Franchise owner Craig Hunter outlines his keys to didi rugby success

Children run around with balls in their hands at Reading Rugby Club's didi rugby session

Two years after launching the didi rugby Reading franchise, co-owner Craig Hunter explains why it has been such a big success and outlines opportunities to those thinking of getting involved.

“We are very pleased with our journey having started it all off with one days a week at one club, Reading RFC,” he said.

“After one month, I decided to go three days a week at work to develop didi rugby and a few months later, I went full time on didi because the opportunity seemed too good.

“It was a big change for me and the family but I bit the bullet and it has been both hard-work and very enjoyable.

“We are now doing 14 classes a week in the area and are working with three rugby clubs: Reading, Aldermaston and Thatcham.

“Our aim with those clubs is to help grow their minis section and, for example, in Reading’s Under-6s, 14 of their players are from didi classes last year. Our links with clubs enable the children to move seamlessly up to tag rugby when they become too old for didi rugby classes.

didi HQ team

“The siblings of those kids often come along and join in too.”

Craig runs the Reading output with co-owners Donna Clark and Clare Swadling and, with coaches like Umit Akyildiz and Sam Treverton taking on plenty of responsibility too, it’s a well-oiled team.

“We are also in 19 schools doing in-school classes or after school school sessions and we have had five other ones approach us recently too. Word of mouth is key and the didi rugby social media is great too,” Craig continued.

“The job i was doing before was great but I was ready for a change and rugby is my passion. I always wanted to do something like this and a number of my friends have come and got involved too which is great.

“It’s a real team effort in Reading and the didi HQ team have been great support as well. There is fantastic leadership here at didi rugby.”

Craig Hunter

didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen said Craig and the rest of his team had done an amazing job.

“Craig, Donna and everyone involved with didi rugby Reading have been superb at spreading didi rugby’s values and engaging with clubs, schools and the local community,” she said.

“They have worked very hard to grow their provision and have shown just what can be achieved with a didi rugby franchise.

“They have proactive and positive all along and it has been a pleasure for us all at didi rugby HQ to see their growth over the last two years. I am sure there is even more to come in the Reading and Berkshire area.”

  • If you would like an informal chat about the opportunities available to coach or own a didi rugby franchise, email info@didirugby.com or find out more on our website’s ‘franchising‘ section

Read more: 12 Reasons why you should launch a didi rugby franchise

Watch: VIDEO – didi rugby franchising can be a full-time or part-time venture…

Read more: New didi coach Jenny is also the only Level 6 female referee in Leicestershire.

Watch: See what Craig Hunter thought of didi rugby during his early days with the franchise…

 

 

Level 6 referee Jenny to lead new didi rugby classes at Birstall Rugby Club

didi rugby Birstall coach Jenny Burrows holds up a newspaper featuring a story about herself

A coach with a difference will be heading up new didi rugby classes at Birstall Rugby Club in Leicestershire from 21 March.

And there is unlikely to be any questioning of decisions made my coach Jenny Burrows!

The 34-year ex-player is now the only Level 6 female rugby referee in Leicestershire and can usually be found around the pitches of the Midlands with a whistle in tow.

Her Saturday mornings are now going to be taken up by leading new didi rugby classes at Birstall RFC in Leicestershire after an idea became reality very quickly thanks to the support of didi rugby’s founder and CEO, Vicky Macqueen.

Birstall Rugby Club

“I had been coaching didi rugby at Shepshed and Hinckley working with Vicky and then I spoke to someone at Birstall Rugby Club and they said that they would love to have something like that around,” said Jenny.

“At first it was just an idea but I spoke to Vicky about it and things have come together very quickly. She has been brilliant and we are going to start classes on Saturday 21 March.

“I always go and support Birstall anyway as a club so it is great to go and give something back.”

Jenny played in the backs for Stoneygate RFC in Leicestershire for 10 years but as injuries began to take their toll, she decided to take up refereeing instead and has never looked back, progressing to become the only Level 6 women ref in the county.

Birstall didi coach Jenny Burrows (centre) with a class of didi rugby children
Birstall didi coach Jenny Burrows (centre) with a class of didi rugby children

New venue

“I really enjoy still being out there in the middle,” said Jenny. “I do mainly men’s games and have never had anything bad happen to me in eight years of officiating.”

