By Chloe Nacario
Most people, when they think of rugby, would think of a team sport that involves a lot of running, tackles and hard contacts. But for the members of Titans Rugby Club, it’s more than an exciting team sport — it is a way to grow and support one another.
Avril Sullivan, 38, the director of the club, believes that mentors are a vital part of a teenager’s life. She tells The Pride that she grew up in a sports-centric household and knew that she wanted the same for her own children.
Her wishes came true when her three boys, now aged 15 to 18, got into their secondary school rugby team.
“As a parent, you naturally get involved in whatever activities your children are involved in,” says Avril.
Rugby became a big part of her family’s life, and she became an active member of the parents’ support group. The family is very active in the local rugby scene with her husband and her two older sons as coaches. Her youngest still plays competitively.
The more she got involved in the scene, the more she realised the opportunity for mentorship in the sport, which led her to taking up the position of director at Titans.
Becoming a support system
But even though she took up the director role out of love of rugby, it is her drive to mentor young adults that moved Avril to take such a keen interest in the lives of the children at the club.
Being a teenager is such a fragile time in life, she tells The Pride.
It is the period where many are still trying to figure out what they want and may lack the confidence they need as they are filled with self-doubt.
“(Mentors) are their substitute confidence and their substitute self-belief,” she states.
Avril explains that the sport of rugby already teaches its players discipline, courage, perseverance and responsibility — all of which are key traits to grow up as responsible adults.
But she wanted to take it a step further, and started Skills Coaching, a programme that helps teens to develop their key sports skills and provide them with a space to destress and just be themselves.
Avril says: “I think it’s important to stand by them and listen to them and give them the respect that feeds into their self-worth.”
She gives the example of one of her sons, who at one point in time was unsure of himself and didn’t have any clear life goals set.
He had come into their lives as one of the boys that she mentored at the club and eventually as part of his journey, was adopted as part of the family.
Through rugby, and the team skills he learned during coaching, he has become a more confident young man who now knows his direction in life, says Avril.
Kindness is all we need
People often say that it takes a village to raise a child — it is a community that affects a child’s life more than any single person can.
Avril says that she would not have been able to mentor the children in her club without the support of her parents, friends, family and rugby community.
But we can also become the support that others need with a simple act of kindness.
For Avril, she believes that kindness is action and not words and empty promises. True kindness creates a sense of belonging, she says.
“I believe that all of this encouragement, all of this care (for the youths under her mentorship) actually shapes their identity and also makes a big difference in the decisions they make for their lives.”
She adds that kindness does not require starting an organisation or taking someone under his wing. You can just start with the person in front of you and you can create a ripple effect that helps to transform and empower others.
“For us, seeing a life change for the better is why we do what we do.”