Approaching the clubhouse on a cold but sunny Saturday, I was greeted by a rather exhausted looking Club Chairman and 3rd Team Captain, Jim Stacey. “Struggling for numbers again” I asked? “No, it’s typical, I’m taking nearly 30 players away with me this week” came the reply, as Jim trudged past me off towards his car. It was quite an eye-opening sight. One would have assumed that Jim would have been skipping off into the distance with delight at the turnout (particularly as it meant he wouldn’t be required to play for the full 80 minutes), but instead he looked rather disappointed. But the issue wasn’t the numbers, it was in fact the sheer volume of players that had turned up that morning, unannounced, looking for a game.
Up until a few months ago, our 2nd and 3rd XV had pre-arranged fixtures, so people turning up at 1.30pm on a Saturday looking for a game was actually a 3rd XV Captains dream. From starting the day with 9 players, 5 minutes before kick-off he had scrapped together a starting 15, and, if he was lucky, even 1 substitute.
However, this has now changed and the 3rd XV are now part of the flexible fixture brigade. This essentially means, sort yourself out with a fixture during the week. But therein lies the problem. When you have spent most of Monday and Tuesday sending out over 100 hundred text messages at your own expense asking for a simple ‘Yes or No’ reply, to only to get 7 replies of “yes”, then it’s impossible to ring up an opposition team and ask them if they fancy a fixture on Saturday. Unfortunately, with time running out, the 3rd XV Captain has no choice but to bite the bullet and decide that there will be no 3rd team fixture that weekend.
Finally the day we have all looked forward to then rolls around. The 7 players who said they were available for a 3rd team game have been squeezed into the 2nd XV squad and everyone is told that the Captain will try his best to get them some game time. After all, that’s why we are here, it’s what gets us through a difficult working week.
But then suddenly, in the distance, comes a black silhouette of a figure clutching a bag and walking through the pearly gates off of Grimsbury Road. The figure approaches. “Any chance of a game this week?” he asks. “We’ll do our best, jump in a car” says the Cap. Suddenly another voice is heard, “I have my boots with me, you need me anywhere?” Sure, squeeze in the back with him.
Just as he is about to leave, the 3rd XV is approached by the Club Secretary. “Struggling for numbers again?” he asks. “No, it’s typical, I’m taking nearly 30 players away with me this week” comes the reply. Don’t get us wrong, we love it when players grab their kick bag on a Saturday morning and drive to the club to help boost numbers, but if everyone is to get a decent run-out, then we need to arrange the fixtures.
It’s baffling to think that less than 10 seconds within someone’s week could make such a huge difference to the club and its members. Everyone has heard of the butterfly effect, well never has it been more pertinent to this subject. A reply of ‘yes’ to a Captains text message on a Tuesday causes the following outstanding wave of events:
1) A 3rd XV fixture becomes one step closer to being arranged.
2) 15 players come one step closer to enjoying a game of rugby on Saturday.
3) 30 extra players purchase an after match drink from the bar (inc opposition)& supporters!
4) The club generates 15 times more revenue in weekly subs.
5) This increased revenue from subs and beer builds week on week in the clubs bank account.
6) The expansion of our clubhouse and improvement of our facilities happens a lot sooner due to the increase in revenue.
7) The shiny new clubhouse, large changing rooms and brand new training floodlights becomes a beacon for rugby players in the area and as a result we start to attract more players.
8) The clubs results improve, we climb the table, even gain promotion. Our new stature within the leagues attracts yet more players. Everyone at the club is now loving their rugby and can’t wait for Saturday to roll around for the chance of another sweet victory with their comrades…
…All that from 1 text message saying ‘Yes’. Incredible don’t you think?
So what is the cause of the lack of player response? Well the ‘Old Heads’ of the club are quick to point the finger at Mobile Telecommunication Devices (Mobile phones to you and I).
“Back in the day you had no choice but to answer your house phone as it could have been anyone. Once you were on the phone, you couldn’t say no…..then we had you. Now, it’s far too easy for people to look at a text and ignore it or choose not to answer a call from certain people” – Various Captains.
It’s hard to find argument with that logic, the mobile phone probably is causing a lot of the issues, when in fact it should be the one thing that actually makes selection easier! If every single person who got that text message from their Captain replied yes or no, or even gave a percentage of how likely they are to be available (we know work is an issue for some), instead of choosing to ignore it, then you really could make a huge difference to the club. And if you don’t get a text message from the club, this isn’t because you are rubbish and not required, it’s because there has been an oversight. Don’t get stroppy and throw your toys out the pram, simply text “Oi you dipstick, I’m available for this Saturday”. The onus is not just on the Captains to chase up availability. Our Captains have work, have families, have other responsibilities, just like the rest of us, so making their life easier goes a long way.
Of course I write this because I care. This club saved me from a pit of boredom and misery for which I will always be grateful, and it is why I spend so much of my spare time trying to help improve and develop the club where I can, and I can safely say this goes for the other members of the Committee as well. But you don’t have to donate your precious time as well to improve the club (although all help is appreciated), just do this one thing, and reply to the Captains text messages. The Committee and I will continue to strive to improve the club off the field, but you can do this one simple step to help our beautiful club flourish on the field.