Out of the scrum, it's about fun: Rugby club teaches sport to students

May 30, 2011 

The two sides faced off for a rugby scrimmage. But the Hilton Head Rugby Club had guests this time. And most of the fellow players were less than half their size.

The club introduced 10 third- and fourth-graders at Sea Pines Montessori Academy to a sport with which most were not familiar. But that's part of the point.

It's touch rugby, of course. None of the pint-sized players are getting caught in the scrum. It's the allure of the sport that attracted the school. Rugby is the type of activity that the Montessori program seeks to foster. The game comes with an international flair, a chance to expose the children to something unique. The school shies away from sports that already have a foothold in children's athletics, such as soccer and football.

"It's a natural fit," head of school Darcie Patrick said.

The youngsters have gathered once a week for an hour to run drills since the beginning of the year. Some of their practice routine was straightforward, such as the four corner drills. Four cones marked a rectangle on the field. Kids stood at the points of the rectangle and raced diagonally across to pass the ball to each other. Things got more complicated when they had to pass to the right, resulting in a tangle of bouncing balls and outstretched hands.

The Hilton Head Rugby team has been around for nearly 30 years. Recently, it has been looking to pass on the sport to younger generations. The school contacted the club, and a small group of members started teaching.

"We're just trying to increase the development of youth rugby in the area," member Mitch Thoreson said.

They've spent most of their time learning the basics of the game right down to defensive and offensive alignment, though, at times, it seemed hard enough for the kids to hang onto the oblong ball they could barely get their arms around.

Dakota McGinley, 10, wasn't sure what to think when he signed up, but since has been hooked.

"It's just really fun," he said. "I love playing with those guys."

The five months of practices culminated in a scrimmage. The students split up into groups to play with the club members. The youngsters wore T-shirts given to them by the club. On the back of each was the number nine for 9 Fox Grape Road -- the school's address.

Of course, the club went easy on their much smaller competitors. A few of the novice competitors raced for scores, a few stayed away from the pack and a few accidentally tackled their peers. At the end, they all gathered in good spirits for a cheer.

They cheered their competitors. They cheered their parents, who battled mosquitos to watch on a cool, spring evening. And they cheered the sport.

"1-2-3 RUGBY!"

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