More than 500 students across four different elementary schools and the middle school in Prince Rupert were exposed to rugby culture during week long activities and workshops that ran from Feb. 18 to 23.
“This week was a massive success for our Prince Rupert Seamen’s Youth Rugby Program,” Jason Scherr, board member of the youth rugby program, said.
Some amazingly talented coaches gave their time to bring awareness of the sport to students, some who had never had the opportunity to touch a rugby ball, Sherr said. The program also reached high school students and senior players on Feb. 22.
Former national sevens team member and now a high level coach for Rugby Canada’s talent acquisition and development, the coach of the Mexican team in the last world cup, Robin MacDowell, was in Prince Rupert from his home-base in Vancouver, leading the training.
“We basically taught the kids evasiveness. In rugby seven on sevens, (traditional rugby is 15 on 15) you only have 14 athletes on the field. It’s more about space and picking up the ball and running. It’s about having fun with the rugby ball. That’s the way the sport is,” MacDowell, international rugby coach and owner of MacDowell Rugby, said.
MacDowell’s mission is to provide rugby education to young athletes, and to encourage confidence and self-esteem on and off the rugby field.
“I coach at the international level as well and whether I’m coaching a seniors international team at the world cup or I’m working with kids, I’m still looking for them to be smiling, sweating and having fun. If I have done those three things, they will come back and get better.”
McDowell is impressed with Prince Rupert talent and has coached local up-comers such as Cody Scheaffer in Dubai, Hannah Sherr in Saskatchewan and Kaden Yaroshuk, as well as his sister Dennay Yaroshuk.
“I had an opportunity to coach some Prince Rupert athletes over the past two to three years and that’s how I built a connection with Jason Scherr, from Prince Rupert, who is leading a lot of the youth movement here, ” MacDowell said.
“There is a lot of talent here, so I always wanted to come up here because I heard it’s a beautiful part of the world. From a rugby coaching aspect, I wanted to have a look at some of the athletes and the biggest thing is supporting the growth in this small community,” MacDowell said.
MacDowell wasn’t the only rugby success story mentoring youth this week. Wade Lavelee, from Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan was here to guide youth to the sport that assisted him out of some troubles as youngster. Lavalee has been scrumming and passing the ball for over ten years.
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He has played high level rugby around the world, including in New Zealand.
Lavalee is closely connected with the Thunder Youth Aboriginal Program based on Vancouver Island, which is working at connecting Aboriginal youth to the sport.
“Robin reached out to me about this opportunity coming up here. For me, it’s huge to give back to children,” Lavalee said.
“For me, being an indigenous man, it’s also just as huge to give back to the indigenous population something they can grab hold of. Giving like this is well worth while and I would definitely do it again.”
Local rugby talent Hannah Scherr and Maher Atyah also assisted with training during rugby packed week in Prince Rupert. While younger players benefited from rugby instruction during the school hours, Wednesday night saw 60 people attend Wheel House brewery to listen to adult inspiration from the visiting coaches as well as receive an overview of the Seaman’s Youth Rugby Program. The same night saw recognition of Rugby Week sponsors, a raffle of a signed Canada’s Rugby jersey by the current Olympic seven’s team, as well as $1700 raised for a local family who are part of the youth program.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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