So important is sports to the development of young people that Kevin Cobham has been using rugby to help guide the youth in the right direction.
“I work with a programme for at-risk youth called A Ganar, and it is a sports-based programme. Apart from occupying their time and keeping them out of mischief,” he said, “you get to witness the personalities of many of the kids change the more they get involved with sports.
“They develop leadership skills, and also become more disciplined and respectful. Even the parents can testify that they’ve seen changes in their kids since they’ve started playing.” He added that some of the kids who were reserved, had become extroverted and engaged with their peers more.
The 24-year-old began playing rugby at just 11 years old when a Rugby Development Officer, Dennis Hargreaves, introduced him to the sport. Kevin has since become a coach, and said he was proud to be passing on his knowledge to younger players, adding that it was always rewarding to see players improve over time, knowing that he had a direct hand in their progress. “A few years ago, I decided to commit some of my time to coaching and helping Dennis in the schools. From there I became his assistant coach for the Under-19s,” he said.
He added: “I currently coach a girls’ team, and boys as well, but I’d like to see a competitive league formed. I hope for the sport to develop at the senior level so we can be more dominant in the regional competitions.”
The former Harrison College student, who draws and paints in his free time, said playing rugby had moulded him into a better person, and he had become more organised, patient and responsible.
Admitting he was never any good at the sports which were taught in schools, he said he was happy he had found a sport which he excelled in. “I was one of those people that wasn’t quite fast enough for track and field, not the best footballer, cricketer nor basketballer. I didn’t fit into any of those categories, but I found my place in rugby,” he said.
Kevin, who has a degree in Marketing, said rugby was one of the less popular sports in Barbados, and that many Bajans often got it confused with American football. “Rugby originated in England, and American Football came from it.You can only pass the ball backwards in rugby and the tackles have to be below the shoulders,” he explained, “You can’t block players from tackling your teammates in rugby; you’ve got to pass the ball more, so the game is a lot more free-flowing than American Football.”
He said his goal as a player was to retain his position on the men’s team and win regional competitions. As a coach, he said he wanted to see his students go as far as possible in rugby.