Rugby Blindside Q&A with Dom Palacio
Head of Community at Richmond Rugby
A little about you… Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. I played at Worcester RFC before moving to the South East. I played for various teams in or near London but mainly at Tunbridge Wells RFC. My coaching started as a volunteer at TWRFC on Sundays.
I have been working in Community Rugby and coached professionally for nearly ten years. Prior to that I had a career in the motor industry.
I’ve worked for Saracens, Harlequins and have been running Richmond’s Community Programme since 2017, in conjunction with Community Group Ltd. I’m also a coach in the senior men’s set up at Richmond and well as being the Club Safeguarding Officer.
Tell us about your role within Richmond Rugby and what you enjoy most about working for the club.
Working for Richmond Rugby is a real joy and honour! In the three years I have been at the club they have supported the community work we do wholeheartedly. A lot of clubs preach the “One Club” mantra but Richmond is the epitome of this, a fantastic community club from under 4’s through to Vets.
We now engage with nearly 20 schools locally, running everything from early morning breakfast rugby clubs at primary schools through to supporting curriculum rugby programmes in secondary schools and sixth forms. We also branch out into social outreach projects such as running rugby sessions in Feltham Youth Offenders Institute for under 18’s, as well as a joint project in Westminster in partnership with the Met Police and the MCC foundation working on Crime prevention through sport and working with Pupil Referral Units in the Borough
I firmly believe that rugby’s core values offer anyone involved with the sport, not only rewards through playing but can help develop young men and women into being better members of society.
What is the main aim of the community programme at Richmond Rugby?
Broadly speaking – to drive participation with a focus on those who may not historically have been exposed to the sport. To connect with our local community in any way possible. To use the power of our great sport to support and develop young people from any background or walk of life.
To support the network of volunteers who run our mini and youth sections at the club (currently nearly 500 children play rugby at weekends).
How important is the Mini/Youth section’s role at Richmond Rugby in growing involvement in the game?
The Mini & Youth sections are the foundations that the rest of the club are built on.
We have nearly 500 children either training or playing at the club throughout the season. We support our youth teams by providing each team with their own professional rugby coach who oversees the development of each age group. We have a strong link with local secondary school Orleans Park in Twickenham, who we have an academy partnership with to develop our under 17 and under 18 teams. The club has an under 21 offerings keeping in touch with those players who have gone off to university.
First-team squad players regularly help coach mini and youth teams.
With the club having five men’s teams and two Women’s teams we have a rugby offering for everyone beyond youth team rugby.
Being one of the largest clubs in the UK with over 2,700 members, what challenges does the club face in maintaining its ‘community club’ and ‘one club’ culture?
Our culture is everything and there is a real feeling around the club, that regardless of your role or involvement, whether that’s a supporter or a first-team player, if you wear the Gold, Red and Black flag on your chest then you are part of the Richmond family.
All schools we engage with are invited to our first-team games to take part in events before, during and after matches connecting us with our local community.
A lot of time and effort goes into integrating all areas of the club off the field and that can be seen on match days when we have with young, old, fifth team players through to first-team players all having a great time.
The club is a special place and one we are very proud of.
Your club’s fight back in recent history has been phenomenal, from administration in 1999 to playing in the Championship in 2016-19, what does the future hold for Richmond Rugby?
The future is bright for us and we are in a very good place. The club vowed never to put itself in the precarious financial position they found themselves back in the 1990’s so we are on a sound financial footing.
We want to have the best possible rugby offering for anyone wanting to join our historic club, whether they are three years of age or 90 years of age.
We want to remain a community club with our focus on the grassroots development of the game. With a philosophy of playing attractive expansive rugby.
Also to help those less fortunate in society participate in rugby through our playing bursary schemes.