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Ben Cullen, Rugbytots
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Things you only know if you're a kids rugby coach

...according to Ben Cullen

By Time Out Hong Kong
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No two days are the same for Ben Cullen, Director of Rugbytots Hong Kong, as his time with the tots provides a never-ending supply of comedic material. Rugbytots is a rugby play programme for children aged two to five. The children are guided through an active play session where they practice sport movement patterns in imaginative ways (and occasionally, in costume). Along with managing raw emotions and some brutally honest comments he never asked for, he is consistently surprised by their capabilities, infinite amount of energy, and wonder for life. 

Kids play for fun, nothing else

"It's important that children are challenged and that there is a progression in their development, but ultimately, children play for fun. When fun is at the forefront, everything is enhanced – their experience, development and motivation. We story-tell to get buy-in from the children and to get the most enjoyment out of the activity. The children must be ready to 'protect their egg', be prepared to run across 'the jungle', wade through 'quicksand' or dodge 'the smoking boulders'." 

Age is everything to them

"Don't bother telling a child that their age doesn't matter because you're in for a losing battle. Age is quite possibly the most important social criteria for a child and they generally like to add six extra months to their age. They're never just three years old, they are three and a half years old." 

The Rugbytots mission is to produce happy, healthy children.

Kids are more capable than you think

"Very young children are incredibly patient and persistent. They will attempt a task over and over; they are curious, and they love 'doing'. When given the opportunity and some basic instruction, young children can develop quickly. We encourage children to ask questions and to speak up, we allow them to coach their peers, and we set difficult tasks. We prompt them to be bold, confident and courageous. Between the ages of two and four is a fantastic window of opportunity to develop the 'I can' strength in a child."

Stamps and bubbles are life

"At the ripe old age of three, there aren't many things you care for except for stamps and bubbles. So much satisfaction comes from showing your parents the stamp on your hand that you worked so very hard for that day. Even more satisfaction comes from chasing a bubble down for a hundred metres and popping it before it hits the ground. Or even better, before your fellow Rugbytot gets to it. While rewarding children is important, not rewarding them at times is just as important. At Rugbytots, we reward the children at the end of each session with an apple, a stamp and a few minutes of blowing bubbles. But very rarely, a child may not be given their stamp or bubble session if they show exceptionally unsportsmanlike behaviour. You realise how much it really means to them when the tears are in full effect."

Keep up with Ben and the tots on the Rugbytots Facebook page and the Rugbytots Instagram.

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