold, John Turner and Chris Mwamba – treated me as their own son, with no shortage of love and unconditional care. They never shied away from an opportunity to mentor me when making decisions, not only to do with tag, but in all sorts of areas – imparting a wealth of knowledge to guide me as I grew.
What else did I learn? Well, here are a few life lessons… With Big Trev (Trevor Martingell) – it’s always buy biscuits, and have a latté, every second hour of the day from the time you wake up. With Taps (Chris Tapper) – never pack more than 2 sets of clothes when going on a Tag Rugby Trip, and wear the same shorts for 4 years! With Dylan Reynold – how to keep calm when your Dad, at 60, outshines you in warm-up exercises for the kids. With John Turner – how to lock your guests in the bedroom, so that they have to break down your door to get out. Finally, with Chris Mwamba – how to talk for a whole weekend with a beer in your hand and not lose your voice.
My list goes on and on, but these gentlemen not only taught me these priceless life skills… along with them there was endless laughter, happiness and joy, and these wonderful qualities have become a common denominator on my journey.
Launching the programme in Zimbabwe
Over time as a volunteer my passion for Tag Rugby grew, and in my distant thoughts I realised that what I really wanted was to have this programme in Zimbabwe. Taking my next big step, my thoughts became a reality, so that in the fifth year of my involvement with Tag Rugby Trust, the process of launching the programme here in Zimbabwe began to take shape.
When I look back, the preparation for launching the programme, on a personal level, had been constructed by my own range of experiences. In the last four years, through volunteering in various different countries, I have learnt how the programme works – how to relate to different types of people that we come across; building confidence over the years; acquiring the planning and organisation skills through being part of tours, as well as through leading tours; and how to conduct myself as leader. All of these lessons that have been learnt over the years as a volunteer have ultimately geared me for the challenges that I am experiencing now, as a member of the Tag Rugby Trust Zimbabwe leadership team.
When I joined Tag Rugby Development Trust there was no strapline across tour T-Shirts, there was just a number that signified which tour it was. This has changed over time, and now the strapline Building Futures through Rugby appears on every T-Shirt. This concept can sometimes harder to quantify than the numbers we used to have – it’s not always easy to explain what it actually means.
Influence the lives of others
For me it makes total sense because, from the first step I took, the four years of volunteering has built a career for me, with the opportunity to influence others’ lives through rugby. I am a testament to that strapline – the Tag Rugby Trust has shaped me from my first year out of school, and it continues to do so. Of course, I now get some remuneration for my work, but what is by far most valuable to me are the skills I have learnt within the programme – skills that have helped me to develop a fast-growing and successful Tag Rugby Zimbabwe. I have also grown as an individual, creating my own sets of values to guide me day-by-day, and Tag Rugby Trust has played a huge part in this.
Over my almost 10 years involvement with the Trust, there have been a lot of challenges that have found me operating out of my comfort zone. The change in my role over the years has meant that I’ve had to give up one aspect that brought me to the programme in the first place – coaching tag rugby. But now I get to “create” the coaches!
I’ve gone from enjoying simply going on tours, tournaments and coaching courses, to being the one who has to organise them all! This has not been easy, but with wonderful guidance locally from Ed Whitfield, Nikki Lashbrook, and from long hours on the phone with Tony Oulton, Martin Hansford and Rob Newman, I feel like I’m doing a good job. All these people have contributed immensely to my personal development as a manager for Tag Rugby in Zimbabwe, especially the Chairman who in the last couple of years has taken over the baton from the Zambia mentors I talked about above.
Each year a different challenge has presented itself, and Martin has become a front-runner in imparting the skills, techniques and mind-set needed to continue to develop me, from that schoolboy at 18 to a man of 28 – still young at heart, with a perpetual appetite to do more and more within the Tag Rugby Trust programme.