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How an Armagh man's new trademarked rugby ball harnessed the fidget spinner to make passing addictive

 

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Pass master: David Robinson

Pass master: David Robinson

The Gazapi training ball

The Gazapi training ball

Pass master: David Robinson

Learning a language, running a 5k, baking banana bread - lockdown has many of us trying to master all manners of new skills each to varying degrees of success.

Armagh native David Robinson will be doing his bit on Instagram for the rugby enthusiasts come Monday morning and believes he has designed just the thing to improve a key component of your game when stuck without team training.

The man behind the Gazapi training ball, Robinson will be using social media to post instructional videos showing how to develop your passing skills with his own creation on social media.

The ball makes use of a distinctive spiral design to show off a spin pass and is the culmination of a decade's thinking on the part of the man who holds the position of director of sport at The Beacon School in Buckinghamshire, not far from where European champions Saracens have their training base.

"I've been a PE teacher for 17 years now and in school we do rugby, football, cricket, everything," he said.

"Part of that for me is always trying to think of how to improve the skills of the pupils in a way that will keep them engaged.

"When I'm coaching kids how to pass, it seems to be one of the hardest skills to try and teach. I remember you used to get told off for trying it but there's no denying it's the best way to get the ball accurately from A to B. But I always find at the start the kids will get their hands the wrong way and maybe complicate things more than they need to.

"I was thinking what would be a good method, a visual method, to help them see the pass.

 

"I'd started out toying with the idea of putting handprints on the ball, this was probably about 10 years ago.

"It's too slow. Catching the ball and matching your hands before you throw a pass, it takes too long. There has to be a visual element to it, something that catches your attention in the way a fidget spinner or something would."

Ultimately, the Gazapi would be born when Robinson was out for dinner.

"You know those red and white paper straws that sort of spiral down? Well, I was in a restaurant and spinning one of those straws in my fingers," recalled the man who first picked up a ball himself back at the Royal School Armagh.

"It looked cool and it just made me wonder if I could do that on a ball. We went home and painted it on a rugby ball... it probably looked a bit like a year three's artwork but it did the job. I chucked it to my son back and forth and it looked the part. That started it off and we went from there.

"We got the prototype made up, we got the patent and now we're selling them."

Today, the ball is finding a market having been endorsed by former Wales and British Lions forward Michael Owen, while English World Cup winner Lewis Moody is also a fan.

Robinson, however, gets the most satisfaction from seeing how those at his own school have improved their passing since bringing the ball into their training routine.

"There's an addictive element to it, trying to get the perfect spin on it," he said.

"You can see it with the kids that it keeps them interested and as soon as they've mastered it off one hand they're trying it off the other.

"They see the likes of (former Australia out-half) Quade Cooper with the skills he's putting out there on Instagram and want to do the same. There's a fun element to it, but definitely improvement in the passing too.

"But it's funny, you'll get a text from someone saying they've seen a group of guys playing with it in a park in Yorkshire or a video of someone using it for a spiral kick come up on social media. At the start we thought it would be the size threes and fours that we'd need for kids but the size fives for adults seem to be doing just as well.

"I suppose you're never too old to be wanting to get better, are you? Obviously these are strange times but it's perfect for the lockdown to get out there, throw a ball around and work on your skills."

Visit www.gazapi.co.uk and enter the code Telegraph15 to get 15% off a Gazapi rugby ball. Follow David on Instagram at gazapisport.

Belfast Telegraph