Abu Dhabi: Small Blacks Abu Dhabi (SBAD), the official youth rugby program in the UAE capital licensed by New Zealand Rugby, has announced its exciting plans for the upcoming year. The fun-filled activities will kick off on September 4th 2023, marking the program’s second year.
The 2023-2024 calendar includes free Open Days on August 31st and September 1st, where newcomers can join and learn about rugby. Throughout the year, there will be five SBAD skills camps to enhance rugby skills. Moreover, there will be special training sessions with the All Blacks Sevens Men’s and Black Ferns Women’s Sevens squads, who are the reigning champions of the 2022-23 World Series.
A unique event on the calendar is the junior tag tournament, the first of its kind in the club, aiming to create a broader UAE championship. This tournament will invite teams from 8 affiliated clubs and expects the participation of 300 kids per week. The tournament will be held over 10 weekends, allowing the younger age groups (U6, U7, and U8) more chances to participate and compete.
For the age groups U9 to U14, there will be participation in the UAE Rugby Federation tournaments and friendly matches from October 2023 to March 2024. The club aims to increase the number of inter-club games to over 30 for the 2023-24 season, providing more opportunities for youngsters to play rugby in the UAE. Weekly sessions for girls aged 14 and under will continue, along with mixed sessions for boys and girls from U4 to U14, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone at the club.
Mr. John Larkins, Director of Sport at Abu Dhabi Cricket & Sports Hub, stated that, “Further to Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s vision, the target for our rugby program is to promote participation and fun, while providing as many accessible playing opportunities to young kids.”
SBAD has played a vital role in promoting rugby in the UAE. In the past year, the program has organized more than 10 rugby festivals with 200 participants in each event. The girls’ group, consisting of 3 teams, has taken part in 10 tournaments across the UAE. SBAD holds the distinction of being New Zealand Rugby’s only officially licensed rugby program outside of New Zealand and has become the fastest-growing rugby club in the UAE.
In its inaugural year, SBAD attracted over 300 boys and girls from U4 to U14. The program is led by experienced coaches, including Aaron Persico, who represented Italy 56 times and played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Under Persico’s leadership, SBAD focuses on three coaching pillars: engagement, creating a positive environment, and fostering respect. This inclusive approach has allowed the program to thrive, emphasizing participation, enjoyment, and community building.