Lacamas Knights Youth Rugby
Saturday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m. to noon
At Cardon Field, behind Camas High School, 26900 S.E. 15th St.
High school rugby programs in Clark County are about to receive a boost in youth.
Committee leader Matt Murphy and 15-year rugby referee Martin Stephenson look forward to introducing the Lacamas Knights youth rugby program to players in Camas, Washougal and Vancouver this spring.
For starters, there will be a skills camp open to third- through eighth-graders Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Cardon Field, behind Camas High School, 26900 S.E. 15th St. Register for $15 online at www.rugbyoregon.com/page/show/2261117-winter-2016.
Rugby Oregon offers co-ed touch leagues for third-fourth and fifth-sixth grade levels, and boys and girls tackle leagues for seventh- and eighth-graders. The Lacamas Knights teams will practice twice a week at Columbia Valley Elementary School. Games are played Saturday mornings at Delta Park, in Portland, from March through May.
Murphy and Stephenson hope to generate enough players to fill a team at each grade level.
“Our long term goal is to grow and develop players for the high school level, college and beyond,” Stephenson said. “This is the grassroots level for our community. We want to teach kids rugby in a safe environment. We want parents to believe their kids are involved in a worthwhile sport.”
Rugby has been a good outlet for Stephenson. He played the game in England for six years, before coming to the U.S. to work for Hewlett Packard in 1996. Stephenson continued as an official. He encourages players to understand and respect the laws of the game.
“The culture of rugby is to build respect for opponents, officials, teammates and one’s self,” Stephenson said. “Children need to learn those values to get along in life. We want to help them grow, develop and become better people.
“Rugby has been my life,” he added. “My goal is to keep this going, and hand it off to people who are enthusiastic so they can carry on the tradition.”
Murphy said rugby is ideal for football and soccer players, as well as wrestlers. He picked up the game in college at the University of Wisconsin.
“Rugby is easy to pick up. It lends itself to somebody who is athletic, but doesn’t have a mainstream sport,” Murphy said. “Maybe they got cut from the other team? They still have potential in this, so give it a try. We want to teach these kids when they are younger, so they have many more years to grow.”
“You can be tall, you can be short, you can be fast, you can be slow,” Stephenson said. “It’s a game for all shapes and sizes.”
Seven coaches are ready to lead the Lacamas Knights. Stephenson said the touch leagues have no scrums, rucks or mauls. The players learn how utilize space, speed and teamwork to get the ball down the field.
“It keeps everybody active, and gives everyone the opportunity to carry the ball,” he said.
Once players reach the tackling leagues, in seventh grade and beyond, Murphy said Rugby Oregon has a strict concussion policy in place. Players will be required to sit out for two weeks, and must receive medical clearance before being gradually ushered back in. These steps are in place to prevent a secondary concussion.
“Players are taught to lead with their shoulder when they tackle and not their head,” Murphy said. “It’s simpler to get the guy on the ground, and it’s safer that way.”
Although rugby is physical, Stephenson said the beauty of the game comes from the way teams recycle the ball back and advance it again.
“It’s getting faster and faster,” he said.
“But, you’re still getting the activity, conditioning and teamwork playing a fun game,” Murphy added.