There were countless things going on the past week for the USA v All Blacks game. Both USA Rugby and All Blacks rugby reached out to youth, and tourists, and embraced the city. However, the best event I went to was the Serevi Rugby clinic that was put on with the Noble Network of schools. Not just with a school but a clinic that worked with 150 young women! They are in fact the largest group of a High School women's teams in the Chicago Area.
If you don't remember Halloween's weather, let me give you a reminder, snow and rain and sleet and about 35 degrees. Where some teens were out trick or treating, these girls came out in their shorts and hoodies to play some rugby. The All Blacks even called their practice after just 20 minutes.
Daniella Hernandez and Mindy Martinez are the captains for , Nobel Street College Prep, say that they play rugby because it's a great way to relieve stress and that it is like no other sport. Martinez said,
I am excited to see other teams and how they play and learn some new techniques. I can bring it back to my team and hopefully make them better players.
Andrew York who coaches Rauner College Prep, and also has a long background with rugby was excited for the clinic, and also for students who were going to be going out to the USA v All Blacks game as well. York, who is original from England told me,
The USA could have a fantastic rugby team, if they had just 1% of kids take interest in the game. For women in particular, they always see men's team in the television, and to see people actually take interest in a girls sport, I think it will just empower them to go out. Go to college. Say 'Hey, I'm just as good as anybody else and I can go out and be a great sports player'
The pitch was filled with several Noble Network teams, which are coached by players from North Shore, Chicago Dragons, and Chicago Griffins. The most exciting person to get to meet was Waisale Serevi. Known as the King of Sevens Rugby, the Fijian was bundled up and ready to teach these ladies some important skills to improve their game. He told me that it was good to be out with the kids and be able to give back to rugby.
For girls and women to play on a team where they support each other, rugby is good for women. We always tackle and hit each other on the field, off the field we are all friends. We have food together, we have a few drinks together, and it's being played all over the world. It's in the world cup, it will be in the Olympics 2016, that's why it's a great sport. I think rugby is great, any shape or sizes, they have a position in rugby, they will enjoy and I believe it will take them a long way.
Serevi has dedicated a lot of his post playing years to youth. He's done clinics all over the world and United States, and he says he sees it as the fastest growing sport here in America. Serevi gives back to rugby, because he feels it has given him a lot. Having play 21 years of international rugby he says that the sport will help kids set goal. Little goals that then help to lead to the big goals in life.
Ryan McBride, Director of Rugby, Noble Network of Charter Schools, brought out a girls team as well. He helped set up the clinic with Adam Kopp, a former Griffin, who works with Serevi, was excited to see so many high school girls in Chicago playing rugby. McBride likes that the sport helps these young women develop character, and discipline. Many students in the Noble schools are from lower income or underprivileged families, rugby is a way for them to focus on something else and get out what in their lives may be bothering or stressing them.
Rugby general is an easy sport to start. If gives them a means for discipline and a safe environment for them to get out their anger. They use that discipline in the class room. They have to keep a certain GPA in order to play. It keeps them on track to graduation n promotion for each grade level. It also is really important for them to have an opportunity to play a sport, be part of a team and experience that culture. The rugby family is such a global experience. They can play in our network, the go to college and meet people from all over the world that have played, and even play with those team, and take it with them for the rest of their lives.
One thing that McBride, Severi, and pretty much anyone can hope is that the USA v All Blacks game would have woken up the country to seeing what a great sport rugby is. It's fast paced. Everyone is important in plays, both scoring and defensively. The Noble Network has a large group of girls, coached by talented players, and some of them may even become the next USA Women's Eagles, or could be future Olympians.
Tags: Andrew York, college, girls in sport, Noble Network Schools, Noble Street College Prep, Olympic Rugby, Rauner College Prep, Ryan McBride, Serevi Rugby, sevens rugby, USA V ALL BLACKS', Waisale Serevi, Women, women in sports, World Cup Rugby