Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
“Today we will be playing rugby,” USA Rugby Youth Development Manager Erin Kennedy told a gym full of anxious students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California and the kids did just that: played rugby in school.
Professionalizing the sport of rugby in America gets a lot of attention and glamour. However, the real work is being done in the trenches. The more we, as a rugby nation, can introduce players to the sport of rugby at earlier ages… the more we increase our chance of future success.
Not to mention that by introducing the sport at early ages, youth players learn to enjoy and love the sport. These same players will go on to make up the core of a growing fan base for rugby in America. A fan base that will push forward professionalism with their support, go onto give back to the game by coaching, or simply letting their kids play the game.
The battle to grow rugby in America will not be won with quick fixes. To that end, the Rookie Rugby program continues to aid in this effort along with the many volunteer coaches across the country that support youth rugby.
In a weeklong effort spearheaded by Kennedy and Kurt Weaver of RugbyOhio, Rookie Rugby was introduced to over 2,500 kids in Southern California during the week of November 15th.
Rookie Rugby is a game that is targeted at children ages 5-12. It’s a fun, safe, and enjoyable sporting experience that aims to expose the popular international game of rugby to America’s youth.
Rookie Rugby programs are administered by schools, community organizations, and State-Based Rugby Organizations (SBROs).
Through coach trainings, physical education classes, afterschool clinics, and community organizations, Kennedy and Weaver introduced Rookie Rugby to over 2,500 kids (2,000 participated and 500 saw a demonstration), 35 teachers, and 75 coaches at 16 different locations.
“To introduce rugby to over 2,000 kids in one week is an incredible step forward for the sport,” said Kennedy.
“Giving these kids an opportunity to play rugby in school is the first step for creating future players and fans. This initiative is just the first of many that will contribute to the growth of the game in the United States.”
To enable the newly educated students and teachers to continue their rugby education, each location received three rugby balls and the Rookie Rugby curriculum. Each host club received five rugby balls courtesy of World Rugby Shop.
USA Rugby worked with Southern California Youth Rugby to pinpoint locations to visit in order to reach kids, teachers, parents, coaches, and administrators and inspire them to fall in love with rugby.
Vice President of Southern California Youth Rugby, Ravi Perera, said, “We were very happy and fortunate to have USA Rugby come down to Southern California…and promote Rookie Rugby to clubs and schools in the area. Well over 2,000 kids were introduced to rugby within a week, and this should definitely help raise the number of young rugby players in Southern California.”
The weeklong initiative was held in conjunction with the Girls U19 National All-Star Championship that was held in Mission Viejo on November 20 and 21. The week concluded with the Championship game, which saw the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) side claiming the championship over the U17s Women’s National Team.
The initiative in Southern California is just one of many on the horizon. With the hard work of the many involved, along with the many coaches already involved at the youth level, this just may be the dawn of a new age for rugby coming in America.
To view pictures and videos from the week, please visit USA Rugby: Youth and High School’s Facebook page.