Harrison Dearing is carrying on the family tradition and is thriving at didi rugby classes.
The three-year-old is having great fun taking part in didi rugby Reading sessions at Highwood Primary School, following in the footsteps of his older brother.
Jacob Dearing (6) spent over two years in didi classes having got involved as a three-year-old himself.
Now, he has taken the skills and confidence he learned at didi and is putting it to good use in the minis structure at partner club Reading RFC.
Whether Harrison will follow him when he becomes too old for didi classes remains to be seen. But for now, mum Karen is just happy they have both benefitted from what the didi classes offer.
“Jacob always loved running around when he was little and so we tried him at didi rugby after seeing it for the first time at a local fete.
“His confidence quickly blossomed during classes at Blue Coat School, and the classes helped him to focus his energy too. The coaches’ approach was great.
“Jacob never really liked the warm-ups and would just watch for 5 or 10 minutes before joining in. But the coaches always coaxed him to get involved, with no pressure and, after a while, he just got stuck in straightaway.
“Now, Jacob has moved up, it has been great to see him playing at Reading RFC and he’s loving it. There have been lots of his didi class move up to Reading so he’s already got friends moving up with him.
“The other week he came to watch Harrison at didi and still joined in!
Family time for the Dearings
“Taking them has been something nice to do as a family too. We would all go to watch Jacob when he first started and, inevitably, when we had his younger brother Harrison, he wanted to join in too.
“Harrison loved getting involved in the Zoom sessions that didi did during lockdown and now he’s loving the classes in person.
“He was shy to begin with but he loves getting involved and games like ‘foxes tails’ and the ‘obstacle course’.
“Both boys have loved collecting the coloured objects and taking them to the correct bucket. Harrison will count how many he’s got before he puts them in, providing colour recognition and numeracy in one!
“The boys have both loved their classes and their coaches. They are a really nice group of people at didi and have been great with both boys.”
didi rugby’s latest ambassador was eating at a Nandos restaurant when she got some of the best news of her life.
It was so unexpected though, she thought her parents’ surprise card was a complete wind-up.
Jodie Ounsley sat with her mum and dad eating chicken when she prized open an envelope from her mum.
It said: ‘Congratulations on your first professional rugby contract with England’!
When her parents Jo and Phil convinced her it was no joke, confusion turned to shock… and then excitement.
The girl from Yorkshire who was born profoundly deaf in both ears was now an England Rugby Sevens player.
Jodie loved every minute of training with her new team-mates who she said ‘did everything possible’ to make things as easy as possible with communication an obvious challenge on the training and playing surface.
Head coach Charlie Hayter said of Jodie after she joined the camp: “She showed some great physical attributes so we wanted to offer her a contract.
“Since she arrived, she has fitted in really well with the rest of the team and made great progress. Jodie loves a bit of banter and she puts extra hours in to make sure that she really understands what we are doing too.”
Sevens team mate and head coach of didi rugby Worcester, Alex Matthews said Jodie was a joy to be around.
“Fortunately for me, I was Jodie’s mentor in the Sevens programme, which to be honest, I think benefited me more so than her,” said Alex.
“Her resilience and dedication is unbelievable, not only shown through her training and mindset, but also shown off the field through her personal circumstances of overcoming being born profoundly deaf and having integrated into a team sport.
“She’s modest and authentic, with the natural desire to help and inspire others. She’s a brilliant ambassador to have on board at didi!”
While Covid-19 has made her Sevens future uncertain for the time being, she is determined and very driven to be back with a bang when competitive England Sevens rugby returns.
Until then, playing for Sale Sharks and being a didi rugby ambassador are two of the things that will keep her busy – and she is throwing herself into the latter with a live Facebook broadcast in didi’s ‘Skills and Storytime’ online session during the latest national lockdown.
“I was really nervous doing it but wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone,” said Jodie. “But I really loved it and had great fun.
“didi rugby is great for kids. It gets them active, mixing with other children and gets them into good habits at a young age. I am really pleased to be an ambassador and will love getting involved.”
didi rugby CEO and founder Vicky Macqueen added: “Jodie is a joy to be around and her attitude is infectious.
