Posted: 01.10.20 at 13:10 by Gareth Turnbull
Rugbytots Somerset, which has classes in Wells, was established in October 2019, by father of two, Gareth Turnbull, in a year where no one could have foreseen the challenges which lay ahead.
Rugbytots is a toddler play programme providing girls and boys from two to seven years old with the opportunity to get involved in a structured team sport.
In 12 months, Rugbytots Somerset grew from a new start business to the best performing franchise in the whole of the UK (stretching back two years), despite the challenges it faced.
Being self-employed for less than one year, Gareth did not receive any government support during lockdown and his family of four depended solely on his wife’s income as a teacher.
Just before lockdown started, Rugbytots Somerset was off to a promising start with an enthusiastic reception in the Somerset communities.
On the weekend of March 22, lockdown happened and Rugbytots, like so many small businesses, ceased trading, not to restart for four months.
During lockdown, Rugbytots Somerset ran free live classes, live streamed bedtime stories and birthday shoutouts to all the children who had been attending and, finally on July 4 it relaunched with a new Covid-safe, outdoors programme.
Since July the franchise grew from roughly 80 to now more than 300 children, getting the opportunity to regularly play outdoors and be active.
Classes are led by the growing team of 16 trained and qualified Rugbytots coaches, with the most recent new location based in Bridgwater.
Max Web, founder of Rugbytots UK, said: “Gareth took the franchise for Somerset last autumn.
"In a year he has built seven venues with 308 children, making Rugbytots Somerset the fastest growing franchisee we have ever had.
"I have no doubt we can all learn from Gareth and his positive and energetic approach to running the business.”
Gareth now hopes to maintain these very positive enrolment figures, with a carefully designed, fun programme of classes, as well as partnerships with local rugby clubs to offer the children a pathway into the next stage in their sport.
He said: “Rugbytots Somerset has been successful because we care so deeply about our opportunity to work with children of all abilities and backgrounds.
"We owe it to all of these amazing children to make a lasting impression and give them the very best possible experience.
"On top of the physical health benefits, the most obvious outcome of Rugbytots is a boost in self-esteem, making the children proud of their own abilities and successes, spurred on by their teammates.
"I’m confident that if our coaches are the best they can be, and our classes are professionally run, then the children will be happy, and we will succeed.”
Covid-19 has been an opportunity for Rugbytots to engage with families who may have otherwise been busy doing other activities.
It has been able to continue running socially distanced classes, with strict hand hygiene and equipment sanitisation, as well as utilising community outdoor spaces.
Rugbytots coach, Chris Holt, said: “We are the children’s super heroes, and our reward is the look of happiness on their faces each weekend.”
If Rugbytots Somerset is allowed to continue classes while Covid is present, they plan to continue recruiting new coaches and will introduce two additional venues in spring 2021.
Even former international rugby star, Sir Gareth Edwards got behind Gareth and said: “Learning the basics and co-ordination as well as playing as a team are vitally important at that young age.
"I wish Gareth every success with Rugbytots Somerset.”
Rugbytots Somerset currently runs classes in Frome, Sidcot, Wells, Glastonbury, Bridgwater, Yeovil and Gillingham each weekend.
They actively encourage families to come along for a free trial, any weekend, with a free open day at Sidcot Junior School on October 10.