Matthew Jenny: Rugby Coaching and Playing in Argentina

Matthew Jenny reflects on his incredible experience coaching and playing football in Argentina

Why did you decide to go overseas to coach sports?

I wanted to coach rugby overseas in order to experience the sport in another culture. I believe that sport not only is a great way to play competitive games with your friends but it’s also a great way to meet new people and also to teach key values in life. I have always wanted to travel to South America and heard that Buenos Aires was a fantastic city, therefore this was the perfect opportunity.

What did you achieve in SPORT from the experience?

I definitely improved my coaching skills and my ability to be sensitive to players with different abilities and knowledge of the game. Furthermore, I learnt how to include children of all standards in fun and engaging drills. I also developed my rugby skills by having to adjust to a different style of the game and on different pitches. In Argentina, there is a greater focus on keeping the ball alive and passing rather than rucking and playing the game in the forwards. This was a really valuable experience for me.

What did you achieve PERSONALLY from the experience?

I have had a really valuable experience and learnt a lot. The culture in Argentina is much more welcoming and friendly, and the people have a lot of passion and heart, therefore it was an amazing experience to adjust to this type of culture. I travelled alone and therefore I feel that I have also grown in confidence to introduce myself and start a conversation with a stranger. Finally, playing for Floresta has given me perspective on things in life generally, and how it doesn’t matter how big your house is or how much money you have, but the most important thing is having close, supportive people around you.

What was a typical day like?

I would wake up around 9am, explore my local area for a couple of hours (maybe buy some medialunas on the way). Then I would go to school around 12pm and have lunch with the kids. The food is great and the teachers are all very kind and helpful. Then we would take a bus to the sports fields (45 mins away) and I would coach rugby for 2 hours. We would arrive back at the school around 5pm and then I would go straight to rugby training at Floresta which starts at 7pm. After training, I would take a bus home and get back around 10-10:30pm and have dinner with my family.

What are your most memorable moments?

My most memorable moment was scoring a try in my first game for Floresta and jumping up and down with my teammates to celebrate. Also, one night the boys and I, from Floresta, went out for an all you can eat ‘asado’ which was the best meal of my life!! We had a great time but didn’t start eating till about 11:30pm! Finally, saying goodbye to everyone was very memorable as it was clear how many great friendships I had made and how attached I had become to the people in Argentina.

What was the social life like?

The social life in Argentina is uniquely fantastic!! There is always something going on and the city never sleeps. I went out quite a few times to both house parties and also clubs! In Buenos Aires, it is typical to eat with your friends and have a few drinks before going out, and then getting to a club around 1-2am. There is always a really good vibe and the clubs are packed with young people. You don’t come home till 6am, which tells you everything you need to know about the night life. Its great!!

What were the local people and culture like?

The culture in Buenos Aires is very much centered around the family, the home and the heart. Therefore, people are very warm, welcoming and friendly and always want you to feel like part of the family. Even strangers on the street or waiters in a restaurant are always very helpful; it’s very easy to start a conversation with someone and soon be laughing together!

What did you try that you had never tried before?

It was the first time I had ever travelled alone so this was the main new experience for me. It was also my first time working as a sports teacher and I really enjoyed getting to know the kids and forming friendships with the other teachers. I also tried loads of new local food which was fantastic!!

What are your top 5 must-see places in Argentina?

In Buenos Aires:

  1.  La Boca
  2. Market at Plaza Serrano
  3. Las Canitas
  4. Puerto Madero
  5. Florida

And also Iguazu Falls.

What are your top 5 things to do in Argentina?

  1. Eating an asado
  2. Partying with the locals
  3. Going on the boat trip in Iguazu falls
  4. Visiting la plaza mayor
  5. Medialunas!!

What were you doing before you went away?

Before I went away, I had been working for six months during my gap year at a concierge company.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to go on the trip and how did you overcome them?

Firstly I had to raise money all by myself and so I worked for six months. I was also nervous about leaving behind friends and family and travelling on my own, however this proved a truly valuable experience. I was also worried that I didn’t speak much Spanish. However, this improved massively by the end and I could sustain conversations!

If you took a gap year or a career break, why did you do this, and what have you gained from doing so?

I took a gap year as this is a unique opportunity to travel and experience other cultures for a large amount of time. I have definitely gained perspective on things in life and also learnt about other cultures and how they live their life. I also feel I have grown up and gained much more confidence over the past few months.

Has the experience affected your ‘life plan’ in any way and if so how?

The experience hasn’t changed my life plan as I’m still definitely going to university. However, it has changed my future plans as I definitely want to live in Buenos Aires when I’m older!!

Would you recommend it to others and if so why?

I would definitely recommend this to others. Immersing yourself in another culture can be quite intimidating at first, but it is incredibly rewarding. People in Argentina come from very different backgrounds but generally have great hearts and are really welcoming and friendly and it is a great place to play sport, meet people and live in a fantastic city!

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