Birkenshaw Blue Dogs prepare to welcome back youngsters at rugby club

Youngsters at a Spen rugby league club are excited for the end of March when grassroots sport can resume.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 7:00 am

Lockdown has been tough for Birkenshaw Blue Dogs and it’s been particularly hard on the junior players who love to be out on the field with their friends.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled the return of grassroots sport from March 29 in his ‘road map’ announcement on Monday.

Blue Dogs development officer and training consultant Bolu Fagborun said: “Children used to training two or three evenings a week are now stuck indoors bouncing off the walls.

Chev Walker and Liam Kirk with Birkenshaw Blue Dogs 'pups' at East Bierley Community Sports Association
Chev Walker and Liam Kirk with Birkenshaw Blue Dogs 'pups' at East Bierley Community Sports Association

“With the challenges of home schooling, children are in a continuous loop of sitting down for hours at home which takes its toll on their overall mental and physical fitness. We regularly hear children as young as nine complaining of stress.”

During lockdown Bolu, who played professional rugby for Huddersfield, Sheffield and Nigeria, said the club had tried to help young people all they could.

The club has held Saturday morning Zoom sessions and set challenges for the youngsters. Last week it was to score a try and perform a Zoom celebration afterwards!

There’s also an under-11s WhatsApp group where youngsters are set weekly homework fitness challenges.

The Blue Dogs still need to work out how they will re-start after lockdown and Bolu said: “We’ll need to assess how fit the children are before going straight back into ‘normal’ training.

“Some children will come back with a low baseline fitness, so we’ll be looking at steadily nurturing them back to pre-lockdown fitness levels.

“We’re expecting the children to be super-charged when they do come back and it may be a case of trying to calm them down.

“Depending on personal circumstances they might not have had any real physical contact or done any vigorous competitive exercise for months, so expectations will need to be managed as they gradually settle back in.”

The Blue Dogs, based at East Bierley Community Sports Association in East Bierley, have two celebrity ambassadors former Leeds Rhinos star Chev Walker and Oldham RLFC’s Liam Kirk.

The club’s junior section reformed in 2009 and has seen around 200 children through its doors in the last decade.