West Shore Rugby Club hosted rugby players of all levels, from six years old to Olympians, at its Rugby Rookie Festival on Sunday.
Around 400 kids from clubs up and down the Island took to the field, to encourage more youth to get involved in the sport. National team members Sabrina Poulin and 2020 Olympian Julia Greenshields were at the event, running a coaching session prior to some of the kids playing in matches. Poulin also works as a physical education teacher and said coaching with teams in the community is important to her.
“Sometimes they see us play on TV — but just being here and showing them, we’re regular people and we love rugby just like them and trying to make it fun because that’s why we’re still playing.”
Charmaine Ross, club manager at West Shore, said the club is seeing an uptick in playing numbers thanks to rugby programs at schools in the West Shore. She said there are now teams at schools in all West Shore communities, including École John Stubbs Memorial School, who hadn’t had a program for “quite a while.”
Natasha Beckett, 12, was introduced to the sport when she started playing at Dunsmuir and joined the club team in September. She said she hopes to keep participating and eventually play professionally.
Ross said the goal is to expand rugby programs into elementary schools to encourage younger kids to participate.