Chicago is getting ready for one of the biggest events on this nations soil for rugby. If you haven't heard about it yet, and I'm not sure how that would be possible, but the best team in the world, the New Zealand All Blacks, are coming to Soldier Field November 1st to play the USA Eagles. Beside local teams planning their tail gating plans, bus trips, and where to go after the game, the Illinois Youth Rugby Association, USA Rugby and AIG have made some major investments into the event.
The local rugby board, CARFU, is planning a masquerade for October 31st, Halloween at Union Station. The event will be one of a kind and tickets have been on sale for just over a week now. If you want more details on the event or to buy tickets you can go to the CARFU Website, for more info.
This summer the Chicago Park District, AIG, CPS and iYRA have all been working hard to spread the sport throughout local communities and to get kids pumped up about this game. Drew Parker, who is part of iYRA went to Day Camps through out the park district to put on clinics for kids ages 6-12. Parker has also been busy meeting with schools, and even has been to CPD staff training's so more kids can be involved in the sport through out the city. I attended two of the training's as well as one of the Day Camp sessions, and Parker makes sure the hour sessions are fun, entertaining, and fast paced so kids, and adults walk away feeling positive about the game.
Today USA Rugby put out a press release stating that
The AIG Rugby in a Box initiative will introduce the Rookie Rugby program to more than 200 local school and organizations in the greater Chicagoland area in the build-up to the historic match between the USA Eagles and New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field Nov. 1
CPS has some of the highest numbers in the nation for school populations, and with the commitment of CPS Physical Education teachers and CPD Instructors thousands of children should be able to get a taste of one of the best and most inclusive sports that are out there. USA Rugby says
“AIG is thrilled to continue its support of the Rookie Rugby program as part of our ongoing efforts to help grow this great game in Chicago and throughout the U.S.,” AIG Property Casualty Midwest Region President Joe Fitzpatrick said. “We hope to see a lot of new rugby players and fans at Soldier Field onNovember 1.”
According to USA Rugby, more than 30,000 students in 55 institutions across the city will learn Rookie Rugby at school, the Chicago Park District is committed to creating substantial and sustainable after-school Rookie Rugby programs, as well. Grant Park will host the Rookie Rugby Festival Oct. 25, where organized teams from schools and parks will showcase the Rookie Rugby program. Chicago Park District will provide the after-school programs for free up until the match at Soldier Field.
Illinois Youth Rugby Association Youth Development Officer Drew Parker told USA Rugby
“One of the keys to achieving significant growth for our port is to put a rugby ball in the hands of as many new players as possible. When you see these kids running with the ball for the first time, you get the sense that they’re going to be involved in the sport for a long time.”
The Rookie Rugby Festival will hold matches in three divisions, one each for age groups encompassed in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
Around 50 clubs under the Illinois Youth Rugby Association umbrella will also receive AIG’s Rugby in a Box to sell the program, using the success of Chicago as an example. Following the match between the Eagles and All Blacks, the Illinois Youth Rugby Association will continue to drive the initiative to create additional rugby clubs for IYRA league play. The IYRA will also look to develop a Rookie Rugby league using clubs formed through the Chicago Park District, while clubs will be able to use the AIG Rugby in a Box as a sales tool to generate revenue and a state-wide developmental league.