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Rookie Rugby Kicks Off in Florida

For Immediate Release
August 24, 2009

USA Rugby Trains 500 New Rookie Rugby Coaches in Florida

BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby helped introduce Rookie Rugby – its basic, non-contact version of the game – to physical education programs in the state of Florida last week.

Geared primarily toward children from 6-12 years old, Rookie Rugby is designed to give young players a fun, safe and enjoyable sporting experience and aims to introduce a new generation of fans and athletes to the exciting global game through programs administered through schools, community-based and state-based rugby organizations (SBRO), as well as USA Rugby national events.

Rookie Rugby became required course material for the third largest school district in the state of Florida – Hillsborough County Public School District at a recent in-service training hosted by USA Rugby and the Florida Rugby Union. Approximately 500 educators participated in Rookie Rugby practical demonstrations and program instruction designed to highlight the benefits and resources available to teachers and students alike.
Out of a field of seven traditional team sports under review for inclusion as a focus sport for 2009-2010, Rookie Rugby stood out from the rest due to its low implementation cost, inclusivity for participants, the variations of the game and its high degree of cardiovascular benefit for students.

Prior to the in-service day, USA Rugby and Play Rugby USA staff members hosted a Rookie Rugby educator workshop to train volunteer instructors needed to manage the large group of teachers expected the following day. Volunteers from the Florida Rugby Union and University of South Florida easily mastered the curriculum featuring popular Rookie Rugby games, skills and progressions. This year’s program evolved as a result from a successful pilot conducted last year by Tommy Van Trees that reached 30 schools in Hillsborough County.

During the in-service, elementary, middle and high school teachers were divided into groups to vary exposure to the many features of Rookie Rugby. One section worked with lead-up games while another focused on a progressive approach to introducing non-contact rugby. Physical educators were asked to participate and experience first-hand the benefits of Rookie Rugby. After the one hour practical session, groups then rotated to a classroom setting where they were given a guided tour of online resources such as the Rookie Rugby Club and education kit materials.

“Practical instruction combined with the classroom theory and overview of where to find important resources is exactly what these teachers needed to feel confident in teaching the sport. I know the teachers are also very much looking forward to the one on one follow up training sessions from local Rookie Rugby instructors. “We are all excited about this new upgrade in our curriculum.” said Steve Vanoer, Supervisor for K-12 Physical Education for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

All educators who attended the in-service training are now required to complete the online educational coach training survey and register for free as a member of the Rookie Rugby Club. District teachers who complete these requirements will then be provided with flag belts, balls and Rookie Rugby education kit materials through the District to jump-start their programs. They will also qualify for two follow up visits from local Rookie Rugby instructors, courtesy of the Florida Rugby Union. A total of 74 schools are eligible to participate for the remainder of 2009 with an additional 150 schools being added in the spring of 2010. This program therefore has the potential of introducing over 130,000 new students to the game.

“Expanding the rugby community through engaging schools and other educational organizations is a vital initiative in growing the game and putting youth rugby on the map. Physical Education in-service days such as the one in Hillsborough County provide an efficient platform from which to lever the resources available in this process. In just one day we were able to introduce nearly 500 new coaches to the game – that’s 100 coaches, per one USA Rugby staff member in attendance! With professional oversight from the Florida Rugby Union, this program could produce thousands of young, aspiring rugby players.” said USA Rugby National Youth and High School Director, Mark Griffin.

Erin Kennedy, USA Rugby’s new Youth Manager attended the Rookie Rugby training, along with her predecessor, Katie Wurst. Wurst will be leaving USA Rugby to pursue a Masters in Sports Psychology, while Erin joins USA Rugby from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Katie has done so much for youth rugby over the last few years,” USA Rugby’s CEO Nigel Melville said. “USA Rugby would like to thank her for all her considerable efforts and wish her well in her studies.”

To download the Rookie Rugby guidebook, take the on-line coaching course or for more information on how to get started with Rookie Rugby today, visit www.usarugby.org/goto/rookie_rugby or contact USA Rugby Youth Manager Erin Kennedy Ekennedy@usarugby.org.