Hi Max, why did you decide to start Rugbytots, and what do you feel is its mission?
I have always been a passionate rugby fan and player and when I discovered there was nothing on offer for my three boys I decided to start a local class for my boys and their friends. Our mission is to constantly deliver the best classes we possibly can to Rugbytots all over the world , ensuring they have loads of fun and receive a dynamic and exciting introduction to the sport.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the family rugby classes at The Residence Mauritius?
Last summer an opportunity came about for Rugbytots to offer two weeks’ of classes at a five-star hotel in the Indian Ocean, The Residence, Mauritius. It’s one of the top family hotels in Mauritius, so was the ideal place for us to offer Rugbytots to all the families staying. When me and my family go on holiday, I’m always really keen to make sure that my boys can spend lots of time being active, enjoying the outdoors and making friends – so the Rugbytots classes at The Residence Mauritius offered the perfect combination. During the two weeks I spent at The Residence hotel, I trained their Kids' Club manager Teddy, so all families staying at the hotel from now on during the school holidays can enjoy the Rugbytots sessions!
Why do you feel it is important to keep kids active, especially at such a young age?
It is vital that children experience the outdoors, if it’s sport, cubs, brownies or just playing in the park. Doing this at a young age sets a precedent for future years and will ensure future health and well-being. More importantly they will have fun along the way and I believe that they learn more than a screen or an X-box can offer.
How can parents encourage their children to keep active?
We are currently working with the NHS initiative Change4life on a summer campaign that looks great and all our parents will receive information soon. Parents need to drive activities for their children at such a young age, If it’s a structured environment like Rugbytots or just kicking a ball around in the park its finding time in busy schedules to ensure we are doing all we can.
Why is it important to ensure that kids stay both active and sociable on holiday? How does Rugbytots do this?
Well, the Rugbytots programme is very dynamic and energetic. We cover everything in a class and our coaches are highly trained to ensure they are great fun for parents and children alike. In Mauritius we found children and parents meeting through Rugbytots and then after the class going off and playing together, giving the parents a chance to unwind….a little..!
What are the benefits of teaching kids rugby as opposed to other sports, such as football?
I wouldn’t say there is any benefit of one over the other as all sports are different. We just happen to be lucky that Rugby requires a multiple skill set to play. You need to be good with your hands as well as your feet so it enables us to run a programme that will benefit all sports. Some of the girls who attend Rugbytots go on to ballet and find the agility and balance they have learnt through our programme useful. On a personal level I am a rugby fan so believe we have the best sport in the world that demands respect, teamwork and sportsmanship.
How do you think participating in team sports helps core child development?
Many lessons can be learnt on the field of play. There is the physical side of development, as children get older they start to read the game properly, make their own decisions (without a coach providing so many instructions!!) and increase their levels of skill and fitness. Then there is the social side - they will meet new friends from across the community and start to learn how to play in a team environment. Rugby is one of the best team sports in the world and as I watch my boys go through the age groups it brings home just how important those values are. It all starts with Rugbytots but that’s just the beginning of a very exciting journey.
Did you find that playing rugby with your three boys helped strengthen the bond between you? How so?
My three are obsessed with sport. Partly due to the fact they are so close in age and everything is a competition. They love it when I take time out to play with them and we often enjoy a good 2-on-2 game of Rugby, only downside is they are starting to run faster and more recently actually want to tackle me! Without a doubt it brings you together to have a common interest....although I’m not sure my wife would share my joy based on the amount of Rugby on TV in our house!
How do your sons feel about Rugbytots? Do they ever participate or help out?
They love the business, we still have marketing material with them on the front, I can’t bring myself to change it as that’s where it all started. Without them there would be no Rugbytots. They were fantastic coaches in Mauritius and it won’t be long before they will be on the payroll. My eldest has already got his eye on the role of lead coach in a few years time. We are currently all in training for the Rugbytots World Cup bike ride, visiting host stadiums, covering 300 miles over four days. They are all determined to do the last day with me so watch this space...
What are your best parenting tips?
Be realistic and don’t compare yourself to others – everyone’s situation is different. Put your children first and give them as much opportunity as you possibly can. Most importantly - enjoy them, have fun and find the time, no matter how busy you are, to do as much as you can together.
What kinds of things are you doing to encourage young girls to join Rugbytots, as well as boys?
Well, I’m told some girls like pink – which is the colour of our mascot, Mr RT. We advertise that Rugbytots is for girls and boys, and many girls now attend our classes, I don’t think we can do much more to encourage girls it’s just a fact that some girls and parents will feel it’s not for them. It’s a parents prerogative and all we can do is make sure our classes are the best out there for this age group. Our programme is non-contact, educational, dynamic, exciting and packed full of fun and games that will build confidence. And the girls who do come along to Rugbytots absolutely love it
Do you think there is a stigma surrounding girls playing sports? What can we do to change it?
I don’t think there is a stigma at all. Wherever I look I see equal participation across different sports. The success of woman’s rugby and football will help two of the main stream sports to continue growing the female playing base but overall I think girls are playing a huge amount of sport from what I see.
What sports did you play as a child and what kind of effect did they have on you as a person?
I played all sports at school and loved every second. Being dyslexic I always struggled in class and was labelled a day dreamer but I found a happy place on the sports field. I loved the preparation for match days, the coach journey to away games, the feeling of togetherness as you got off the bus and eyed up the opposition. Sport and rugby in particular offers such good values and requires individual determination but the ability to work and understand the role you play in a team. I made many friends through sport and I think as a child it keeps you out of trouble and focused on something positive.
What have you learned since founding Rugbytots?
I’m not sure we have enough space!! The beauty of running your own business is you learn something new every day. I would say the biggest lessons are that planning is essential, determination and drive is vital and it is important to surround yourself with the best people you possibly can. We are very lucky at Rugbytots to have the most incredibly inspiring and motivated people involved within our group. The Biggest lesson of all? Follow your passion.
What are your future plans for Rugbytots?
We currently have over 20.000 children attending classes all over the world. I expect that to treble in the next few years so the plan is to continue having a blast and enjoy the journey.
Find out more about Rugbytots
Find out more about The Residence, Mauritius