England captain and didi rugby ambassador Sarah Hunter spoke passionately about her career and the personal drive she has needed throughout it when she addressed franchise owners at didi rugby’s annual conference in Hinckley.
The 34-year-old, who has an incredible 119 caps ahead of this year’s upcoming Women’s Six Nations has been a didi rugby ambassador since the early days of the business.
She played the early days of her career with didi rugby CEO and founder Vicky Macqueen when Vicky was coming to the end of her time as an international.
The Loughborough Lightning No.8 said she was happy to break away from her preparations for the Six Nations to address franchise owners from across the UK and give them some ideas of what it takes to get to the top – and try to stay there.
“We spoke about my experience in rugby and how I have managed to achieve a few things but we also spoke about the setbacks I have been through and how sport and business often correlate on that front,” said Sarah.
“It is often a rollercoaster ride overcoming setbacks and then setting goals to remind yourself what you want to achieve and how you are going to get it back on track.
“I feel passionately about didi rugby. It was an easy decision to get involved with it after I had heard Vicky’s ideas.
“When I saw her vision, that sold it for me. Not just for the fundamentals around getting young children to be fit and active – but also to help them interact with other kids. That bigger picture is very important for young children.
“I love rugby and have played since I was nine but I didn’t have that opportunity to play it at a young age. For young children to learn all these skills at didi rugby and catch the rugby bug is important.
“It was amazing that Sarah found the time to come and speak to our didi franchise holders at such a busy time for her,” said Vicky.
“She has always been a fantastic advocate of what we are trying to do and we are very grateful for her continued support not only to our classes but also our franchise holders and coaches who are implementing the vision we have to get children active while having fun and growing in confidence.”
Howzat? didi cricket classes are launching this month
didi cricket classes are being launched in January with a whole new set of skills available for your child to learn in a fun and relaxed environment.
Following the success of didi rugby over the past 18 months, cricket classes will be lovingly taught against a backdrop of similar goals and values.
The first didi cricket classes are being launched at Stoke Orchard Community Centre, Gloucestershire on 26 January and will be run by an already popular figure in the area, coach Keith Smith.
Fun, games and activities will have a cricket theme for children aged from 18 months to 6 years and involve bats, balls and stumps that are especially made for playing with kids.
Get your kids active, improve their hand/eye coordination, social skills and self confidence in a friendly environment with fully qualified coaches. Held in a great indoor location with a cafe and shop.
If you would like to find out more information or book your child in for a FREE taster session at the Stoke Orchard launch, contact head coach email@example.com.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for national information on didi cricket.
Watch out for more didi cricket venues popping up during 2020 and with limited space available at new sessions, if you would like to secure your child’s place at a class in your area, please email us to register your interest.
didi rugby Reading coaching duo Donna Clark and Clare Swadling explain why their classes are both ‘hilarious’ and ‘very fulfilling’.
Along, with Craig Hunter, the duo have helped build an incredible success story in the Berkshire and Reading area not only for their franchise but for the hundreds of local children at schools and classes in the area.
Those kids are now benefitting from the values that didi rugby promotes and enjoying being active, having fun and gaining in confidence.
Speaking at one of their partner clubs, Reading RFC, ahead of a series of didi rugby sessions, Clare said: “We just want to make sure that the children have a chance to play rugby.
“Running around after small people is hilarious and very fulfilling. They are brilliant to be around and they just love you during the classes. It’s like having a group of puppy dogs! For those 40 minutes, they just idolise you.
50 Classes operating
“I love it here and the atmosphere is so different from where I have come from. I think we have 50 classes operating now and we have only been going for 18 months.”
Donna added: “The spread of didi rugby down here has been huge. We have exploded into schools as well and we are offering session every day of the week.
“Those who are too old for didi rugby are moving onto tag rugby and we love that continuity for children to keep them playing the sport.