“She was brilliant doing our Skills and Storytime session online (see pic below) and we are absolutely made-up that she has chosen to become a didi ambassador.
“I am sure she will be inspiring lots of other youngsters to take up the sport and join our classes in the coming months.”
Jodie was born without hearing but a Cochlear ear implant and speech therapy has vastly improved her ability to communicate with speech.
Even so, life was far from easy at a mainstream school and she became drawn away from academic pursuits and into the sporting environment. PE, athletics and running were things she loved doing and success soon followed.
She is a five-times champion of the annual ‘Coal Race’ in her native Yorkshire where you literally run for a mile with a bag on coal on your shoulders!
Ju-Jitsu titles arrived in her teens and then she flew to Turkey as a 16-year-old to compete against fully-grown women in the 100m and 200m Deaf Olympics.
By then, rugby was already on the horizon but doctors had warned against the dangers of playing contacts sports like rugby with the implant. Her dad looked into it and was satisfied that that danger would be greatly reduced with a scrum cap on.
“I soon rocked up at my local club, Sandal, with a scrum cap and boots and explained I was keen to play but had hearing issues,” Jodie Ounsley explained.
“They threw me quickly into a side and then threw me onto a pitch where I really didn’t have much of a club what was going on. I found myself on the wing and when I first went for the ball, I literally tripped up over my own shoelace! I picked up the ball and just ran for my life. Somehow, I passed a few people and scored a try. It was exhilarating and I loved it.
Jodie got a place at Loughborough College aged 16 and left home ‘to play rugby’.
There was soon age-range appearances for England but her rugby career really took off after she had recovered from a dislocated shoulder.
Then came the Nandos with mum and dad, an England Sevens deal, a new club in Sale Sharks, the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year 2020 award and a driving ambition to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games still firmly in her thoughts.
“I would say to anyone who struggles with a disability, just go for it and try rugby,” said Jodie. “Don’t let your disability not be the reason for giving rugby a go.”
Reading RFC minis have received a huge boost in playing numbers with a dozen children joining the club having graduated from didi rugby classes in the area.
A huge part of didi rugby’s ethos is to make formal links with local clubs to provide a seamless pathway for children to continue playing the game after they become too old for didi rugby classes.
Not only does it provide our didi stars a chance to move straight into tag rugby, it also gives local clubs a stream of youngsters coming into their minis set-up with the skills and confidence already there to hit the ground running.
didi rugby Reading have links with many clubs in Berkshire and their latest group to move up to Under-7s rugby at Reading RFC has delighted everyone involved.
didi rugby Reading’s Craig Hunter said he was ‘delighted’ to see so many graduates move up to Reading RFC after a couple of children made the move their previous year.
“It’s great to see them want to carry on their rugby experience and the 12 of them have already gelled nicely up at Reading,” said Craig.
“Their parents are pleased and we have had really good feedback from Reading too so it’s lovely to see the numbers we are providing them increasing.”
didi rugby founder and CEO Vicky Macqueen said this was another example of didi rugby classes working well with their local communities.
“It is important for all of us at didi rugby to support the local community as much as we can and the partnerships we create with local clubs are very important to what we are trying to do,” she said.
“Here are 12 children who have come through the didi rugby set-up and are now too old for our ‘seniors’ classes. So it’s heart-warming to see them move up to a partner club like Reading and know they are in safe hands to continue learning, having fun, growing in confidence and building up that camaraderie that rugby provides.
“Craig, Donna, Clare and the rest of the team at our didi rugby Reading classes have done a great job of capturing these children’s imagination and developing their skills and confidence over the past couple of years.
“We will all be watching their kids’ progress with Reading RFC and wish them all the best of luck. We are always very proud of our didi rugby graduates.”
Watch didi rugby Reading coaches Donna and Clare explain why they have so much fun during their classes…
Find a didi rugby class in Crewe at Berkeley Academy Primary School
Introduce your children to rugby at a young age with didi rugby classes at Berkeley Academy Primary School in Crewe. There are three age groups: 18 months to three years, three to four and four to six.
Our program is designed to get kids active, teach them new skills and improve their co-ordination, speed and balance. It will also help them learn social skills while they have lots of fun in a positive, safe and friendly environment.