Over 500 keen rugby fans gathered together in the mountainous district of Tan Lac, northern Vietnam, to take part in the area’s first ever season competition.

ChildFund Pass It Back is focused on building resilience among children and young people in disadvantaged areas, to help them cope with unexpected changes or challenges in their lives.

Season competitions play an important role in this process, and the whole community got behind the first every rugby competition to take place in Tan Lac.

This included more than 500 players from 32 teams, 17 coaches from seven communes, and another 20 senior coaches from another district who provided additional support.

Each ChildFund Pass It Back competition creates connections, by helping to unite young people from nearby communities around their love of sport, and creating new bonds between people of different backgrounds.

Local government partners also participated as members of the organising committee, and large groups of parents and family members attended the games to cheer on the teams.

Learning through competition

For coaches, who are responsible for organising these events with the support of ChildFund staff, this is an exciting but also nerve-wracking challenge —the success or failure of the entire tournament rests on their shoulders.

As tournament managers, coaches are given an opportunity to improve their skills in officiating matches, practice their first aid skills, and learn organisation and management skills, as they organise all event activities and take care of large groups of players.

For players, the highs and lows of winning and losing provide important lessons in fair play, solidarity, and respect, which contribute to player self-development. Players not only have the chance to demonstrate their new rugby skills, but to learn from their peers in other communes.

And importantly, each competition creates connections, by helping to unite young people from nearby communities around their love of sport, and creating new bonds between people of different backgrounds.

Anticipation and excitement

Coach Khai, aged 17, says: “Before the day, anticipation for the competition made our players a little bit nervous, quite a few couldn’t sleep, and many were filled with questions. During the competition, I saw my players’ delighted and excited faces when they played a match or joined in the solidarity games in the life skills tent.”

Kai adds: “They told me that they couldn’t wait to have fun and learn new things at the next competition.”

For Coach Thuy, managing a group of children filled her with trepidation. “I was worried about how I would be able to take care of the many players. I was like the oldest sister in a family with 50 children! I wondered what I should do to make sure that all of our players were taken care of during the busy tournament?

“Although our team didn’t win the first game or many other games in the competition, it didn’t matter. All the players were smiling and cheering each other on our way home. We agreed that the tournament was successful as we had all learned something new. As a coach, I felt fulfilled as my players were both happy and optimistic for the next competition.”

Players and coaches enjoy a life-changing experience

For Thang, a 24-year-old male coach, this was his first chance to be a referee: “At the beginning, I was nervous and not confident in my decisions, as I was aware of everyone watching me. But my confidence began to increase after each game.”

Player Ly says: “What I remember most about the event is that many people came to our village. Seeing the many coaches and players from other places made me feel very close to them because of our shared experiences in the program.”

“After having the opportunity to chat with them, I hope that we will be able to see each other again.”