Walking Rugby is a competitive, non-contact sport that offers many social, physical and mental health benefits, writes Kasey Rees.
The Dragons Community team, in partnership with the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB), established a Walking Pugby provision 18 months ago, for mental health patients to improve their well-being.
Before the pandemic hit, a weekly meet took place at Rodney Parade and Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Forensic Psychiatry Service at ABUHB, believes the programme helped many of his patients.
He said: “When some of our patients started the programme they were shy and easily distracted, but as time went on it helped their confidence grow and we saw an improvement in their mental health.
“Walking Rugby has that sense of belonging. It helps with weight management and loss, especially if patients are on medication. Physical exercise can help to improve hand-eye co-ordination skills.
“We had a player who was partially sighted who reaped the benefits that were involved and developed a sense of purpose.
“Due to the success of the provision, we opened it up to anybody who wanted to try walking rugby.”
Walking Rugby has grown fast and with no tackles, scrums, rucks or mauls the rules have been adapted to allow all abilities to play.
Players must pass the ball – not above shoulder height - after three seconds to keep the game moving. The aim of the game is to score tries by crossing the opponent’s try line with no kicking involved.
Mike Sage, Community Manager at Dragons, said: “Walking Rugby has become a very popular activity as it provides a friendly environment to play rugby and socialise with people who thought they would never play the game or their rugby days were behind them.
"It has been an inspiring development in rugby and provides a very important physical and mental well-being outlet for so many people.
“Furthermore, with the new support of our Headline Community partner, Centerprise International, who share our inclusive vision, we are looking to provide further inspiring opportunities for our Walking Rugby members.”
What was originally created to tackle loneliness and improve well-being has now spiralled into one of the most popular additions to the Welsh rugby scene with teams set up around the country on a regular basis.
Its popularity has even attracted the legendary former Wales and British & Irish Lions star JPR Williams, who took part in a first national walking rugby festival at Principality Stadium.
Although the target audience for Walking Rugby is the older generation, all fitness levels, ages, genders and physical limitations are considered.
The Dragons/ABUHB Walking Rugby provision has welcomed players with open arms into a community where discrimination is left at the door.
Walking Rugby at Rodney Parade has also been boosted with the addition of the Newport Mind charity, offering valuable mental health support to participants.
The provision is also providing a platform for the ‘Get Set to Go’ initiative to promote its mental health benefits.
Mike Sage added: “Many people thought they would never play rugby let alone represent the Dragons or play in national stadiums like the Principality Stadium.
“But by being part of a Walking Rugby team they have achieved those memories and accolades.”
For more information on Walking Rugby at Dragons click HERE email firstname.lastname@example.org
Walking Rugby has become a very popular activity as it provides a friendly environment to play rugby and socialise with people who thought they would never play the game or their rugby days were behind them...