Monday, February 2, 2015

Rookie Rugby Cleveland Readies for 2015 Season

There is a movement happening in the youth rugby scene in the Cleveland area. The leagues that provide introductory and competitive rugby options for children in the area are growing and getting ready for another season to start. Last year was a good one for the league, and the hope is that this year will be more of the same.

Rookie Rugby Cleveland logo (Source: Rookie Rugby Cleveland Web site.)
Rookie Rugby Cleveland logo
(Source: Rookie Rugby Cleveland Web site.)
"Rookie Rugby Cleveland, once again, experienced growth and welcomed several new teams into the fold," said Dan Arbeznik, one of the driving forces behind the youth league in the area. "The most exciting addition was the first ever all-girls youth tackle league in the state. Spearheaded by Director of Youth Development, Samantha Brancatelli, we had 20 girls from all over the city of Cleveland come out play."

The addition of this all-girl league is only the most recent fruit of the labor that began with Rookie Rugby Cleveland's seminal year. From this birth of a league in 2014 should come at least three new girls teams for the upcoming 2015 season, representing the cities of Hudson, Brunswick and Highland. While the girls' leagues gained new teams last year, the boys fired on all cylinders and played through a great season.

The champions of last year were: in the fifth-and-sixth-grade flag leagues, Westlake and Saint Angela; and, in the seventh-and-eighth-grade tackle leagues, Rocky River and Westpark. Most notable about last year's champions is the inclusion of Westlake, which was a first-year team made up of students from Saint Bernadette.

With last year's champions crowned and more teams entering the fray to take their shot at glory, the group at Rookie Rugby Cleveland now has to quickly adapt to accommodate the incoming teams. Amherst is set to add a seventh-and-eighth-grade boys tackle team, while Saint Barnabas, a small Catholic school in Northfield, is set to enter a team into competition for the first time. Medina is looking to field a fifth-and-sixth-grade team as well as a seventh-and-eighth-grade tackle team for boys.

"We're expanding the league this year in a number of ways," Arbeznik said. "In addition to adding at least three more girls' teams, we're also adding a third-and-fourth-grade flag league. The third-and-fourth-graders can be organized on a week-to-week basis and don't have to be affiliated with any club."

This new league will be a free league. Children interested in playing in the league can just show up, strap on the flags and play. Referees, trainers, flags, fields and facilities will be provided to the players and families at no cost. Expectations are high for the 2015 season, even before the addition of this new league.

"We should have anywhere between three hundred and four hundred kids participating from 32 sides - not including the third-and-fourth-graders," Arbeznik said. "These sides will come from 12 different programs. Each program varies in their offering between A, B, tackle, flag and girls."

With all the expansion and participation coming to the league this year, here's what the competition brackets will look like:
  • The fifth-and-sixth-grade division will play host to teams from Parma, Westpark, Medina, Highland, Fairview (Saint Angela), Amherst, Strongsville, Brunswick and Westlake.
  • The seventh-and-eighth-grade tackle league has teams from Parma, Westpark, Medina, Highland, Fairview, Amherst, Strongsville, Brunswick, Westlake, Hudson and Saint Barnabas.
  • The girls' tackle division is composed of teams from Hudson, Highland, Brunswick, Strongsville and West Side Girls.
Those looking to get involved with the league are encouraged to register soon, with sign-ups closing on March 23. Those looking to start their own teams should contact Arbeznik to ensure that everything gets taken care of prior to the league's commencement. While there are a number of teams around the area, players may not find a team directly in their area. If that is the case, they can contact the coach of a nearby team they would like to join. Contact information for the coaches are on the  Rookie Rugby Cleveland Web site.

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