“We are also involved with special needs schools and have links with the Berkshire Banshees wheelchair team. We try and support all sorts of areas. There’s loads going on.
“We have an excellent relationship here with Reading RFC but it’s one big family and one big network to attract children and their parents into the sport.
“From speaking to the parents, the children love it. They wake up and say: ‘Is it didi rugby today?’.
“There is a real rapport, they enjoy it and that is what makes them want to come back week after week.”
The founder and CEO of didi rugby, Vicky Macqueen, has become an RFU Level 4 coach after 18 months of study.
It means she is one of less than 10 women in the country to hold such a prestigious coaching position, which is designed and delivered by the game’s governing body, the Rugby Union.
She joins fellow Level 4-holders Wasps director of rugby Giselle Mather and soon-to-be Exeter Chiefs Women’s head coach, Susie Appleby, who is also a didi rugby franchise holder.
Although Vicky said she would like to get involved in similar high-level coaching one day, she said her 100% commitment at the moment was to the continued growth of didi rugby.
And she believes that large parts of the information she learned studying to become an RFU Level 4 coach will help grow and improve didi rugby in the future.
“It has been an amazing process with so much to learn and I feel really privileged to have completed it,” said Vicky. “It has taught me a lot in terms of rugby leadership but for didi rugby too because there is lots of coaching, management and psychology involved.
Level 4 coach
“There are so many aspects to achieving Level 4 and it has been a great educational experience for me.
“There is a massive overlap between business and sport and this has bought everything together for me to help enhance didi rugby.
“The growth of didi means I need to be 100% involved in the business and the mentoring of franchise holders at the minute. But I love coaching and being out on the field so taking on a role with a club in the future in definitely in my sights…if I get the time!
Vicky was approached by the RFU to join their coach educator team a couple of years ago and that is another string to her bow in terms of helping and mentoring coaches of the future.
didi rugby plays an active part in helping clubs implement that framework and has developed formal links with clubs in England to create a natural pathway for children to keep playing the game when they graduate from didi rugby age groups.
With Vicky designing all of the programmes and care at didi rugby, parents can be assured that their kids are in very good hands and are being taught all of the right things if they come to a didi rugby class.
There are only a few days left to help didi rugby director Matt Cropp win the Amazon Small Business of the Year Award.
And we are not afraid to admit that, here at didi rugby HQ, we need your help please!
As well as running didi rugby with Vicky Macqueen and other members of the didi HQ team, Matt owns Rock Star Academy – a business selling musical instruments and teaching people how to play through an online music school.
Instruments encourage kids to come away from computerised devices and help them develop a hobby that tests their brains, physical agility and dexterity, to increase their enjoyment and confidence.
Matt is hugely passionate about what he does, encouraging people to play instruments and strongly advocating ethically-sourced wood for his products. In fact, all of Rock Star Academy’s products are built from wood that is replaced at source.
Rock Star Academy has been a huge part of his life for a decade and winning the Amazon Award would be a huge achievement.
“Very much like watching children enjoy didi rugby, it’s great to see youngsters having fun and enjoying learning with a musical instrument,” said Matt. “Watching them smile as they progress is lovely to see and so is the confidence they build while doing so.
“You may not play a musical instrument, but I guarantee you have been moved or motivated by someone sharing the music they created,” said Matt.
“If you do play a musical instrument you will know the joy it creates when others hear you play and the hypnotic relaxation it provides when you are solely focused on playing it.
Rock Star Academy
“Music evokes a primeval response in all of us and I believe it’s fundamental to the existence of human culture.
Building a business that contributes to human culture with a positive impact on the environment is an absolute passion of mine.
didi rugby founder Vicky Macqueen said: “Matt is such a passionate person, always involving himself in community projects and giving back to support others so it would be great if you could take a minute out of your time to vote for him.”
Rock Star Academy has been shortlisted for the Amazon Small Business of the Year Award. To help lead Matt to success, log on to the link below and vote.
