Kids discover fun and fitness in new flag rugby program

6 months ago

The smiles on the faces of school kids enjoying rugby for the first time shows that the hard work is paying off for Rugby LA.

The non-profit organization is well on the way to introducing a safe and fun flag version of the sport to thousands of first-time participants across Los Angeles in 2022.

Recent approval to run flag rugby through LA’s Best Afterschool Enrichment Program can raise awareness amongst 4800 boys and girls in neighborhoods with limited resources.

To make that a success, Rugby LA Executive Director Harrison Herndon will don his other hat as lead instructor to teach school teachers and kids alike.

“It’s what we dream of doing. Kids who have not seen a rugby ball are now going to see more than 4000 of them,” said Kevin Battle, the LA Giltinis’ Director of Development.

“Giltinis players Charlie Abel, Sean McNulty, Christian Poidevin and Cristian Rodriguez are among the coaches we have certified to run flag rugby programs.

“It doesn’t look like rugby when the kids first get their hands on a football. It’s amazing that 20 minutes with an instructor like Harrison and you see a game of rugby.

“We can teach rugby to a group of 30 kids but what really makes a difference is the opportunity to teach rugby to a group of PE teachers who can pass that on to the hundreds of kids they see in classes each week.”

The aspirational connection to the Giltinis is strong with hundreds of schoolkids invited into the stands at the club’s opening two home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Rugby is a game of equality. Participants play both offense and defense and everyone is allowed to run the ball.

Flag rugby is open to boys and girls of all age groups and Rugby LA can integrate the sport into schools, afterschool groups and the curriculum of community-based organizations.

A partnership with Rugby LA can take several convenient forms. Staff trainings can coach up staff to run flag rugby sessions on their own or a certified coach can attend your site to run sessions. A hybrid model works with Rugby LA coaches working beside interested staff to formulate and improve sessions.

An equipment bundle of rugby balls, cones and flags can be provided to run a session.

“You don’t have to be super strong or super fast to enjoy flag rugby. You see quiet, shy kids getting great enjoyment from being part of a team, exercising and feeling valued,” Battle said.

“Building the number of rugby fans and growing participation numbers are two big goals for us.”

Giltinis Nathan Den Hoedt, Hanco Germishuys and Poidevin recently helped coach a school group at Emerson Junior High School in Westwood.

“We had about 500 schoolkids attend the Giltinis-New England Free Jacks game on Opening Day at the Coliseum (on February 27). The kids came down to the field to say ‘hi’ after full-time to get some Giltinis autographs and photos,” Battle said.

“The Free Jacks players saw the enthusiasm and joined in with the kids. That’s the spirit of rugby.”

Interested in adding Flag Rugby to your curriculum:

Send us an email at harrison@rugbyla.org or call at (323) 407-5120 to learn more about our program and how to schedule a demonstration.

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