Saturday Night Lights in Harlem

In partnership with the Office of the District Attorney of New York, Play Rugby USA is now approaching its second year collaborative program Saturday Night Lights (SNL), a youth development initiative that seeks to activate community spaces with exceptional sports (like rugby!), connect youth to resources and build trust between law enforcement and the community.

Young people growing up in New York City’s disadvantaged neighborhoods face tremendous obstacles, and are often more likely to interact with the criminal justice system, as a victim, a defendant or both. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, high-crime and economically disadvantaged areas can negatively influence youth as they grow older; areas with gang-violence in particular can increase the likelihood of juvenile criminal behavior and victimization.

Positive youth development programs, particularly those integrating sports and fitness activities, actively work to promote prosocial behavior to combat those influences, by creating strong bonds between both youth and adults (coaches/parents) and between peers. By promoting positive social bonds and teaching self-confidence and discipline through fitness and group-based activities, these programs offer a unique opportunity to empower young people, strengthen community bonds, and increase public safety.

The Play Rugby USA SNL program serves 100 youth annually, ages 11-18 from the Central Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. We are thrilled to be able to bring an empowering, egalitarian sport with a proud tradition of respect and integrity, to this community. Our Youth Development Mentors utilize the Play Rugby curriculum, which promotes positive relationships, creates positive environments, provides hands-on experience playing flag rugby, teaches a growth mindset and leads our participants to further explore their personal interests.

Over 77% of our participants report that they have made new friends, thanks to rugby…an outcome we are proud of!