Melbourne Minxes - overcoming barriers to thrive
Melbourne Minxes now boast a host of girls' sides across a number of age groups.
It's been a rapid rise for the Melbourne Minxes rugby team since formation 12 years ago. Nick Woodland, Head of Women and Girls' rugby, explains how numbers have expanded at such a rate that the club is now keen to create an adult women's team within their female section.
How the Minxes started
Melbourne RFC was created in the 1980s, with the minis and junior sections following afterwards.
The final addition was the Minxes, created in 2004, when some of the girls playing mixed rugby were faced with having to travel hours to continue playing when they had to leave mixed rugby and play in an all-female side.
We now have 50 to 60 females taking advantage of the different platforms on offer.
The emphasis at training is on fun.
Rugby now offered at all ages
The club offers rugby for all ages from six to adults, while also offering all-female options to those who are young enough to play mixed, along with RFU recognised girls sides at Under-13, Under-15 and Under-18s.
We are one of only a few clubs in the country to offer this option to allow primary school-aged girls two options to find rugby, enjoy it with other girls and hopefully continue through the age groups.
We are also currently offering touch rugby for 14-year-olds and over, plus adults, for those looking to avoid the contact side of the sport, as well as all-female rugby fitness sessions, in our aims to create a women's side.
Working with Chellaston Academy
Melbourne RFC are currently a part of the Melbourne Sporting Partnership, which is building an amazing facility in the town.
However, due to the size of the children's section we currently hold their sessions at Chellaston Academy.
This agreement was put in place several years ago and we feel that both the Academy and the club benefit from working together to offer rugby in our area.
The Minxes have managed to compete fro attention in a football heartland.
Vying for attention in a traditional football area
Speaking as a coach, I would say that where I am originally from in the West Country, rugby is huge and clubs can be three miles apart but be able to run a full set of age-groups and side. But Derby isn't well known for its rugby. Football, yes, but not rugby.
Add to that our aims to get girls playing, and we are faced with some real difficulties because not many people know or understand rugby.
We can often get girls interested through links with schools, but we then have to convince parents that their daughters won't be crunched in the same way that they may see on the TV or on a social media video.
A welcoming environment
The Minxes will soon have access to brand new MSP facilities.
From a club's point of view, the lack of facilities compared to other clubs has been a challenge, but we have worked hard to create an environment where players and parents want to come and be a part of it.
We have worked hard to get good coaches on courses to become even better coaches – and it helps that many of these people are parents looking to make a difference to these children.
We are now at a stage where we can offer good facilities with Chellaston Academy's support and, as of next season, the facilities in Melbourne as part of the MSP making for a complete package.
Enjoyment above winning
In some sports the winning is the best part, but we believe as a club that rugby isn't like that as a sport. Rugby is all about being a part of a family, a group of people who share a passion.
When we step on to that pitch we want our players to be better than they were last week, last season or the last session.
As they get older we hope that, due to that ethos and environment when they were younger, they can use the skills taught to try and win but - and this is key to rugby - if they don't, then they shake hands and come of the pitch with respect for the opposition for being better on the day.
Most of all, we want players to have the ability to learn from it and become better as a result of losing. Learning is a process of experiencing things and making them better, even the bits that worked, and that is the same in life and in rugby.
Some of the Minxes at awards night.
Success by a variety of means
Over the years, we have been successful in different ways. We have had age groups win county finals, at senior level we have had years of promotion and at both levels we have had players progress through county levels and even into Premiership and International levels.
Some years we have just been a rugby club providing good rugby. Like many clubs, it is the people who make our club successful.
From the past chairmen who have steered the mass of volunteers using their passion to make a difference, to the players and parents who are the reason we put in so many hours, it's a joint effort.
The chairlady and her volunteers - who now put in the effort to continue that drive and ethos going, while finding ways to become better - are ensuring a bright future is in prospect.
Volunteers have been the lifeblood of the club.
Without volunteers, there would be no club
Without the volunteers we wouldn't have a rugby club - that is no exaggeration - and the research and figures back that up.
Most of our coaches will put in around three to five hours a week from September through to May or June. Some will offer summer training, adding another one to two months onto the season.
We always host social events, because that is half of what rugby is, that adds several more hours.
We now run one of the biggest all-female events in the UK at the end of every April and that is solely run by parents and coaches - over a Bank Holiday too, when they could be doing something far easier.
You soon realise that some coaches and managers put in 200 to 300 hours in a year, if not more.
Successful events have helped build up the club infrastructure.
So much planned for the future
There's so much going to be happening, it's hard to know where to begin. First, there is the creation of the Academy, where the link between juniors and adult rugby is being offered with more consistency and focus to help young adults' transition into adult rugby easier.
We're also continuing to develop those delivering the rugby so that they can get all that they want out of the sport as well as creating the Ladies side to complete the RFU-recognised female-only section.
The MSP facilities will make a huge difference, as it will give the club a platform to continue to build from. Having an amazing facility to complement the amazing work done on the field can only help our club progress. We try to never stand still as a club.
The Minxes are looking forward to a bright future.