Banner image

Townsend to undertake coaching stint in India

Player development manager, Gary Townsend has accepted an invitation from the prestigious Penguins Rugby Club to undertake a 12-day coaching stint in Kolkata, India during November.

Townsend, who joined the club ahead of the 2014/15 season and has previously worked as National Player Development Manager with the RFU, travelled to India on today (Thursday, 15th November), and said he was relishing the opportunity to return to the ‘lively, bustling’ city in the West Bengal state.

“It took no persuasion at all to accept the invitation from the famous Penguins Rugby Club to undertake a coaching stint in Kolkata, a city in which I have coached before with another charitable organisation, the Tag Trust.

“A noisy, polluted, colourful, lively, bustling city of huge contrasts, Kolkata is not everyone’s cup of chai – but I fell in love with the place. Having coached in one of the slum districts of the city on my first visit there in 2007, it was sometimes difficult to come to terms with the extremes of poverty in such close proximity to privilege and wealth - and then you meet the people, and most especially the kids, and the love affair begins.

“It took no persuasion at all to accept the invitation from the famous Penguins Rugby Club to undertake a coaching stint in Kolkata, a city in which I have coached before with another charitable organisation, the Tag Trust."

Gary Townsend, academy development manager

“I was fortunate enough to work in three schools within the city; a slum school, a ‘middle-class’ school, and a wealthy independent school – all of which were connected to each other, with the potential, in theory, of a kid at the school in the heart of Kolkata’s many slums being able to work through the connection into the Independent school.

“Four things came through my experience loud and strong: the generosity of the people, most particularly those who had so little to give - they welcomed us into their community with open arms and with genuine warmth.

“Regardless of background kids are kids. It would have been easy – and I did have to admonish myself at times – to have prejudice against the wealthier children simply because they had privilege. However, they had other, and no less difficult challenges to overcome.

“And thirdly, sport – and specifically rugby in this case – is a great medium for bringing communities together, for stripping back the veneer seeing kids for what they are - just kids with all their joy, strengths and frailties.”

Follow Gary’s journey on the Bristol Bears social media channels, as he provides a video diary from Kolkata.