Five years to the day after Robyn Lock thought she would never play rugby again, the Ospreys back-rower was included in the Wales Women’s squad to play in this autumn’s internationals.
The didi rugby South Wales franchise owner’s story is one of those that make you sit up and take notice…and then go and tell everyone you know.
When Robyn was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014, she steadfastly refused to let it define her life. Now, she is in line to win a first cap for her country when Wales play Spain in Madrid in early November. There will be plenty of people excited to see the words Robyn Lock will be on the team sheet.
Robyn’s selection will delight everyone who knows her. It will also inspire the hundreds of children and parents who have got to know her while she has taught at the ever-growing amount of didi rugby venues that now operate in south Wales following its launch last year.
“I felt very emotional when the squad was announced,” she said. “Every tackle I made, every extra minute in the gym and every time I said I couldn’t go out with friends because I needed an early night or wanted to work on my game, now seems all worth it.
“It was my mum who pointed out that my call-up came five years to the day after I was diagnosed with lymphoma. When I think back to that time, I was so weak I could hardly walk 10 yards without taking a deep breath. It’s some transformation. I had a good cry when I found out and the realisation kicked in of what I had achieved.
“At first, I didn’t know whether or not to bring up the fact that I had lymphoma all of those years ago – but I want to use my story to hopefully help others.
“To be honest, I am really proud of what I have come through and I hope others who read this story, who may be suffering from something in their lives, can see that something knocked me off of my feet too – but it didn’t stop me being determined to make things better.”
An Ospreys’ regular, Robyn was rewarded for her consistency by being offered a spot in Wales ‘Top Up’ training sessions this summer and then moved up to the extended full squad for the build up to the autumn series where Wales will play Spain, Ireland, Scotland and the Barbarians.
When the reduced squad was announced, Robyn was told she had earned a place in it and she naturally phoned her mum to tell her before anyone else.
Jaine Lock had been a huge part of her recovery from the initial diagnosis and was probably as proud as her daughter at the news that she had just become an international rugby player.
A nutritionist and personal trainer, Jaine moved back from New Zealand to become her daughter’s full-time carer after hearing news of her cancer five years ago.
At the time, she returned to see Robyn suffering from severe fatigue, struggling to sleep and itching all over her body. Six months of chemotherapy also saw her lose her hair.
The chances of Robyn ever having the energy to even walk onto a rugby field again, let alone make tackles and take hits seemed a mile away at the time.
“That had been taken away from me,” said Robyn. “I didn’t even feel well enough to go and watch a game because my immune system had been shot to pieces by chemotherapy. By this time, I was on all sorts of pills and was having panic attacks too. A real sense of doom took hold of me.
“But I also did not want cancer to be my identity. I didn’t want to be the girl with cancer. Rugby was my identity, right from a young age when I used to go and watch my dad and brother play and I didn’t want to lose that.
“My mum sat me down one day and asked: ‘What else do you want to do while you are battling this?’ and I told her that I wanted to play rugby again and come back fitter and stronger than when I left it.
“I was so lucky to have her and my family with me. Mum told me that she would never let me give up on that dream and she never let me lose that drive. She was true to her word.”
Robyn’s last chemotherapy session came in April 2015 and she went into remission. Her strength and energy slowly came back and her return to rugby came in the form of the Ospreys 7s training.
One day, after a particularly fast sprint in one session, a team-mate shouted: “Ah look…Lock’s back!”
It meant more to Robyn than her team-mate could ever know. She had beaten her cancer and the world was, once again, her oyster.
Wales begin their autumn series on November 3 in Madrid and if Robyn makes her debut she will be standing proud in a red jersey singing the national anthem with more reasons than most to shed the odd tear or two.
“I have watched my friends play for Wales and cheered them on for years, now I could be standing next to them and giving it all on the field. After what has happened, it really will be a dream come true,” she said.
