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zoom screens howing pupils exercising at home

Since the start of the lockdown, we have made it our priority to stay connected to our boys as much as possible. One of the initiatives we have put in place is a virtual rugby programme, which promotes both physical and mental wellbeing. Exercise is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety and can help prevent mental health issues arising. Communication and feeling safe are also stable coping mechanisms for our boys. We have been using email, Google Classroom and Zoom sessions to ensure everyone is connected over this period. As coaches, we have made it very clear, we are available at any time to listen to the boys and support them in any way possible.

A highlight for me has been our Friday night Q&As. We have really enjoyed welcoming back our very own Merchistonians who are now playing professional sport. We feel this has given our boys something to look forward to, and given them a lift them during this difficult time. We are lucky to have incredible role models who our boys can personally relate to. The messages from all players have been very strong and consistent within our values and beliefs at Merchiston. For me, this displays how unique and incredible our support framework is within our Merchiston Community.

Here are some of the activities we have put in place as part of our virtual rugby support framework:

  • One-to-one Zoom calls with boys to check-in on them and ensure they are okay.
  • Our Strength and Conditioning kit is out in our boys’ personal homes to allow them to exercise. We have also devised specific programmes for boys who have no kit.
  • One-to-one Zoom calls with boys to discuss their Individual Player Development Plan - how can they improve their conditioning, fitness, skills, positional understanding, goal setting, nutrition and leadership etc?
  • Positional Zoom calls with boys to discuss essential criteria for each position.
  • Our senior leadership group lead weekly meetings with all senior rugby players to discuss chosen themes; for example, What does effective leadership look and feel like within our senior group? This information is then fed back to us.
  • Provide video analysis and feedback on specific skills, eg Hooker throw.
  • Boys send in daily training videos of themselves #MCSRT.
  • Positional Zoom calls with ex-players, eg Jamie Dobie (Class of 2019) ran the Scrum Half Clinic.
  • Q&A with Stafford McDowall and Rob Moffat (for all pupils and parents).
  • Q&A with Zach Mercer and Rob Moffat (for all pupils and parents).
digital whiteboard giving feedback on throwing a rugby ball

The feedback from boys and parents has been very positive and seeing the boys’ faces and listening to them interacting with each other has been motivational for all of us. We have also managed to use this period to introduce our new Lower Sixth boys into all our processes, which is great for them, as they now feel part of our school. This would not have happened if we were not in lockdown.

Over the period, we have used the moto, “Make your body your business”, which boys are now really buying into. We also have some real evidence that our culture is rock solid as boys are continuing to work very hard away from the field. #solidcastle

I have personally found many positives within the negatives of the situation. We talk about taking ownership and responsibility for your own development on a daily basis. “Us coaches cannot do it for you” is my usual line. It’s been amazing to see boys taking real ownership on themselves with no one behind them cracking the whip.

This will hopefully instil positive life-long habits for when they return to school. Many boys have also commented after reflecting whilst away from school, that they now appreciate the opportunity and understanding how lucky they are at Merchiston. I feel, when our boys return to school, they will be extremely grateful for all opportunities the school delivers, and the unique brotherhood they have around them.

Screen grab of webinar with Zach mercer during covid-19 lockdown
Screen grab of rugby Zoom class - nine headshots - during COVID-19 lockdown
Table of Strength and Conditioning Program for Rugby at Merchiston Castle school during Lockdown
Rugby Coaching Discussion Graphic Merchiston Castle School
Screen grab of Feedback to pupil during lockdown
Twitter image advertising zoom meeting with Zach Mercer
Roddy Deans