Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What's A Rugby - A Beginner's Guide to Youth Rugby in Ohio

Rugby is usually seen as a rough sport populated by large men and - sometimes - equally large women running into, around or through one another with little regard for self or other. Few think of it as a means to get younger children involved in a fast-paced sport that not only provides the usual benefits of being involved in a team sport - working together, sportsmanship, hard work, etc. - but also provides an opportunity for everyone to be the hero on any given day and a chance to be involved in a game-winning movement and be on a championship team.

There are organizations around the country dedicated to get children in fifth through eighth grade involved in the sport of rugby. In the Buckeye State that entity is Rugby Ohio, and as they look to get the 2015 season started some still might be unclear as to how the whole thing works. Worry not. Below are the basics of how the competitive leg of Rugby Ohio works for the state's younger ruggers.
Rugby Ohio logo. (Source: Rugby Ohio Web site.)
Rugby Ohio logo. (Source: Rugby Ohio Web site.)

How It Works:
In the youth leagues, there are teams open to boys and girls in grades five through eight. Teams are divided by age and then by grade, with divisions for boys and girls - players in fifth and sixth grade compete with one another while players in seventh and eighth grade compete with one another. The teams participate in a form of rugby that utilizes all the rules and terminology of the full game but is adapted to suit the smaller participants. The following focuses on how the match is adapted for the players in the fifth and sixth grade leagues.

For the players in the fifth and sixth grade the rules and other aspects of the game are adapted as well.

  1. The Field
    • One such adaptation is the field size. Rather than having children sprint up and down a one-hundred-meter-by-seventy-meter pitch, the playing area is downsized a bit. Matches are played across a standard football field, making the playing surface 70 meters by 40 meters.In this adjusted field, the top of the field marker numbers on the field act as the 22-meter lines for the respective sides and the football sidelines acting as the try lines.
  2. The Free Pass
    • This is used to restart and control the pace of the match. Penalties, knock-ons, balls going out of bounds and many other infringements and infractions result in a free pass. This is just what it sounds like - a player is awarded one free pass to his or her teammate to restart play while the defense waits five meters away.
  3. The Kick
    • During play there is no kicking permitted but the kick is used to restart play at certain points.
    • Rather than starting the match and restarting after a try with a drop kick from the halfway point, kickers punt the ball from the "22-meter line." If the kicks go straight out of bounds the receiving team gets a free pass from midfield. If the ball bounces in and then goes out they get the free pass from where it hit in bounds.
    • Following a try being scored, there is a conversion kick made, but since there are no uprights on the field it takes on a different form. Players from the scoring team wait in a specified area in the try zone where the posts would normally be. The team's kicker gives the ball the boot in the hopes that one of those waiting players will catch the ball on the fly. The conversion kick is taken from behind the "22-meter" perpendicular from where the try was scored. Teams have 20 seconds to make the kick.
  4. The Tackle
    • In order to stop a player's progress, the ball carrier's flag and toss it to the ground, as long as the throw is in one fluid motion. The restart takes place from where the flag lands with a free pass taken by another of the ball carrier's teammates. At each tackle, the defense must get back five meters before the restart happens.
    • Each team gets seven tackles to score. Failing to do so will result in a turnover. The referee verbally keeps count of each tackle.
The best part about the state's Youth Rugby leagues is how expansive they are. In the Cleveland area alone there are teams stretching from Brunswick to West Park, Shaker Heights to Strongsville. There are also teams based around the Canton area, so there is no shortage of playing opportunities for interested parties. Parents or potential coaches looking for mote information can go to the Rugby Ohio Web site for more information. Those looking to get involved with or start up a team can register on the group's site as well.

The regular season games take place at Saint Ignatius High School, on the football field.Games go from April 12 to May 10, with the City Championship being played May 17. The State Semi-finals and Final are slated to be held in Hudson and is May 24 and 31.

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