There will be plenty of fun and games to be had when didi rugby Grantham opens its doors to the public with a launch event on Saturday 16 November at Kesteven Rugby Club.
It will be the start of a new franchise which is being run by local resident Kerri Arlando.
Beginning at 9.00am, free taster sessions are on offer to anyone who wants to come along and see what didi rugby is all about as we try to spread the values of fun, confidence and activity throughout Lincolnshire and beyond.
Each one of the three didi rugby age groups will have a session on the day and they cover 18 months to 3 years, 3 years to 4 years and 4 years to 6 years of age.
Regular classes will then begin the following Saturday (23rd) from 9.00am and midweek sessions will also kick off on Wednesday mornings at 9.30am from 27 November.
‘didi rugby is perfect’
Understandably, Kerri can’t wait to get things up and running with didi rugby Grantham at a club she already has strong links with.
Kerri still plays rugby and coaches the Under-11s, meanwhile husband Dimitri coaches the Under-13s. And with two boys Leonard (12) and Alfred (10) playing the game too, rugby features heavily in the Arlando family’s weekly routine.
But with her own children growing up fast, Kerri says she misses the interaction of the little ones and so, with a high demand for something like didi rugby in the area, she decided to set up a franchise.
“didi rugby is perfect for what I want to do,” said Kerri. “It is something I can do when they kids are at school and is something that I really love because I love coaching the little kids. They are so funny and I know that my forte.
“We have had lots of parents asking how old you have to be to join the club at Kesteven but we do not have anything below our under-6s, so didi rugby can get them involved from a very young age.
Kesteven Rugby Club
“Lots of parents at the club have got small children and as soon as they find out that didi rugby is here, I am sure they bring their kids along as well. I am hoping it is going to be really good.”
didi rugby founder and CEO, Vicky Macqueen, said that Kerri’s passion for what she is doing is obvious.
“Kerri loves what she does and she is a well-known and popular figure around the area so we are all sure she will create a cracking atmosphere for little ones to come along and have some fun and learn some new skills.”
To book your child on for a free taster session at Kesteven on launch day or any of the other classes on offer, by visiting here
New didi rugby classes will be starting at Old Newtonians RFC in Leicester Forest East soon.
Steve Carter will be driving the sessions at what is a real family club whose junior section has grown at a rapid rate in recent years.
Old Newts (as they are better known locally) have an under-7s and 8s tag set-up, a thriving under-11s and a good micros set-up too.
“There has been no junior rugby at Old Newts for 25 years and we are growing our academy for 4 to 11-year-olds all the time,” said Steve.
“We have had a lot of young children starting with us at the age of four or five and many of them have younger brothers or sisters with them so we wanted to get something set up so they could play too.
Feeding the academy
“didi rugby is perfect for that and it will hopefully go on to give us a pipeline of children feeding the academy.
“We are all looking forward to getting didi classes up and running. We are a real family club with a family feel to it and there is a great atmosphere here with lots of members of various families being involved in the club from seniors down to juniors.”
Didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen said: “Steve is very keen to get things up and running at Old Newtonians and we are delighted to have such a lovely club involved in hosting didi rugby classes.
“There is a really good family feel about Old Newts and I am sure it will be an ideal place to host didi classes here in Leicestershire.”
Details about when they new classes will be held will be announced soon.
It is no wonder mum Sally Nash is beaming when she tells the tale of her son Tommy Oliver’s battle with Hypermobilty Syndrome.
The five-year-old from Bramley near Basingstoke has a condition where bodily joints easily move beyond the expected range.
As a result, it can be hard to control those joints and they can dislocate easily. Hypermobility Syndrome can also lead to pain, chronic fatigue and a host of other challenges at times too.
With that in mind, it was with trepidation that Sally first took Tommy to a didi rugby class some 18 months ago.
Now, he is thriving. And Sally is grateful for everything that has happened to her lad during his time in a didi rugby shirt.
