I never knew what a “try” was, and didn’t pay much attention to that sport that Brits and Aussies play with a ball shaped like a smashed football. Nor did I realize that rugby was first developed in England more than 125 years ago after a boy playing soccer just picked up the ball and began to run with it, getting tackled by the opponent on his way down the field.
But now, with the efforts of longtime rugby and soccer player James Walters, the youth of Windsor got a chance, along with their parents, to learn about this global sport in a recent four-week camp for youth rugby held at Eastman Park.
Two years ago, my son Salem was lucky enough to be on Walters’ U6 soccer team, and I immediately knew that he had the goods when it came to coaching. Since my father coached more than 20 years, including four years as my own coach, I recognized the needed patience, thoroughness and persistence that Walters demonstrated to these little ones who could barely run, let alone dribble a ball down the field. It takes a special person to coach youth sports, but it is a brave and confident enthusiast who introduces a new sport to a community.
Luckily for Windsor, Walters and his fellow assistant coaches, Rod Talbott, John Kacmarsky and Joe Kelly, gave this inaugural group of curious kids, including my own son, a great first experience with the growing sport of rugby.
“Our goal is quite simply to introduce to the Windsor area the game of rugby, which is currently gaining huge momentum in the state of Colorado,” Walters said. “Eventually, it would be brilliant to have a competitive flag program, which would then progress into the full contact version of the sport.”
With 25 boys and girls ranging from ages 6-14 in attendance, parents and youth alike learned the basics of rugby, how it’s played, its history and how to scrimmage using flag rules, not tackle.
“Flag Rugby is a safe and fun sport for kids. Like a mix of soccer, football, tag and keep away all in one,” Walters said.
And he would know. As a youth in Wales, Great Britain, he started rugby just like American children start soccer or T-ball at a young age. Later, he played on competitive school, college and military teams and continued into professional rugby. The sport, which is truly global in nature, then brought him to the U.S. where he represented and coached the Fort Worth Rugby Club in Texas.
My son Salem was part of the younger group and still keeps talking about when rugby starts again, while we practice in the backyard with his cherished Rugby ball given to all the kids by the coaches.
“This is a first step into offering more sports for our local youth, and I am proud of all the kids, parents and coaches for their participation,” Walters said.
The parents had great things to say about the experience, and now know a little more about this very popular international game that will be featured in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. And as I continue to learn about the sport, I am thankful of the coaches and their efforts with the kids. I just need to remember that when my son scores, it’s not a goal or a touchdown, a run or a shot, but a coveted point known as a “try” in rugby.
The next youth rugby course has currently been planned to take place in the summer of 2013, between the early summer baseball programs and the fall soccer and football leagues. For more information, contact the Windsor Recreation Department at (970) 674-3500.