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SaberCats Host Youth Flag Rugby Event at Aveva Stadium

With a few patches of clouds here and there, it was an otherwise bright and sunny Texas morning at Aveva Stadium last Saturday, as the Houston SaberCats hosted their first ever Youth Flag Rugby event that was open to kids ages 8-14. SaberCat Academy Director Matthew Trouville, as well as team Backs Coach/Fly-Half Sam Windsor, were present and acting as both coaches and referees.

“When it comes to youth rugby” says Trouville “I think tag rugby, or flag rugby…is the best fundamental tool to help kids focus on skill development. When contact is taken away….it brings out the bare elements of catch/pass, moving the ball into space, evasion, vision, all those things”. All of those aspects listed by the former SaberCat Captain were on display at Aveva, as the young participants put on a show of their own on the SaberCats’ main-pitch as they dipped, dived, and dodged amongst their peers.

But on the sidelines, there was another man who helped make the day possible, and hopes many more like it are to come. Larry Monks, who is the Head Coach of the Western Academy School Team as well as Vice President of Youth and High School Development for the Houston Athletic Rugby Club, was an instrumental part in bringing the kids and pros together.

“[The goal here is] Two-fold.” Explains Monks. “To have (events like this) regularly…and to get more [kids] involved and introduce new people to playing rugby.”

 As Major League Rugby continues to expand, there has been a much greater emphasis on not only the creation of official team academies, but on the development of local youth athletes as well. Hosting events such as this is just one step in a much larger outreach process. But, if you ask Coach Trouville, it’s a crucial one. “…if we can create a system that works on fundamental core skills, by the time these kids are ten years older and they’re playing for the local club or even the SaberCats, they’re going to be ready to play skill wise. And the rest of the stuff just kind of comes with it.”

The hope is, as the team hosts more and more events at the youth level, word will get out not just among kids, but their parents as well, just how much the sport of rugby has to offer. “Rugby is the most inclusive sport in the world.” commented Trouville. “Every position on the field can run, pass, kick, catch, and tackle. Other sports, you might do one fundamental skill, and that’s it. [But in rugby], there’s a position for everyone.”

That all-inclusive aspect is one of the things Monks hopes will allow parents to continue to register their children in his school-program as well as with events like flag rugby, which he believes those new to the sport might see as a “non-threatening” induction. He also noted how parents seem to have responded “Very well” to Saturday’s program, and that even more he had talked to were “very interested” in what was to come.

While the potential for skill development is huge when you consider the average age of the participants (around 11 years old), one of the most important aspects of the day was building and strengthening a connection with a community that continues to embrace the team and sport.

“That’s the number one focus” says Trouville. “…to see we had almost 20 kids out here today, and the next time we might have 40, and the next time we might have 60. So that’s what we’re trying to do, which is build something these kids can enjoy and so they can play as much rugby as they can while having as much fun as they can.”

“So, this is a collaborative aspect” continued Monks. “…where for us, it’s helping us develop rugby in the lower level. But, in turn, it will bring in more fans and more support for the SaberCats. So, it’s kind of a win-win for both.”

So while many in the SaberCats front office will be focused on nothing but 2020, there are also those looking ahead years and years down the line on days such a these. Ah yes, the future is bright…and humid…in Houston, Texas.

By Liam Poach
Twitter: @PoacherRugby