Utah youth rugby opens chapter in KearnsMay 20, 2021 10:45AM ● By Greg James
The Kearns High School boys team has not won a game this season, but the team made up mostly of freshman and sophomores is improving each game. (Photo courtesy of Kearns Rugby.)
By Greg James | [email protected]
There are over 2,000 youth rugby players in the state for Utah. The Taylorsville/Kearns area has just started its own chapter to help add to that number.
Kearns had its own team from 2006 to 2013, but the program was dissolved until recently. In 2017 it was reorganized and Kearns High school began a boys and girls team.
“Over the past few years we have thought we needed a youth program,” Kearns rugby president Danny James said. “We have a lot of support, and we are going to make it work. We have one of the highest numbers of enrolment and most of them have never played before, both boys and girls.”
The new youth league is for players ages 5–18. The skill level varies but most have none or very little experience. At press deadline, there were 38 enrolled across four age groups, under six, under eight, under 12.
“The school district was very supportive, and we handed out nearly 4,700 fliers at 10 different schools,” James said. “I think people call me every day. I found lots of people that have never heard of rugby.”
Rugby is the second-most popular sport in the world behind soccer. In fact, in Europe, Australia and South Africa many teams play in 80,000-seat stadiums, and the players reach folklore status like many NFL players do in the United States.
Utah has its own professional rugby team, the Warriors. They began to play in 2018; their home stadium is Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman.
“Rugby is around to stay,” James said. “I think there are 16 different teams in the United States, and it is on ESPN and TV every week. The Warriors have an academy team. I think it is the sleeping giant of sport.”
The Kearns teams will scrimmage and practice at Lodestone Park. Their games are scheduled to begin on May 22. The Utah Youth Rugby Association will host Saturday events
“I saw a flier when I was in high school, and some of my friends encouraged me to play,” James said. “I had a chance to play after high school at the University of Utah. I was keen on the sport. I had some great experiences. At this point in my life, I have wanted to give back to all of these kids.”
Rugby players fit into several size and body types.
“Some parents say they want to let their kids play, but they don’t want them to get hurt,” James said. “Some of the better teams are the smaller guys. The fast and fit players do really well. We need players of all sizes and skills.”
The Cougars high school boys team is made up of mostly ninth and 10th graders. At press time, they had not recorded their first victory. They fell just short against Copper Hills 37-33.
“We are improving each week, and the girls got their first win last week,” James said. “It is really exciting.”
The Kearns little league will start April 19 (after press deadline) and Lodestone Park. They will be combined with players from Copper Hills.