Meet our New Mini Chairman: Andy Nicholson

Meet our New Mini Chairman: Andy Nicholson

By Eleanor Cherry
24 August
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Andy talks us through his background, love of rugby, and plans for Sandy Bay Minis for the 2021/22 season

Talk us through your background?

My upbringing in the UK (and a little in Cape Town) was dominated by sport and music and I was lucky to attend schools that embraced both. I moved to Hong Kong 12.5yrs ago, a week after Tors and I got engaged. We have since had three awesome children, Alfie (8), Bea (6) and Monty (1). Why I am not in better shape, being married to a Pilates instructor remains a constant mystery though…

Over to rugby, what has been your playing and coaching journey?

So aged 5, I begged my Dad to play in my brother's u8 team at Westcombe Park RFC in Kent. I finally scored in my second season, scything past several ‘defenders’, only to realise it was at the wrong end! I played through school, then at UCT in Cape Town in 99’, where I also coached u9 rugby at Bishop’s Prep – we trained after the (Super 12) Stormers, so the kids had half the Springbok backline to help, which was pretty cool. I then represented Bristol University where I also served a year as Club Captain. Sadly, studying for a Music degree
and leaving training early to make choir practice led to many a drinking fine! Ironically, it was only after 7 dislocated shoulders, a fractured back (not through rugby) and a few knee surgeries that I took more to coaching and refereeing to stay connected to the game. The (then) RFU Level 1 and 2 Coach and Level 1 Referee qualifications followed, and I coached at University for 2yrs whilst studying. I have since coached u6-u9 at Sandy Bay (now with u10B) and currently finishing off my World Rugby Level 2 certs. Last year I also managed a sneaky
game playing for Sandy Bay’s Banditos the day before my 40th birthday, so have still played rugby in each decade!

What has rugby taught you and your more memorable rugby experiences?

I’m genuinely fortunate for what the game has given me over the years. Other than the obvious on/off-field camaraderie, rugby has frankly taught me so much about people, leadership, and how to work on my many flaws. For best experiences… as a parent and
coach, seeing my kids and others fall in love with the game has been amazing to see. Playing club rugby for UCT, on the slopes of Table Mountain also takes some beating…

Rugby Hero?

I’m biased, but it’s my late Grandfather, who met my Grandmother whilst playing for the British Lions on the 1938 South Africa Lions tour. 12 people in our family wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t toured, so the Lions go pretty deep… as for my 25% SA blood, I tend to use it when it suits the result of a game! When we received G’pa’s posthumous Lions cap 2 yrs ago to add to his other ones it was a pretty emotional moment for the family. Sadly, the talent has skipped a few generations, but we live in hope!

So, what are your plans for Sandy Bay Minis for the 2021/22 season?

After a tough 2yrs for rugby across HK, we’re hoping for some continuity as a starter. But in terms of plans, we’re keen to build on the fantastic, inclusive family culture that Sandy Bay possesses and also get the kids on the pitch as soon as possible. There is lots going on behind the scenes, but for a snapshot, some of the bigger ones are:

* Getting more kids into rugby – we are lucky to be part of a wonderful family club with great values, but we want more people to benefit, so are offering an incentive plan to encourage everyone to help spread the word!

* More connectivity and age-specific training insights - we are finalising age-group training plans to support coaches further develop a fun, inclusive experience for kids as part of a multi-year minis training masterplan.

* We’ll also be hosting dedicated Sandy Bay coaching clinics for all parent coaches from September (dates TBC).

* Girls-specific training guidance - Built on the legacy of some outstanding coaches, we want to harvest the most effective ways to promote a gender-inclusive culture. This will be shared with coaches shortly.

* We will shortly launch a unique ‘Young Rugby Leaders’ Pilot Program to give u10-u12 kids an opportunity to develop their leadership skills through coaching younger kids. It’s REALLY exciting, so watch this space!

* Subject to Covid, off-the-pitch Social Events will be returning!! Monthly minis drinks will kick off in September with more to follow…

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