Jenny’s latest challenge though will be with subjects of a much younger variety – and she cannot wait to get stuck in.

“didi rugby is great because, not only does it teach kids basic skills, it also teaches them the core rugby values which have been important to me,” she said.

Referee

“Seeing how the kids respond to that is brilliant. I have played and refereed for years and wanted a new challenge alongside being an official because I like the idea of giving back to the sport I love.

“And Vicky has been brilliant in making this happen. Her passion is infectious and it’s unreal how much you can learn from one person.”

Vicky said she was excited to open a venue at yet another rugby club. didi rugby partner with clubs all over the country to provide a pipeline of youngsters to hopefully continue their rugby journey with those clubs when they become too old for didi classes.

“I am so chuffed that Jenny Burrows has joined the didi team,” said Vicky.

Rugby coach

“She is a wonderful ambassador for rugby in general and she shows all the values as a person and a coach that we would expect from someone involved with didi.

“She is enthusiastic, motivated and really wants children to succeed and help them develop.

“I was so pleased when she decided to take on classes at her local club. She really is a wonderful coach and person and a great addition to the didi family.”

Classes will get underway at 9.00am on Saturday 21 March at Birstall Rugby Club with all age groups going right through until 11.00am.

 

didi ambassadors – Sam Vesty

Sam Vesty is a didi rugby ambassador

Former England, Leicester, Bath and Worcester star, Sam Vesty, has become a didi rugby ambassador.

Now enjoying his role as Northampton Saints’ attack coach in the Gallagher Premiership, Sam says he ‘shares the same values’ as didi rugby and wanted to get involved and help spread those values whenever he can.

With three children of his own, Sam says he knows all about the importance of getting youngsters involved in activity and fun at a young age.

“I am privileged and honoured to become a didi rugby ambassador,” said the 38-year-old.

“I wanted to do this because I share the same values as didi rugby of getting kids active and having fun. Classes can also be used as a development tool to help children gain in confidence.

“You can also learn a lot of life skills through rugby like team work, discipline and respect, and these can be carried over into any walk of life.

“So come and join us, find your local didi rugby class and book your child in to enjoy a free taster session at any venue around the country.”

Sam Vesty

didi rugby founder and CEO, Vicky Macqueen, has known Sam a long time from his days as a fourth generation of Leicester Tigers players.

“Sam is a fantastic person, was a very talented player and is now proving himself to be one fo the best coaches in the country,” she said.

“He has very strong family values and has always been very active with his own children: Harry, Max and Charlotte.

“We are honoured to have him join the didi family and can’t wait to get him involved in what we do.”

 

didi cricket seeks new venues after successful taster sessions

Children talk to a man wearing a didi cricket tee-shirt

didi cricket has got off to a great start with four sessions at Stoke Orchard Community Centre near Cheltenham producing plenty of fun, laughter and no little skill!

Coach Keith Smith is the first didi rugby coach in the country to pilot the new classes and he has been delighted with what he has seen.

With similar principles being applied from his didi rugby classes across the Cheltenham area, sports lover Keith has seen children extend their sporting prowess with fun and games involving a bat and ball this time.

“We were absolutely full for the first week with 30 kids turning up for a taster session,” said Keith.

“With so many of them coming back in the following weeks too, I think they clearly enjoyed themselves and the kids were better than I expected.

didi cricket fun

“It was great to see so many of them getting a quick grasp of hitting a ball after I had taught them how to hold a bat and the parent engagement was lovely to see as well.

“I had some really positive comments afterwards and am looking forward to carrying on the classes now.”

Regular classes will get underway from Sunday 1 March at Stoke Orchard Community Centre and Keith is looking for more settings to expand his list of venues and extra coaches to help oversee the sessions.

If any cricket club in the Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest of Dean areas are interested in hosting didi cricket sessions and maybe open up a pathway to provide possible future members of their club, please get in touch via our Facebook page or emailing keith.smith@didirugby.com.

