BY LIAM MADIGAN-FRIED
PRO Rugby North America teams are looking to make an impact in their local area
Teams have already made it a priority to work with their communities, mainly with young people, to try and make a positive difference
The ability to make great differences further exemplify the camaraderie and community of rugby
Today in professional sports, it has become an expectation that any club in a given area should strive to make their surrounding community a better place. That expectation is no different with the new PRO Rugby North America league.
Teams have already made it a priority to work with their communities, mainly with young people, to try and make a positive difference. To help build the excitement as well as grow the sport of rugby as a whole, all five teams have gone out to work with the next generation of rugby players in America, from the high school to the college level.
“We’ve had lots and lots inquiries, along with people telling us how excited they are.” Says Kieran Browner, when asked about the Colorado community’s reaction to the new Denver team. According to Browner, Denver so far has worked with various youth and high school teams, allowing them to observe and even participate in drills with PRO Denver ruggers.
In Sacramento, there is a similar situation to Denver regarding how they approach their work with youth players. “We have a deep local connection to local high school rugby teams with players that grew up here.” Says Heather Atherton, head of PR for the Sacramento club.
Players for the San Diego team wasted little to no time making their presence in the rugby community felt. Before the season even began, former American Eagles 7’s player Pono Haitsuka (Mystic River), along with fellow teammates Mikey Te’o (Belmont Shore), Joe Taufete’e (Belmont Shore) and Kalei Konrad (OMBAC), attended a youth tournament in Carlsbad, CA, where they were able to meet some of the players.
Haitsuka’s continued presence wherever the team is out doing the most good is one of his earliest impressions left on the league thus far. Along with the youth tournament in Carlsbad, the former Eagle/club standout has also attended events such as the So Cal Youth Rugby All-Star Tournament in Poway, California, as well as an end of the year banquet in Del Mar for the Cathedral Catholic High School rugby team, which he attended with Head Coach Ryan Egan, as well as San Diego teammates Ryan Matyas (Old Blue) and Tom Bliss (Wasps).
“We’ll be doing a few more outreach events throughout the year as well.” Says Haitsuka.
Another team that has spread their umbrella of influence to the youth in their area is Ohio. The Ohio players have worked with the local high school and youth squads, to which the team says they have received “nothing but glowing reviews from the coaches thanking us for their time.”
Along with working with kids on the pitch, the Ohio team has plans for doing some more good off of it as well. According to the team’s media department, they plan to be doing work later this season with visiting Nationwide Children’s Hospital, heading into the local schools to teach rookie rugby in gym class, as well as meeting with other charitable organizations to help further the club’s outreach.
The continued work with youth rugby teams is exactly how PRO looks to build a new fan base in a country seemingly dominated by the NFL. Engaging young people and showing them an alternative to what’s out there will give them the incentive to form their own ‘niche’ communities. In other words, plant the seed to the kids that rugby is cool, and it’s here (US).
About the Author
Liam Madigan-Fried is a rugby player from Boston, USA, currently attending college and playing for the Lyndon State Hornets RC. As a major of English and Film Studies, he tends to spend his time binge-watching Rugby, NFL and Trailer Park Boys. While writing articles for Ruck, he also runs his own exciting NFL/PRO Rugby Blog at www.penguintundrasports.com