Sacramento, Calif. -- Fijian rugby legend and head coach of the Sacramento Lions Iferemie Tawake hosted a successful rugby clinic on Saturday morning in Sacramento with over 75 rugby players in attendance; including men and women from youth to college to senior club level who traveled from throughout Northern California for the opportunity to improve their skills and develop their rugby knowledge from one of the sport’s greatest teachers.
“We were thrilled with the turnout today and just excited to see so much interest and enthusiasm for the sport of rugby in Sacramento,” stated Lions Manager Aaron Frederick who also organized the clinic. “It was great to see so many young kids from age grade to high school who really want to learn the intricacies of the sport and become better rugby players. It definitely gets you excited for the future of USA Rugby to see the youth so passionate about rugby.”
Both boys and girls high school players made up the majority in attendance with multiple schools representing from throughout the greater Sacramento area including Kennedy, Woodcreek, El Camino, and Rio Americano High Schools. There was also a significant amount of college rugby players in attendance including men and women teams from Sacramento State, Sonoma State, San Francisco State, and University of Dallas.
Sacramento State captain Travis Haugen was happy to be a part of the clinic.
“We have a good relationship with the Lions and Coach Tawake and when I heard about the clinic I knew it would be a great opportunity for our players to step outside our system and learn some new things,” said Haugen, who also helps coach a local high school team. “There were a lot of drills I hadn’t seen before. Coach Tawake has a wealth of experience from playing and coaching at elite levels, and it was great to learn some high-performance drills and techniques that I plan on implementing when I play as well as coach. I think everyone learned a lot today and it was fun to be a part of.”
Tawake’s clinic focused on the fundamentals of rugby from warming up to ball skills. The group then transitioned to learning key factors of attack and defense including running lines and defensive positioning. The clinic concluding with position specific training, set pieces, and a team run.
“Much of what I was teaching the group today were things I learned while playing and coaching for Fiji,” said Tawake. “I was impressed with the younger players who learned quite quickly some of the more technical passing and running drills. It made it fun for me as a coach. My goal was to teach these kids something new about rugby, but also to help them realize that with enough hard work they can achieve anything.”
As much as Tawake hoped to inspire the group, the former Fijian captain said he received inspiration, as well.
“What is most important for American rugby and any rugby nation is to develop players from the grassroots level. If you want to grow the sport you need to focus on the youth. I was inspired by the excitement and interest these players showed today. It isn’t easy getting up early on Saturday morning but these players wanted to be there. America has great athletes and if we can continue to introduce rugby to these kids at a young age, it can only lead to good things for USA Rugby.”
“I think everyone had a great time today and as long as the interest is there, we will find a way to provide these clinics to rugby players in Sacramento and Northern California,” added Frederick. “Coach Tawake clearly has the passion for rugby, but he also has a unique skill to inspire people and really get them to believe in themselves. That was the best part of the clinic was to see young kids eager to improve and become better rugby players. We hope this will be a tradition for many more years to come in Sacramento.”