Read more: didi cricket sessions in school get wonderful reaction

Book: Your child in for a didi cricket class

Watch: See how much fun didi cricket can bring…

 

Wheelchair rugby star Coach Umit coaches didi rugby

didi rugby coach Umit Akyildiz is in his wheelchair holding a didi rugby ball

didi rugby Reading’s latest coaching acquisition is causing a storm.

Umit Akyildiz is an inspirational member of the Berkshire Banshees Wheelchair rugby team.

He is also inspiring young children to have fun and learn new skills leading didi rugby classes too.

Co-owner of didi rugby Reading is Craig Hunter and he is also the chairman of the Banshees.

“I got to know Umit through my involvement with the Banshees,” said Craig.

“He was keen to get involved in didi rugby so I took him to didi rugby classes as a support coach.

“He has been working closely with me and he has brought so much to the classes.

“Umit is a very positive, happy person and he is great with the kids. They absolutely love him.”

Wheelchair rugby

And, as far as Umit is concerned, the feeling is mutual.

“Because of my rugby background I really enjoy being part of didi rugby because it gives me a sense of achievement helping others reach their goals,” he said.

“didi rugby is great for the children’s development because it helps them learn better ways to cope with the highs and lows of life. It also helps children develop patience and rugby skills too.

“Being the first coach didi rugby Reading coach to do so from a wheelchair gives me a sense of accomplishment and knowing that I have achieved something that is so important to my life.”

didi rugby coach Umit Akyildiz is in his wheelchair holding a didi rugby ball
didi rugby coach Umit Akyildiz

Wheelchair rugby is a fusion of ice hockey, handball and rugby which not only involves speed and chair contact but also requires tactical intelligence.

Eight rolling substitutes make up squads of 12, with four players on the court at any one time.

The sport is for male and female disabled athletes with the emphasis on fun, excitement and inclusion, particularly for players with higher levels of impairment.

Club sessions are open to anyone interested in learning more about the game, including volunteers. For further information, please contact berkswr@gmail.com or craigchairman@gmail.com

Acti-Fit have become didi rugby’s official education partner

Acti-Fit director Ellis Bailey speaks at the didi rugby Conference

Acti-Fit have become didi rugby’s official education partner.

As a result, they will help to provide new coaches for didi rugby’s ever-growing class numbers and offer new and existing coaches the opportunity to gain a professional, chartered qualification on the job.

Based in the Midlands and driven by a host of passionate people, Acti-Fit are on a mission to push the boundaries of coaching by harnessing the power of sport and education.

With a team of experts, they provide 360 coaching consultancy, to support coaches with their educational development.

Acti-Fit director Ellis Bailey speaks at the didi rugby Conference
Acti-Fit director Ellis Bailey speaks at the didi rugby Conference

They embrace an ethos of getting people active and having fun through physical activity and it is an ethos which fits perfectly with the mantra that drives didi rugby and its classes for children up and down the country.

Through their knowledge and support networks, Acti-Fit will help provide didi with the right coaches at the right time for classes across the UK, in areas which are looking to expand.

This will provide not only more dedicated staff to support didi rugby’s ever-growing numbers of young members but will also allow those coaches to gain a professional qualification while doing so.

The Acti-Fit team promise to make those coaches become the best coach they can be and they will also give them the opportunity to become chartered in their respective field.

didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen says she is delighted to confirm the partnership with Acti-Fit.

Personal development

“We have been chatting to them for a long time about having the same ethos, mentality and goals of getting kids active across the country,” she said. “It has been great to hear their ideas about making people better coaches and managers and putting them onto formal qualifications.

“We are always keen to make our didi coaches the best they can be with ongoing personal development.

“There will be a clear pathway to develop the children, their classes and the coaches who lead them.

“The partnership will also provide a clear pathway for didi coaches and franchise holders to develop and learn while they are on the job.”

didi rugby already teaches a framework which fits in with rugby’s governing body’s guidelines and with Vicky being one of only a handful of RFU Level 4 female coaches in the UK, youngsters who attend didi classes are always in safe hands.

Acti-Fit Partnership

“We are confident that the formal qualifications that Acti-Fit are adding to our coaching will stand us apart from other providers and ensure that customers get the very best from a session when they attend didi rugby with their children.

“It will be a very healthy partnership and it is exciting for me to be able to give our franchisees some great training which will, in turn, support them to support their loyal customers.

