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Honor James


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Having recently left the Rams to join Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Community Coach James Stephenson took time out of his schedule to reflect on his time at the Tetley's Stadium.

Stephenson, who is the son of 1973 Champion Nigel, made the switch following a reduction in funding allocated to Championships clubs.

James will undoubtedly continue to go from strength to strength as a Community Coach with his new employers, but he admits that he leaves the Rams with a heavy heart.

"I am sad to leave Dewsbury Rams, but I will continue to support the club, and will be watching closely this season," he said. "I have made some great friends here over the last few years, but I am now looking forward to my next chapter as I move to Wakefield, and I am excited to be taking on a new challenge at Super League level."

Having joined the Rams in 2010, Stephenson spearheaded a number of exciting initiatives as Community Coach, including the Play Touch Rugby League programme, which has broken new ground in the Heavy Woollen area.

"The Play Touch Rugby League programme is targeted at people aged 16 and over with the intention of getting them playing on a more regular basis. The standard we were set was to get people playing the game at least 20 weeks out of every year. That’s what we were aiming for and our frequency rates have been pretty good, in fact, according to the RFL, they’ve been exceptional. And, even though the target was 20, we’ve actually given our players 30 weeks. It’s more than is required, but we think it’s a very good thing.

"We’ve had over 300 participants in the Play Touch Rugby League and 50% of those are regular players who come back time after time. Of that 300, 140 are players who’ve never taken part in the sport before, and it’s very satisfying to get those sort of people on board. It’s a national programme, which means every professional club in the country is trying to push this," Stephenson continued. "Clubs like Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos are doing very well, and really pushing it, but they are big clubs, with a large amount of resources. But at Dewsbury we are really punching above our weight for the resources we have."

During his time with Dewsbury, James has worked as a part of a small but dedicated group, who have sought to connect with local people of all ages through the medium of Rugby League.

"Last year there was myself, Michael Wainwright and Matty Nicholson. We’ve worked together in the schools and have hit about 1,200 kids in total. We have our own project called ‘Get Active with the Rams’, which last year was funded by the lottery. We didn’t get funding for it in 2012, but we tried to continue with the project were we can and have held some very successful and well attended ‘Get Active’ camps up here at Tetley’s Stadium. That’s targeted towards Primary schools and focuses on teaching kids about the importance of active lifestyles. We get them to understand how important it is to lead healthy lifestyles."

And unsurprisingly, the job provides no shortage of inspiration.

"I’ve been asked before what I find most satisfying about the job and it’s hard to answer that, as I get satisfaction from so many different aspects," said James. "There are two main parts to my job. One is to get more people involved in Rugby League, and the other is to get more people up to the Tetley’s Stadium on match days. We’ve had plenty of success at getting kids playing the game at school and eventually attaching to their local community club, which is fantastic.

"But a real highlight would definitely have to be with Earlsheaton Technology College year seven boys team which reached the national quarter-finals of the Champion Schools competition, and also Bywell Juniors, whose year five/six team have won the West Yorkshire games for two consecutive years. We’re making them into players for life, so I guess that is one aspect that is particularly satisfying. The take up the game and continue with it, and that has to be at the top for me."

But Stephenson saved the highest praise for those around him, noting in particular the strong relationship the Rams Community Team has enjoyed with local rivals Batley.

"I think many don’t realise how much hard work goes in behind the scenes, and the benefits we get from the work that gets done - we’ve had a matchday attendance increase of around 100 per game, which hopefully reflects on our work in the community. There’s so much for people to do these days. It’s easy for parents to buy their kids an Xbox or a Playstation 3 and leave them in their bedroom for 12 hours a day. We’re up against it in that respect. But we've had a great friendship with Batley on the community side of things. The Play Touch Rugby League programme is run in partnership with the Bulldogs, and that partnership allows us to draw on more resources.

"The two teams are great rivals on the field, we have been for more than 100 years, and long may that continue, but off the field there’s a real sense of camaraderie, and we do the best we can to work with each other. We come together for the benefit of our local community, and everybody at Batley is great to work with - they share our aspirations. It's been extremely satisfying and I'll miss working alongside my colleagues at the Bulldogs.

"I also enjoyed working alongside Warren Jowitt while he was at the club, and latterly with Glenn following his appointment.

"But more than anything, I'll miss working for Dewsbury, and would like to reassure supporters that I remain a big fan of the club. Here's to a great 2013 for the Wildcats and the Rams!"

Media Manager

Dewsbury Rams

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