Youth Rugby is for CHAMPS

A chilly Saturday morning in February saw 11 dedicated coaches, over 200 passionate players, and 3 hours of engaging rugby action. It was Leap Day of 2020 and it marked our second CHAMPS tournament of the decade.  

The name CHAMPS stands for Cooperative, Healthy, Active, Motivated and Positive Students, and these tournaments are the products of our three-way partnerships with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) local schools. CHAMPS Sports and Fitness Programs allow Middle School aged students to participate in fun, safe, and supervised sports and fitness activities before and after school.  

Through our Train-the-Trainer programs, we train and develop flag rugby coaches in DOE schools through our youth development curriculum. We then host weekend tournaments for the CHAMPS schools where the kids can demonstrate not only their rugby skills, but also how they put the Play Rugby values into action during competition. 

The tournament hosted 11 teams from 7 different schools – 7 of which were co-ed while 4 full featured girls-only sides. Each team played 6 games and the tournament ran with a back to back format, so it was a faced paced morning with small amount of downtime for coaches and players alike.  

The crisp, clear weather of the morning allowed for just enough warmth, and all of the games were played on the outdoor turf at Franklin K Lane High School in Brooklyn.  

Getting out on the field, rather than being cooped up in a gym, allowed for longer game phases and a real opportunity for the kids to look for space and show off their speed. The wide-open space also called for great viewership of all games simultaneously, and the players appeared to be drawing energy from the invigorating effects of the cold – there were plenty of smiles, jumps and yells of delight going around.  

This enthusiasm displayed by the kids reinforced the reasons we are motivated to be pulled out of our cozy beds early on a Saturday morning. These tournaments allow us to witness the seeds we have planted through coach training and development – engaged and inspired youth who are rearing to get out and play. From the time of arrival to the last games, the energy and passion from players was high, and even standing out in the weather, you couldn’t help but feel a little inspired by the infectious positivity pouring out of the players. 

On field, the Play Rugby values-in-action were obvious. Many players displayed a game ‘Game Plan’ by using tactics and communication to get the ball over the line, and positive sportsmanship was apparent throughout the day.  

While we often refer to ‘Get There’ as being a way to support your own teammates, there was a lot of Get There between opposing teams and throughout the tournament as well. Instances of kids helping their opponents off the ground, coaches encouraging players to keep warm and players handing back flags that had been dropped all showed how support for one another is a unanimous concept that isn’t limited to your own network or reserved for your own benefit.  

At Play Rugby USA, we are dedicated to creating a better world through rugby, and seeing our values reproduced and represented by young people on the field shows how our youth development curriculum facilitates the development of young people who have strong work ethic and commitment to respect and integrity.  

This upcoming Saturday calls for another CHAMPS tournament, where we will be hosting 13 teams from 8 Schools, each of whom will be reflecting the Play Rugby values in their own individual ways.