Ellis Bailey is a director at Acti-Fit and he says that he quickly realised there was lots of synergy between the two companies soon after meeting Vicky.

“When we set up Acti-Fit, we wanted to do something to make a difference,” said Ellis.

“Like didi rugby, we have a lot of things we feel passionately about like getting kids active and healthy and trying to better the quality of coaching in the UK through education.

Coaching pathway

“We were happy to start a didi franchise as part of the partnership too and we also wanted to offer franchise owners the opportunity to grow with an educational coaching pathway.

“Whenever we discuss going into a partnership with anyone, we want to invest in people and what I saw from didi rugby was a group of people with a genuine passion for what they believe in.

“It’s not a made-up story. It’s genuinely what they want to do. Vicky is a genuine person with a huge passion for sport and wanting to work for the community.

“Our partnership really is a match made in heaven.”

  • Watch: didi cricket delights school children in Gloucestershire…

 

 

didi cricket school session fun at Highnam Primary Academy

didi cricket coach Keith Smith has fun with a class of children in a sports hall

The spread of didi cricket is continuing at pace with children at a primary school in Gloucestershire the latest to enjoy a fun-filled session.

Highnam C of E Primary Academy provided a very hospitable welcome and some of their pupils showed some fantastic hand/eye co-ordination while enjoying games with coach, Keith Smith.

“didi cricket has been evolving for a number of months now and, as a didi rugby coach in the area, I have been excited to be able to offer this new sport too,” said Keith.

“It’s great to get into Highnam School and tie that in with the launch of some pilot classes in Stoke Orchard in late January/early February.

“It is a different sport but the same ethos as didi rugby. The games are different but we are looking at getting kids active and having fun with sport.

“So far, it has been going down an absolute storm.

Highnam Primary Academy

Steve Dean is the headteacher at Highnam C of E Primary Academy and he said he was happy to welcome didi cricket into the school.

“I am a keen advocate of cricket myself and play for the local Highnam team,” said Mr Dean. “So I want to see cricket being developed in schools locally.

“Maybe the children will end up playing locally in years to come, or for the county, or even for England.”

  • WATCH: See didi cricket in action at Stoke Orchard Community Centre:

  • WATCH: What is didi rugby?

A dozen didi rugby Reading children join Reading RFC minis

A dozen didi rugby stars in a group at Reading RFC

Reading RFC minis have received a huge boost in playing numbers with a dozen children joining the club having graduated from didi rugby classes in the area.

A huge part of didi rugby’s ethos is to make formal links with local clubs to provide a seamless pathway for children to continue playing the game after they become too old for didi rugby classes.

A dozen didi rugby stars in a group at Reading RFC
A dozen didi rugby stars in a group at Reading RFC having moved up from didi classes at the age of 6.

Not only does it provide our didi stars a chance to move straight into tag rugby, it also gives local clubs a stream of youngsters coming into their minis set-up with the skills and confidence already there to hit the ground running.

didi rugby Reading have links with many clubs in Berkshire and their latest group to move up to Under-7s rugby at Reading RFC has delighted everyone involved.

Reading RFC

didi rugby Reading’s Craig Hunter said he was ‘delighted’ to see so many graduates move up to Reading RFC after a couple of children made the move their previous year.

“It’s great to see them want to carry on their rugby experience and the 12 of them have already gelled nicely up at Reading,” said Craig.

“Their parents are pleased and we have had really good feedback from Reading too so it’s lovely to see the numbers we are providing them increasing.”

didi rugby Reading franchise owners Donna Clark and Craig Hunter coach at Aldermaston RFC
didi rugby Reading’s Craig Hunter (right)

didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen said this was another example of didi rugby classes working well with their local communities.

“It is important for all of us at didi rugby to support the local community as much as we can and the partnerships we create with local clubs are very important to what we are trying to do,” she said.

“Here are 12 children who have come through the didi rugby set-up and are now too old for our ‘seniors’ classes. So it’s heart-warming to see them move up to a partner club like Reading and know they are in safe hands to continue learning, having fun, growing in confidence and building up that camaraderie that rugby provides.

