by Mike Petri
It was strange watching from the comfort of my home in Brooklyn while the Rugby World Cup was finishing off last week thousands of miles away in New Zealand. It was hard to believe that it was the same tournament I had just played in a few weeks ago. It feels as if an eternity has passed since we last took the field against Italy in Nelson. But obviously the show went on without us and 2 months after it all began in Auckland, Richie McCaw had the honor of lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy for the home team - a fitting way to end an incredible tournament.
As Richie and his world champion teammates paraded around Auckland with the trophy tucked under their arms, I began to look for ways to get involved with coaching. When I got back from New Zealand a few weeks ago, I realized I would certainly have ample time on my hands as I needed to search for work and would have a bit of an offseason from rugby. In addition to being back at Petri Plumbing helping my dad on different jobs, I decided to reach out to my friend and NYAC teammate, Christian Mayo, about my desire to explore coaching. Christian has been working with Mark Griffin and other rugby enthusiasts at Play Rugby USA in New York City. Their ultimate goal is to promote the game we all know and love but also to use it to help develop young students and enrich their daily lives. It is an incredible concept and certainly has had tremendous success not only in NYC but is also growing in other areas, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.
Christian quickly replied and has been actively doing his part to get me involved. My first opportunity was at Alain L. Locke Elementary School P.S. 208 in West Harlem. I made the trip from Brooklyn on the 4 train to meet with Bryan Vale and Kip Brown, both affiliated with Play Rugby, as well other coaches and representatives from Up2Us and Coach for America. (Turns out that Kip went to UCSB and is friends with Kevin Battle, the USA Manager at the World Cup as well as UCSB Coach. It's amazing how the rugby world is so inter-connected). We were hosting a special session to get the students excited about the upcoming Rugby World Cup final. Major broadcast network NY1 was on scene to help spread the word and educate the New York public about the effect that rugby is having on the lives of these young boys and girls in Harlem. It was a great opportunity for me to meet and work with such energetic and creative students and coaches and also to help promote our sport to a larger audience here in New York. Watching the Play Rugby coaches in action was absolutely awesome (one of whom was USA Women's Eagle Phaidra Knight). I had such a great time chatting with the the kids about their new found love for rugby. Of course every one of them was cheering for the All Blacks in the upcoming game! It was a really incredible feeling to be there and take part in the event.
My second adventure with Play Rugby was with the Manhattan Youth Rugby team. It was my first full-on outdoor rugby session with a group of young kids and it was so much fun. It was great to see them all out there with their new Samurai gear proudly representing Manhattan rugby on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the Lower West Side. They were practicing for their games the following weekend against some of the other New York City teams. I worked with the middle school kids (5th through 8th graders) who were already learning the fundamentals of tackle rugby! Their skills were amazing! They were running, passing, tackling, and offloading by the age of about 10. Even the newcomers were quick learners. During a water break from their scrimmage, one new player suggested that his teammate should avoid running near the sidelines because "it seems every time we go near there we get tackled out of bounds and lose the ball!" Their receptive and cheerful attitude was a pleasure to watch.
Seeing a program like this in action made me very hopeful for the future of the sport in America. We are constantly referred to as a "sleeping giant" in the rugby world and one of the best ways to wake from this slumber is to get the next generation of ruggers involved at a younger age. It was an enjoyable and rewarding experience to see these kids really excited about rugby.
As for me, I'm really excited too about my next session with the kids. It is the last event of the fall season and there is a full day of youth rugby on the schedule at Randall's Island just across the river from Manhattan's East Side. If you're in the area you should certainly come and check out the action! You'll be amazed at what the people at Play Rugby have put together and at the number of kids running around with a rugby ball in their hands! Otherwise, stay tuned to this blog for updates...
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at PlayRugby USA, especially Christian Mayo, for having me along for the ride lately. For more information on the program, you can visit www.PlayRugbyUSA.com.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.