Calvin’s Story

Autism-Friendly Rugby

Introduction – Calvin’s Coach

“As Calvin was non-verbal when he first came down, we as coaches had difficulty communicating and managing him.  He was a little rough with some of the other children in the session.   At first, he would not engage with coaches and the other kids much, he would tend to play on his own.

“Calvin has really progressed though.  He loves coming to rugby and engages with everyone at the sessions.   He is also much better at communicating his needs and attempting to chat with the coaches and other players. He is still boisterous but now it is much easier to calm him down if he gets over stimulated, so he does not become too rough when he is playing.

“We also feel his concentration/attention span has improved.  When he first started at rugby, we would try to get him involved with the game but he would engage for so long then start playing by himself.  He now joins in a lot more and tries to play the games the way they are meant to be played.

“We could get him playing the games before but he would very quickly stop and just start running around whereas now he will play for longer – it’s a sign his concentration and attention span have improved.”

How long have you played rugby?

Calvin first played rugby in April 2019 through the autism friendly sessions with Strathmore Community Rugby Trust.

What do you like most about rugby?

Making new friends even with the coaches and joining in all the fun games

How does playing rugby benefit you?

You get to burn off plenty of energy and it has also improved communication as well as behaviour with others.

What is your best rugby memory?

Chasing the coaches and trying to cover them in mud.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying rugby?

It’s a great place for both parents and kids to develop new friendships, all the kids have so much fun in a relaxed environment giving them the opportunity to be themselves and to develop in so many ways.

Notes from Parent 

Calvin attends the sessions with his brother Jamie.  Calvin has a diagnosis of Autism, Jamie is neurotypical and does not have a diagnosis of autism.

Calvin does not take part in any other physical activities outside school as there is nothing locally for him to take part in.

His behaviour towards other children has improved a lot, he used to be quite rough but he understands better that he can’t be as boisterous.  He also joins in a lot more with other children now and is more friendly.  The rugby sessions have helped him interact with other children.  He has never really had the chance to mix with people before so this has given him the opportunity to do that.  Because the sessions are on all year round too and not just a summer programme for example, he has a bond with the other players and the coaches and has made some real friendships.

They have been brilliant for me.  I get peace from the two of them for an hour.  I enjoy chatting with the other mums and dads.  I have developed friendships with them.  We use the time to get advice from each other and share experiences or even just to let off steam.

For Jamie I can see his confidence has definitely improved.  Jamie has always been Calvin’s caretaker but while they are at rugby, he gets to be himself and play.  He is more relaxed.

Rugby has honestly been great for the kids, they love it and it has helped them improve on their behaviour, socialising and communication skills. Also, to be able to be themselves, grow confidence and have the opportunity to make new friends.