Developing skills

“Craig, Donna, Clare and the rest of the team at our didi rugby Reading classes have done a great job of capturing these children’s imagination and developing their skills and confidence over the past couple of years.

“We will all be watching their kids’ progress with Reading RFC and wish them all the best of luck. We are always very proud of our didi rugby graduates.”

  • Watch didi rugby Reading coaches Donna and Clare explain why they have so much fun during their classes…

didi rugby Sutton Coldfield to launch at Sutton Coldfield RFC

didi rugby Sutton Coldfield's logo

didi rugby Sutton Coldfield will be throwing a launch party to open its doors to the public on Saturday 29 February.

A friendly welcome is guaranteed at Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club and lots of fun and games will be taking place on the day.

Children from the age of 18 months to 6 years of age are welcome and parents are invited to book a place for their child by visiting the didi rugby website.

Regular classes will then begin at the same venue with three separate age groups: 18 months to 3 years, 3 years to 4 years and, finally, 4 years to 6 years.

Head coach of didi rugby Sutton Coldfield, Dave Lote has a huge passion for the sport having worked for the RFU and coached the sport for many years.

He also works for a company called Acti-fit who have just opened an exciting partnership with didi rugby to provide coaches and extended professional coaching qualifications to the men and women who deliver amazing classes up and down the country every week.

There’s more on that, later.

Exciting opportunity

“It’s a really exciting opportunity to get involved with didi rugby,” said Dave.

“We are launching our classes in Sutton Coldfield very soon and we want children to have fun and gain confidence while we deliver our sessions.

“These are exciting times for us.”

didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen has known Dave for a long time and worked with him before.

“I am so pleased that didi rugby Sutton Coldfield is launching on February 29,” said Vicky.

“Dave was one of my fellow coaches when we coached at Lichfield together and I have worked alongside him in various roles as a rugby coach educator too.

didi rugby Sutton Coldfield

“I know he is the perfect person to support didi rugby’s progress and development in Sutton Coldfield.

“He is so passionate about rugby and getting children active and he has drive, enthusiasm and a really positive attitude. I cannot see a better person to take the Sutton Coldfield area by storm and do some really good work in the local community.

“And it’s great that the partnership with Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club offers a pipeline through to kids rugby when children become too old for didi rugby classes.”

Four didi rugby coaches go head-to-head in big club clash

Katie Heirene, Ros Wiggins and Mollie Latham put their thumbs up and smile

Four didi rugby head coaches and franchise owners will be going head-to-head on the pitch when Crewe & Nantwich Ladies face Kenilworth Women in the Intermediate Plate on Saturday 9 February.

The owner of didi rugby’s South Warwickshire classes, Kiri Bennett will be making the trip north with her Kenilworth team to take on a Crewe & Nantwich side that contains both Ros Wiggins and Mollie Latham who are coaches in the Stone and Stafford and Lichfield and Cannock areas.

Katie Heirene, Ros Wiggins and Mollie Latham put their thumbs up and smile
Crewe and Nantwich Ladies trio Katie Heirene, Ros Wiggins and Mollie Latham prepare to face fellow didi rugby coach Kiri Bennett in a cup match

The home side will also feature Katie Heirene, who runs both the didi rugby Crewe and Nantwich area as well as classes in Chester.

And with the home side defending the title they won last year, there will be plenty on the line.

Kiri and her Kenilworth team-mates ply their trade in Women’s Championship Midlands 2 and are currently in fourth place, just one point off second.

Seven wins

Crewe & Nantwich play in Women’s Championship North 2 and are also enjoying a superb season with seven wins in 10 games taking them up to second in the table.

Ros says it is a game they have all been looking forward to for a long time.

“Having come second  in the 2018 Intermediate Plate and then going on to win it last year, we are really excited to go through the stages this year and see if we can take the title again,” she said.

“And what has made it even more exciting is the prospect of playing against our didi rugby team-mate, Kiri in this round.”

Kiri added: “I am really excited for the cup match against Crewe and Nantwich. It will be great to play against some fellow didi owners,” she said.

“We are at a similar place in our leagues so it will be really interesting, and I’m sure, very competitive!”

  • Video: England captain and didi rugby ambassador Sarah Hunter speaks at didi rugby’s annual conference…