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Youth rugby rises in region

Capital District Youth Rugby League gives area teens a chance to play unique sport

Molly Keatley tries to run through a tackle during Sunday’s Saratoga Mustangs game against Kingston at Shenentaha Creek Park in Malta.

Molly Keatley tries to run through a tackle during Sunday’s Saratoga Mustangs game against Kingston at Shenentaha Creek Park in Malta. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— Viedt said that learning rugby basics was the hardest part.

“It didn’t kick in until once I started playing,” said Viedt, who is also a member of the BH-BL wrestling team. “On the first kick, it started to click as to what we needed to do out there.”

“There’s a ton of complex rules, and it’s different than any other sport in America,” said team captain August Amirault, another BH-BL junior. “It can get confusing, but … I can understand it on the field.”

Above all, the skill the players learn is teamwork. With elements of soccer and American football, rugby requires athletes to work together in order to move the ball over the goal line.

“This is something that once they see it, it has that (physical) element but they also see it as a huge team-building sport,” said Saratoga coach Chuck Tempest. “There is no one person who is going to make it, and there is no one player who is going to break it.”

“There’s all shapes and sizes (of players), and everyone gets the opportunity to run with the ball,” said Sliwinski.

Sliwinski said the push is on to broaden rugby’s appeal to younger American athletes. With the sport slated to return to the summer Olympics in 2016, USA Rugby – the sport’s governing body in this country – is looking to increase involvement among teens through state and regional competitions. Locally, the CDYRL is introducing a series of seven-on-seven tournaments beginning in June that will mirror the style played in international competitions.

“There is the potential for growth in this area, still,” said Sliwinski. “There’s other kids who haven’t been introduced to it yet, so there is room for the sport to grow.”

“Recruiting is difficult,” said Tempest. “We’ve got one school (BH-BL) that provides us with the majority of our players, but there are some schools that don’t give us many kids.”

The players do their part to get others on to the rugby field.

“I got my cousin to play,” said Duck. “She’s very shy and nervous, but she’s doing very well so far.”

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