Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mayor's Cup 2009 Documentary

The second annual Mayor's Cup Championship, an all-borough flag rugby competition for New York City schools took place in early June. Have a look.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rebecca Brafman

Photo:Caitlin Larrabee
Name: Rebecca Brafman
Hometown: Queens, NY
Current Club or Affiliation: New York Rugby Club
Years in Rugby: 9 (yikes!)

I love rugby can give you a sense of family/community all over the United States, and even internationally. Every town that I have played rugby in, there have always been fellow rugby players happy to host, feed me breakfast, and make sure that I can get to my games. I would return to the favor to anyone visiting New York. Even when I traveled to New Zealand, joining a rugby club was a great way to make instant friends in a new country.
I walk to my games that are played on Saturdays because of religious reasons, and sometimes that walk can be several miles long. I am always surprised by the number of cars that stop and offer me a ride because they see my rugby jacket or bag. Even members of the team I'm playing against have offered to help. Rugby provides a sense of community for men and women across the US, and the world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ashley English

Ashley English at the 2006 World Cup
Photo: Bill English

Name: Ashley English
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Current Club: Berkeley All-Blues
Former Clubs : Carleton College
Years in Rugby: 14

I love rugby because it has given me success and confidence, which I have been able to apply to other areas of my life. When I graduated from college and came to play for the Berkeley All-Blues, I was a nervous wreck for several months. I was surrounded by international all star players who had just won their third National Championship, and I was just a little rookie from a tiny college in Minnesota.

To make matters worse, they asked me to play a new position: fullback. Playing fullback requires being able to perform under pressure, to catch high kicks, and to make try-saving tackles. Unfortunately, being nervous made me play horribly. I think I dropped more balls during my first few months with the All-Blues than I have in the 10 years since!

Ashley, USA v. Scotland, 2006 World Cup
Photo: Bill English

I am so fortunate that our coach and veteran players saw my potential and were patient with me. The turning point came when one of my experienced teammates invited me out to practice early one day to help me work on my kick receiving. She had complete confidence in me, which helped me relax, and I was very successful at practice that day!

Thanks to my teammates’ and coaches’ faith in me, my confidence and fullback skills skyrocketed over the next few months. I was the starting fullback for the All-Blues’ fourth National Championship victory that June, and have since played fullback for several All-Star teams, including the USA Women’s National Team.

Being able to overcome my nerves and fear of failure on the rugby field was a turning point in my rugby career, and it also helped me be more confident in my ability to succeed in other areas of my life. I truly love rugby!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rugby at any age

Yesterday I started working at a returning Play Rugby school in Brooklyn. The first summer I worked with Play Rugby, most of my students were at least 10 years old and up. There was one site in the Bronx that had kids from as young as five up to 14 years old. That's quite a range. Fortunately, I was able to break the kids up into age appropriate groups. In this newest location, I work with first grade and kindergarten. Initially, I felt a little trepidation about working with kids who are so young. But I realize that all kids want to do is have fun. Actually isn't that what "grown ups" want too? I realized I'd be fine. I just had to keep them moving.

Prior to my first day, I did get a few pointers from Molly who works with the age group. "No sarcasm." That was my mantra for the week. "They don't understand it," Molly informed me. She added, "Be happy otherwise they'll think you're mad at them." Ok. Check.

Since I arrived early, I had time before my session to relax and observe. I waited in an assembly area, one where I would run my sessions, but also where groups of students gathered before going off to their various after school clubs. The kids were grouped according to their clubs, art, hip hop, martial arts. I heard one teacher talking to a group of six kids. "Rugby" she repeated several times. I thought "six kids, nice small group." As kids waited their snacks eventually arrived, concentrated apple juice and Linden's cookies. I used to eat Linden's when I was a kid in NYC public school. Following snack time, the groups left for their activities. The six "rugby" kids remained. I heard a door open followed by lots of little voices. It turns out I would have 21 students for my first session, all first graders.

A mantra when working in NYC schools is be prepared for anything. Initially, the assembly space was supposed to be just rugby. But at the last minute, the martial arts group ending up sharing this space with us. Talk about keeping me on my toes. Kids tend to have a short attention span. Now I had to work a little harder to keep the attention of my students, competing against the activity of the martial arts program. We warmed up with stretching and burpees. Yes Burpees. I had the kids mimic my motion while repeating after me. "Up, Down, Back, Push up, In, Up, One." This was a good start to engaging them. Kindergarten followed the first grade. They did burpees too. They even did five more than the first grade. After warm ups, both groups played various versions of tag and hot potato. No matter what age some kids just want to get right to it. One student asked me, "when are we going to play rugby?"

In hind sight my initial trepidation came from not having worked with this age group for some time. I had so much fun working with them. I was reminded of how smart and funny kids are, especially at that age. Another tip I learned was use smaller words. For example, saying "run between the poles" is easier for them to understand than "run between the columns." During the spring, I'll work with this school twice a week. Isn't it great that they're starting at such a young age? Over the course of our time together, I have a feeling that they'll teach me just as much as I'll teach them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flag Rugby Tournament, Sheepshead Bay High School

This winter I worked as a Play Rugby mentor introducing flag rugby to two middle school physical education teachers and their students in Brooklyn and Queens. Today, the first of two culminating tournaments was held at Sheepshead Bay High School.

I imagine the tournament is a high light for the students. Playing against other schools makes "rugby" real. They've spent the last few months learning rugby related games, playing with and against each other in gyms or possibly even the school cafeteria. Today they played together representing their schools while playing on a turf field in Brooklyn.

In the morning session, I recognized several returning schools from last year's tournament. One such school traveled two hours and twenty minutes on public transit from the Bronx. That's dedication! Remember day lights savings time started this morning too. Queens and Brooklyn schools were also represented.

These young players played hard and seemed to enjoy the competition. There were a handful of spectators on the sidelines to cheer them on. Some parents watched their kids play rugby for the first time. I met a teacher from a school in Queens who's not even the PE teacher. However, she came out on a Sunday morning just to watch some of her students.

In addition to Play Rugby, my rugby ties extend to New York Rugby Club, my home club. Currently, it's the only club in New York City that runs youth programs, including an Under-19 and 12 and under. I spread the word about today's event to the Under-19 coaching staff. Molly Dengler, the girls head coach, showed up with with flyers and information about the program. The response from students was overwhelming. The idea of playing tackle rugby was especially enticing. She ran out of flyers well before the afternoon session.

Hopefully today's tournament whet the appetite of many. I overheard an eighth grade girl ask her PE teacher if she could play rugby in high school. When I hear things like that I know we're doing something right.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Submit A story

Play,Coach, or Ref Rugby? Love the game? Tell us why here at I Heart Rugby. It's fairly easy. See guidelines for complete information.

Be sure to include the following for your submission:

Current Club or Affiliation: Include web page link
Years in Rugby:
Body of text: I love rugby because (finish the sentence.)
Insert short rugby related story, on or off the field.
Photo of yourself