Prince Rupert Middle School and Charles Hays Secondary School students had an opportunity to learn how to play rugby by some of the country’s elite players.
On Sept. 29, three national level players made the trip to Prince Rupert to teach students the fundamentals of the game as a part of Thunder Rugby’s 2017 Tour to the North.
The Thunder Aboriginal Youth Rugby Program is an organization that promotes the game of sevens rugby to young people, with an aim to draw Aboriginal youth to the sport.
This is the fourth year that Thunder Rugby has gone on its tour, and on the PRMS field more than 100 total students were introduced to basic rugby concepts like passing and tackling.
“It’s just to get them active and hopefully pick up another sport,” said Crosby Stewart, who was born in Prince Rupert and now plays for the University of Victoria. “Here, it’s primarily basketball and soccer and hockey and if they don’t like all those sports, it’s another sport they can try out.”
Stewart was giving instruction alongside Clayton Panga — a team Canada player who also plays for a club team in Victoria — and Barbara Mervin — a rugby union player who represented Canada on the 2014 and 2017 world cup rugby teams.
Stewart learned how to play the game when he was in Grade 11 and it has opened opportunities for him to play at the highest level. He said it feels good to share that passion with younger athletes.
“I know rugby has done so much for me,” he said. “So hopefully showing them rugby, it can hopefully do the same for them.”
The instructors divided the students into groups and taught them drills that would improve their hand-speed, footspeed and catching skills. While some of the students were shy at first, it did not take long before they were participating with enthusiasm. Mervin said she especially enjoyed showing young girls.
“The fact that they can get themselves involved with the sport can open up so many doors and so many more opportunities for them,” said Mervin “And it’s really exciting to see young girls do that, especially when their face illuminates when they realize they like to hit things.”