Rugby is a major global sport. But for it truly to develop in Barbados, players, especially the younger ones, need more international exposure, says captain of the national senior men’s team Sean Ward.
The Barbados Rugby men’s team returned to training yesterday afternoon at the Garrison Savannah for the first time in weeks following the national curfew imposed as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Ward said that playing local rugby would carry Barbadian players so far and no further. But with two of this country’s brightest prospects, Simeon John and De’Andre Phillips currently in Canada training, Ward believes the sport will continue to develop from the point of view where young players leave the island and gain experience.
“It is the sad truth, but on island rugby is only going to develop players to a certain extent. I have done it all over in North America, Europe and even Asia and you have to get out in order to excel. Rugby is a sport in Barbados where a lot of people still don’t even know it goes on. It is not the spearhead like cricket that everybody would want to jump on to and bring all the experiences and knowledge to you here on the island. Rugby you have to go find it yourself.
“We have a good support system and people around who have done it for me and now I am doing it for others. Then coaches and staff are trying to get these youngsters out there and bringing that talent back to us and spreading it. I did it and these guys seeing me do it, they want to do it and I could only hope that other youngsters coming up would want to do the same. We have paved the way and we would put our best foot to get them to do it as well,” he said.
Given what has occurred with COVID-19 and how it has impacted on the sporting fraternity, Ward is hoping that as a group they do not take anything for granted and keep working hard towards success.
“I am sure everybody is at home and saying ‘I wish I could be out there, I wish I could play’. But now we have the opportunity to go back out there and train, I would like everybody to keep that flame burning and wanting to excel and push Barbados’ rugby further.
“Without having it for so long they got to see the importance (sport) and what it was doing and not to take it for granted, not to neglect the coaches and what people are doing for the whole fraternity of sport in Barbados and rugby itself,” Ward explained.
He added: “I just want people not to take it for granted and younger players don’t take it for granted because something like this could happen anytime again.”
Before COVID-19, Ward was expected to travel to the United States for a tournament called Rugby Town Sevens. Last year Barbados made history when they became the first Caribbean team to play in the tournament and also contest the final.
Most of the players, including Ward, who play rugby sevens are also part of the men’s 15 a-side rugby team. With the national rugby sevens team on a break, they were expected to feature in the 15s and were expected to play a few regional matches on the brink of the COVID-19 outbreak but that got cancelled.
In fact, before COVID-19 came about, the 15s contingent got together and played a warm-up match against a Canadian team that visited Barbados in February this year.
During the COVID-19 break Ward has been busy keeping in shape and even teamed up with a friend to build a home gym. Now that the restrictions have been lifted, Ward explained he was happy to once again get back out and train the way he is accustomed to, inclusive of that brotherly connection he has with the Barbados rugby men’s team.
More importantly, he said this COVID-19 situation has shown people what they can and cannot live without.
“For me, it isn’t challenging keeping my fitness level up during this Coronavirus because I am a pretty active person just by natural day movement. It is a thing once you have gained a certain fitness level and you have pushed your body to that area, it is not hard to get it back there when it is time to go full one hundred again.
“I am not sure what everyone was dealing with at home during the lockdown but we did do our regular video sessions, like two to a week or once a week. We spoke and ran through games from previous tournaments, we did a lot of off-the-field stuff in terms of mental gameplay and preparedness. But when we actually come together now, just seeing each other and running around, that is what I am happy for now the restrictions have been lifted,” he said.