Rugby roots are growing in Camas and Washougal.
The Lacamas Knights teams are about to embark on their second season in Rugby Oregon. The seventh- and eighth-graders captured the Oregon state championship in 2016. The fifth- and sixth graders won half of their games, and the third- and fourth-graders focused on fundamentals and having fun.
“We had a fantastic first year. Our teams were really successful,” said third- and fourth-grade coach Rob Reinebach. “Sportsmanship, teamwork and having fun will take you a long way. I think you can do a lot of great things with those traits.”
Registration for season two has ballooned to 60 players. It’s enough to fill two teams at each of the combined grade levels, and a high school junior varsity team.
“People said it would happen, but I didn’t think it would,” said seventh- and eighth-grade coach Martin Stevenson. “Parents see this as an opportunity for their kids to try a new sport. They like what we teach, about respect and playing for the love of the game.”
More than 40 boys and girls participated in the Lacamas Knights Rugby Skills Camp Feb. 4, at Gause Elementary School in Washougal. Coaches and members of the high school junior varsity team led the children through several stations, teaching them the elements of the game. After the 2-hour session, half of the kids stayed and played some touch rugby.
“We would love to see Camas and Washougal have a high school team,” Reinebach said. “Realistically, you could have some future Olympians in this area. In these pockets where rugby is becoming more popular, these kids will have an advantage learning the game at a young age.”
Zane Tkel, a 15-year-old from Vancouver, was nominated by coach Matt Murphy to be a youth leader in the club.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to, especially since this is only my second year,” Tkel said. “This game has improved my social skills by working with other people, communicating and making sure everything is good.”
Apoiliu Atuaia and Jenna Born are advocates for girls playing rugby.
“Rugby is a sport for everybody. It doesn’t matter you’re size, shape, age or gender,” Born said. “For the younger girls, they get to learn that it’s OK to be who you are. You get to be unique, and I like that.”
Atuaia’s family is from the Pacific Islands.
“There’s no football fields. Just rugby posts,” she said. “Everybody’s playing it in their front yard.”
She loves rugby because it teaches respect.
“After beating each other up during the game, we eat together after the game,” Atuaia said. “It’s a nice thing to have. I’m friends with girls from the other teams in Portland.
“Learning to work hard for others creates a close bond. And the game is fun. You’re running, you’re tackling, you’re scoring tries. Anybody can score. You could be 300 pounds, and you’re scoring tries here and there.”
Youth rugby season runs from March 18 to May 20. Games are played on Saturdays, at 9 a.m., at Delta Park, in Portland, Oregon.
For more information on the Lacamas Knights, visit www.lacamasknights.club.