“When he first started, he couldn’t walk in a straight line, let alone run in one and,” said Sally. “Now, with the help of his didi coaches, he is fully active and runs around taking part in everything. He absolutely loves it.
“His confidence has grown in a massive way. Previously, he would hardly ever leave my side but now we have friends round to play and that is great to see.
“He loves his coaches and calls them didi Donna and didi Caitlin. Tommy often talks about them and we sometimes use them to help change his behaviour at home! We say if he doesn’t improve, we are going to tell didi Donna! It works too.
“He sulks if we have to miss a session for whatever reason. He loves it. It is fun and he is often upset when they are finished.
“The free taster sessions helped us get him into it. At many clubs, you have to book a term in advance but didi were really flexible and let us see how he got on and coped with the physical demands of the classes.
“They have been really supportive and if he has a bad day with his Hypermobility Syndrome, they alter what they do to make sure he doesn’t feel left out.
“He has come on so much with his motor skills through didi it is amazing. He loves it and we love it too.
One of his coaches is franchise co-owner, Donna Clark.
“Tommy always comes bounding up to us and into class with a big smile on his face and he is clearly thriving. His enthusiasm and giggle is infectious and if I could bottle it, I would,” said Donna.
“There is nothing he won’t try and through his determination and enjoyment of didi rugby, we have seen a huge improvement in his balance and coordination. There really is no stopping him. He is an absolute joy to coach.”
didi rugby have teamed up with one of the country’s most-loved first-aid educational providers to offer top-notch training to new franchise owners and coaches.
The new partnership with Green Box First Aid will be called ‘didi first aid’ and will involve a lot more than up-skilling new and current coaches.
Sessions will be put on at various didi rugby sites across the country to offer paediatric training for parents – as well as special learning demonstrations for children to help them learn life-saving techniques to use themselves.
Green Box First Aid have had years of providing some much-loved educational sessions, providing skills and knowledge to help people who may not survive without intervention. Crucially, Green Box’s delivery in those lessons is done in a way which people can relate to.
Operating across the country, MD Paul Markham and his team give attendees confidence to tackle everything from day to day cuts, bumps and bruises to life threatening situations.
didi first aid
didi rugby are always fully committed to providing sessions in a safe environment and promoting a healthy livelihood. Now they are delighted to be able to offer all of its didi first aid training under the leadership of Green Box.
Those who complete a didi first aid course will receive an official didi first aid at work Level 3 VTQ qualification, with a paediatric focus. This can also be used by those who complete the course as an emergency first aid at work qualification.
didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen said she was delighted to complete a partnership with such a well-respected five-star company.
“We are very excited to join up with Green Box,” she said. “Paul and his team have a huge amount of experience in delivering first aid for all ages in various settings from work places to schools.
Crucial life skills
“They are also as passionate as we are, about ensuring that adults and children are aware of what to do if the unexpected happens.
“To have someone like Paul on board, in our team, means we have another member of didi HQ who is committed to the same values and ethos as the rest of us.
“Paul’s enthusiasm is infectious and he will be up-skilling adults and children on some crucial life skills while he works with us. This official didi partner will make sure that everyone is on the same page and that crucial first aid skills are offered to everyone who is involved with didi rugby.
“Safety is paramount in all aspects of didi rugby life and didi rugby first aid will ensure the best grounding is given to everyone involved.”
Paul said he couldn’t wait to get to working with the didi family.
“We are so excited to be working closely with a fantastic company like didi rugby,” he said. “didi first aid will see us training didi’s coaches in really important first aid skills so that children are safe in the environment.
“We are also excited about launching our work with under-6s as well.
“We are going to give those under-6s the opportunity to learn some really valuable skills which will help them and will introduce them to first aid.
“Green Box have worked with this age group for a long while and make learning for this age group both fun and easy to understand.”
Exciting partnership sees the launch of ‘didi first aid’ services